Update: Since this article was published and Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition released, reports have flooded in that the remastered GTA collection is riddled with graphical bugs. While the collection has since received the first of (presumably) many patches, please take the following pre-release recommendation with a grain of salt.
After months of rumours, Rockstar Games has finally confirmed that remastered versions of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are on the way. What’s more, the trio of games – packaged together as Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition – are arriving on 11 November, less than a month after Rockstar released its official announcement.
While many gamers are now eagerly counting down the days until Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy is available, some are complaining about the collection’s $59.99/£54.99 price tag. After all, ground-breaking or not, these are old games – heck, the newest of them, San Andreas, turns 17 this week! Is a new coat of paint really enough to warrant gamers shelling out the same amount for The Trilogy as they would for a brand new title?
Admittedly, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy’s detractors have a point, however, they’re also drastically underselling the work Rockstar and developer Grove Street Games have put into the collection. Rockstar and Grove have gone beyond the superficial improvements associated with other, less ambitious remasters to deliver refurbished games lightyears ahead of the existing versions – and arguably worth the same price as any other 2021 release. Still not convinced? Here are five reasons why Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition is worth buying.
5. New textures, lighting system and environmental effects
Although the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition doesn’t qualify as a remake, Grove remastered the game using Unreal Engine 4, not Renderware (the games’ original game engine). This allowed Grove to do more than just improve the textures in GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas (although they’ve certainly done that); they’ve also added more advanced reflection, lighting, shadow, and weather effects, and boosted the draw distance, too.
True, you won’t mistake the collection for a AAA title produced from scratch today, however, these graphical enhancements combine to give these games a drastic facelift. Notably, surfaces are smoother, more detailed and reflect their surroundings, and environments have more believable foliage, water and simulated sunshine and rain. But the real star is Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy’s new lighting system, which renders everything from car headlights on wet roads to the neon glow of garish signage with an impressive level of fidelity that brings a new level of immersion to the collection’s trio of virtual worlds.
4. Refined character models
Aside from its price tag, the most divisive aspect of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition is the remastered character models. A vocal contingent of fans expected graphics in-line with those in GTA V, with some claiming that the high polycount character models in fellow gangster re-release Mafia: Definitive Edition make this collection’s more low-fi models look lazy by comparison.
Now, the first thing to note is that Mafia: Definitive Edition was a full-blown remake, not a remaster, so expecting a similar graphical revamp was a bit unrealistic. It’s also worth pointing out that Rockstar and Grove made a deliberate creative choice here – and honestly, it’s an inspired one. Refining the existing designs to give them smoother edges and more defined features without sacrificing the stylised quality of the original character designs feels truer to the more cartoonish spirit of the original games than a hyper-real makeover would have. It gives Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy a unique aesthetic – and a good one, at that.
3. Updated controls
Anyone who has played the non-remastered versions of GTA III, Vice City or San Andreas recently can attest to how playable they remain. That said, all but the most devoted fans will agree that the games’ controls haven’t aged very well. Sure, the driving controls still (mostly) hold up, but the gunplay controls (and associated mechanics) are a bit clunky by today’s standards.
Fortunately, Rockstar and Grove have addressed this issue in Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition, substituting the games’ existing controls with a new GTA V-inspired control scheme. This means that the dated controls that would’ve alienated modern gamers – especially the targeting, lock-on aiming, and “drive-by” mechanic – are gone, and the collection quite literally handles like a contemporary release.
2. Additional quality of life improvements
Improved controls aren’t the only quality of life improvements made by Rockstar and Grove, either. They’ve also overseen a bunch of other small yet vital improvements to Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition to make it more accessible to a 2021 audience.
The mini-maps now boast enhanced functionality, and players can set their own waypoints to make navigating the three games’ sprawling open worlds easier. Rockstar and Grove have also retooled the weapon and radio station selection UI, too, with a more modern selection wheel replacing the less intuitive existing interface.
Best of all, players will now be able to restart a botched mission directly from the “Mission failed” screen. Long-time GTA fans will rejoice over this tweak, as it eliminates the tedious back-tracking that’s frustrated them since GTA III first hit shelves in 2001!
1. Extra challenges and platform-specific enhancements
Right now, you’re probably thinking that while Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition may look and handle different, the fundamental gameplay experience will still be the same as before. To an extent, you’d be right – although Rockstar and Grove have tossed in a few extra surprises and platform-specific enhancements to spice things up.
Of these, the biggest value add are the new achievements and trophies, which will give completists a bunch of new challenges to cross off in GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas. If we’re lucky, Rockstar and Grove will also include additional Easter eggs across all three games, with some fans convinced they’ve already spotted a nod to the next game in the GTA franchise in the collection’s trailer!
Then there are the platform-specific enhancements, which offer gameplay features that simply weren’t possible back in the mid-00s. Of these, the most impressive belong to the Nintendo Switch version, which sports gyroscopic controls and touch screen functionality.