Review: Grand Theft Auto Trilogy – Definitive Edition

There is nothing definitive about this Definitive Edition. Rockstar bundles the Grand Theft Auto titles from the PlayStation 2 era in a remastered bundle for today's mainstream devices. The result is a big hit and miss version with a lot of problems.

Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas adapted for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, 5 and Xbox Series S|X, One, by today's standards, sounds like an attractive deal. Also with the suggested retail price of €59.99 for the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy. They are three quite large and extensive games, with a rich history that are very interesting for both veterans and newcomers. One great example for today's open-world titles and quite a holy grail for the PlayStation 2 era. Adapting this holy grail is therefore risky, because mistakes are made quickly. Especially if the basics of the games are already very good, even today.

Nevertheless, Grove Street Games has managed to apply both a number of improvements, but also a number of deteriorations to the trilogy. Frankly, the improvements don't really outweigh the many questionable design choices for this trilogy. It is a Mixed bag that mainly lets you come home from a cold fair. A funfair with a caterpillar in blinding rain that stutters during the ride and can explode randomly.

The Good

Let's start positive and talk about the sharp images that give us a better view of the streets in Liberty City, Vice City and Los Santos, San Andreas. The resolution is higher and the quality of the textures has been greatly improved so that this time you can read the signs, neon letters, and actually all other texts in the game much better. They also stand out a bit more now, so jokes on signs suddenly appear, while all those years ago you could hardly read.

This legible text immediately introduces a problem and that is that the texts are AI upscaled. No one has checked it. As a result, certain retail chains have changed their profession and they no longer sell 'air guitars', but 'AR guitars'. Given the gun laws in America, this would also be an appropriate joke, but this was not the intention and these mistakes are quite common. Letters are forgotten or misread by the software that has to scale them.

Another positive news is the fact that the game now uses real shadows projected from light sources. In the original games, shadows were actually baked into the textures, but now if you drive up to an object with your headlights on, you actually see that object projecting a shadow in real time on the background. This also applies to sunlight during the dynamic day and night cycle. It brings some life to the previously somewhat static game.

Overall, the game also plays quite well. The controls have been tweaked minimally and actually plays as I expected. Only aiming and shooting is sometimes a bit uncomfortable due to the aim-assist who behaves in a strange and random way. Sometimes it jumps at random bystanders in the background instead of a bad guy shooting at me in the foreground.

The Bad

The big downside of the coin is that there are a lot of problems with the remaster. The strange thing is that these issues are not consistent between versions. One is better off than the other, but falls short in another area. It's a very strange display that I'm genuinely amazed at. Let's start with the performance on the PlayStation 5.

Something that immediately struck me and where I had to check if I had downloaded the correct version, is the fact that there is a Performance and a Fidelity choice in the settings. Performance focuses on a smooth 60FPS experience while Fidelity Mode plays at 30FPS. And this is simply unacceptable for a game that looks like this remaster. It's three games from 3 generations ago that don't look top of the line and don't even play smoothly in Performance Mode. The Framerate often plummets into the low 40's and even the Fidelity Mode with 30FPS doesn't play smoothly. It's really amazing how a game with this graphical style, if only slightly sharper, is so badly optimized for current consoles. There is no excuse for this.

There are also many bugs in the game that can be very annoying at times. While playing my car mysteriously exploded a few times during a mission. This is also the only game in which I experience ghosting while driving. In both Fidelity and Performance Mode. I have put the TV in different modes with no difference in result. The car then leaves a kind of shadow trail as if you saw the car 4 times in a row, but in a shadow-like shape.

The Ugly

While playing the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy, a question kept running through my mind: Has no one tested this internally? Did they think this was okay? Some very strange design choices have been made in this remaster, including the way the characters look. The 'new' look of Grand Theft Auto 3 already received some criticism during the unveiling, but I thought the more cartoonish look actually fit. It doesn't look bad, especially with the main character. Looking further at the other characters in the games it really only goes downhill. No character resembles a human. They are all strange shapes with strange body proportions that you really just have to laugh about.

One of the biggest problems in the game though is the rain. The rain is terrible. From the moment it starts to rain in the game, you better put your controller down because the game simply cannot be played. You can't see anything when it rains. The rain that falls blocks your entire view and the pattern of the rain is a copy of half a meter of exactly the same formation of rain rays and drops on the ground. It's just not a face. Screenshots don't give you a good idea of ​​this, so here's a moving image:

The rain is also not properly programmed, so that the rain falls behind the water surfaces in the distance and is therefore not visible when you have water surfaces in view. Someone must have seen this during development, right?

Verdict

I could go on and on, and I probably haven't seen everything yet. But I think my point is clear now. The Grand Theft Auto Trilogy – Definitive Edition is a long way off. It feels lazy, uninspired, cheap and above all, sloppy. Very sloppy. You're better off playing the original games on the PlayStation 2 than these remasters in their current state. I am convinced that many mistakes can still be brushed away. There is a good foundation with a higher resolution, but there is still a lot of work to do to make this a good product. At this point, it's a real shame to present this to many new fans who, after the overwhelming success of Grand Theft Auto V, are curious about where it all started.

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