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Grand Theft Auto Trilogy: The Definitive Edition Review

November 20, 2021 | Posted by Stewart Lange
Grand Theft Auto Trilogy: The Definitive Edition
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Grand Theft Auto Trilogy: The Definitive Edition Review  

Before I get into the review fully, I feel like I should make a few things clear. First of all, this is a review in progress. I have not played through each game in the trilogy fully, nor have I explored every inch of each island in every game to explore. I have spent a decent length of time in each, though and feel I have enough information to give what I feel is a fair representation of the GTA Trilogy: Definitive Edition in it’s release state. As a result, this will not be a full review, rather a summary of each game.

GTA 3.

I still remember the first time I set foot out of the police van onto the streets of Liberty City. I genuinely could not get over what I was experiencing. I had played 3D third person titles before, but nothing I felt that came close to the sheer freedom of exploration that GTA 3 introduced us to when it first released. While it’s been tweaked, improved upon and expanded countless times even within it’s own franchise since release, I think the impact this game had when it first launched cannot be taken for granted. With that said, even with a graphical improvement, GTA 3 is certainly showing it’s age. What was once a mind blowing metropolis of unbridled discovery now feels like little more than 3 streets and some cars until you get past the first island, thankfully this should be achieveable in a couple of hours focused play. The lack of height or depth within the game is also very telling. Obviously, the hardware at the time was never going to allow us to go deep sea diving for sharks or jetpack across the map, but 20 years on not being able to vault a waist height wall is something that is hard to re-train your brain to forget. With that said, GTA 3 is oozing with charm. I still remember the car names, which ones are the best to grab when they drive past, and the songs that play in short rotation on the radio. The muscle memory needed to navigate the city came back almost immediately and before long I was remembering exactly where to go to evade the cops. The missions are short and sweet, which is a relief because some of them are super frustrating and will take multiple attempts, with the frustration coming from the fact that the controls and AI are a law unto themselves at times. While showing it’s age even in a remaster, there’s still a lot to love about GTA 3, a game I feel is unfairly overshadowed by the following entries in the franchise.

GTA Vice City

Speaking of which, we have what I know some people consider to be the crown jewel in the GTA franchise, Vice City. While I would say that is certainly down to rose-tinted nostalgia, the pieces of the modern sandbox are fully into place with this instalment. From the introduction of clothing changes, to taxi rides back to mission markers (slightly overshadowed by the newly implemented checkpoint system) and a much wider array of vehicles, the neon glow of the streets of Vice City may be the one that most gamers are most anxious to revisit. After a lot of swearing at a particularly taxing early mission involving a golf cart assassination, I was reminded of exactly what drew me into Vice City so much when it originally released. It’s like someone handed you a control pad to your favourite Brian De Palma movie and gave you a degree of freedom to create the story you want, in your way- as long as you’re happy for most of the set pieces to be lifted right from Scarface. But be that as it may, the (slightly restricted) soundtrack remains one of the best in gaming history and it’s just so much fun listening to some of these songs as you cruise the beaches and “bustling” streets. Sadly, I feel of the 3 games included here, Vice City may be showing it’s age the most. While GTA 3 is certainly a more limited game technologically, the graphical upgrades to Vice City really don’t do the blemishes any favours. The aforementioned neon glow is almost too much at times, more so than I remember it ever being, and the fact you can do a little more in terms of vehicles and customisation just reminds you that the full RPG elements of the next game in the series are only a few button presses away.

GTA: San Andreas

Still considered by many to be the best GTA game ever (I mean, I’m hanging my hat with 4 but different opinions make the world go around), San Andreas was the game that arguably needed the least done to it to make it ready for the modern world. The game was already backward compatible for current generations and really wasn’t holding up all that badly, considering it’s age and size. It does appear, however, that San Andreas is the one the remastering has negatively affected the most, with new graphical bugs and glitches being very apparent almost immediately. Thankfully, the game itself still stands proudly as the defining moment of the PS2 generation, and being able to overlook these issues will reintroduce to the some of the richest, most interesting characters in gaming history (and Ryder). There’s not much missing from San Andreas compared to a modern sandbox with multiple mundane collectibles, easter eggs and side content galore, once you can get past that damn train, then San Andreas still is a treat that everyone should make sure and play. It’s just that important, but then, so are all three of these games for different reasons.

The GTA Definitive edition seems to have come out at a strange time. It would seem that a large portion of players are just happy to be back in the universe again, revisiting games that defined a specific time in their lives. The other seem to be upset that they haven’t been rebuilt from the ground up using the GTA V engine and the fact that they cost slightly less than a AAA release is nothing short of daylight robbery. I have no issue with the price of the game- this was my own purchase and not a 411 provided review- as I feel like I’m definitely going to get my money out of this release. The problem I think is that despite the fact they were each ahead of their time in their own way, they are all now showing their age considerably and a slight polish, FPS adjustment and debatable shooting improvement are not going to be able to hide that. What I think we have to look at accepting here than these games belong in a time capsule. I don’t care that they’ve aged, it’s not like I haven’t- but my kids are going to look at these games and the innovation and awe that blew a generation of gamers away and are going to wonder why the maps are so small, the wingsuit won’t open or that the co-op doesn’t work. As great as these games are, or were, I think we finally see that the remaster treatment for games older than the 360/PS3 generation maybe need a ground up remake to be accepted by the modern audience. One that is receiving such vitriol isn’t going to be helping that cause, either. Having tested the games on Xbox Series S without any (new) issues and getting no issues, I hope that the games can be patched and they can be fully enjoyed rather than the review bombing that it’s been seeing. It’s a shame because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain how I felt taking the first steps out of that police van articulately enough to do it justice.

The final score: review Good
The 411
There are bugs and issues but they really aren't enough to get in the way of just how good these games were upon release. While I understand issue with certain parts of the graphical overhaul, I like the fact the odd car still falls from the sky, or that you can watch all hell break loose as the police target random pedestrians for the crime of standing near them. If you know you'll not be able to adjust to playing a 20 year old game series, then this maybe isn't for you. Given 3 and San Andreas are on PS Plus and Gamepass respectively, it's easy to try before you buy. For me, this is a great way to own 3 of the most formative games in my life on the best bit of hardware I've ever owned, marred by a subpar port to a new generation.