Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition released last week and we finally got our hands on Grove Street Games’ remastering of Rockstar’s masterpieces. Grand Theft Auto III originally came out in 2001, Vice City in 2002 and San Andres in 2004. Now it’s 2021 and it’s time to return to the 3 cities once again, taking up the roles of Claude, Tommy and CJ. The stories are unchanged but this collection promises to be the very best, the definitive edition, of these fine games. Let’s see if they live up to that high billing.
Booting up any of the trilogy comes with a flood of nostalgia. From the first beats of the theme tunes, to the first time the camera pans around behind the main character. There are so many aspects to each game that triggers memories of past plays and endless hours free roaming around the cities. Each story is full of the characters from Luigi to Big Smoke that we all know and there is something very special about them being back. Push past this and the remastering starts to seem rather skin deep and at times the lick of paint hasn’t exactly helped.
Some improvements are included, and that may be a surprise to read after the reaction the release has received. Weapon wheels that feature in more recent GTA titles are now included, allowing players to briefly slow time down to a plod while selecting their weapon of choice with a flick of an analogue stick. Aiming is slightly freer, though snapping between targets can be just as disorientating as ever. More importantly missions can be easily restarted if wasted or failed for any reason, making playing through the game slightly smoother.
Unlike the original versions, which are no longer available on Steam, the frame rate and general performance of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is far from smooth. Despite coming with a slightly artistic look to them, performance for what are all almost 20 year old titles is lacking. Dipping to 25 FPS when closing a menu, and even occasionally sinking to 30 FPS when in parts of Liberty City, the smallest of the trilogy, isn’t a great look. Then, there are graphic oddities which make no sense. Some character models are just strange, the hidden package font isn’t as sharp as the rest of the HUD, bright white lines of rain shouts out, cars have reflections but seems textureless. There are even instances where gaps between the textures of adjacent buildings can be seen from specific angles.
It’s not just on a texture level that issues can quickly be found though. Hitting a fence or light can at times only knock them over visually. Visually as the fence or light object are still there invisible to see but there to bump into and more than scratch your vehicles paintwork. At the same time another fence that I drove through seemingly went into orbit, not before Claude got out of a car to find his feet and half his shins below the pavement. During my time with the trilogy I haven’t run into any of the impossible/incompletable mission bugs, though there have been a few videos online showing this. Hopefully like the numerous bugs encountered these can be quickly squashed by Grove Street Games.
Every Grand Theft Auto title always comes with an epic soundtrack. Players can get lost to the music as they cruise through the streets and back alleys from Liberty City to San Andres. Unfortunately, video may have killed the radio star as it seems that not every track has be re-licenced for this Definitive Edition. Some of the iconic tracks fans lovingly remember, such as Gary Numan’s Cars or Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name, aren’t included. Despite this being odd for a definitive version there is still ample epicness to blare from the radios of Faggios and Bobcats. Note that Grand Theft Auto III is unaffected by this featuring mostly original music.
Unfortunately, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is proof that nostalgia will only get you so far. It’ll get you to boot up the game with rose tinted glasses, there waiting for you are the GTA experiences we have all loved from years ago. They aren’t the same though. Improvements are masked by flaws, and they don’t truly feel elevated close to “definitive” edition status. The CEO of Grove Street Games has promised updates and hopefully these can fix the qwirks, the bugs and the oddities, which chip away at those rose tinted glasses. We all wanted Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition to allow us to once again sink hours into those glorious games of old. Perhaps they will get there, it’s been a rocky start and currently it’s not the hidden package we were looking for.
(Editor’s Note: Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition was provided to us by Rockstar Games for the review.)