As they say, to understand the present, you need to know the past, which is why many times looking back can result in a tremendously satisfying exercise, either to discover for the first time what those works that defined the industry were like. Video games or revisiting them with the perspective that the passage of time allows us to appreciate how the medium has evolved.
Now, Rockstar wants to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Grand Theft Auto III, one of the most revolutionary and influential works in the industry and the one that unleashed the fever for open-world titles that we live today, with a remastering that also comes accompanied by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. These two games followed and eventually defined an entire genre. Unfortunately, what should have been fantastic news for giving us the perfect excuse to return to the beloved 128-bit trilogy has turned out to be one of the most significant bots we’ve played lately.
Three classics that have not received the tribute they deserve
The first thing we have to comment on is that Rockstar’s intention with Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition has been to try to keep the essence of the three classics it includes intact, but by revamping its audiovisual section and adding several quality improvements of life that make them a more current and enjoyable experience. That is to say, the contents, the story, the mechanics and the gameplay of all of them remain precisely the same, which implies being able to enjoy three titles of action and driving in the open world in which we will have to explore cities with total freedom while completing missions, we discover secrets.
Something that you have to take into account if you decide to give them a chance or replay them after many years is that they are games that, especially in the case of GTA III and GTA: Vice City, have not aged exactly well and that after two decades have been widely overcome so that you will not miss some frustrating moments due to some decisions with the design of specific missions, an erratic AI, some extremely archaic shootings and some scripts and dialogues that have little or nothing to do with the maturity that has reached current Rockstar works.
No matter how time goes by, some titles are still just as valid today regarding fun and playability, but this is not the case. However, this does not mean that we have not had a good time playing them, regardless of the nostalgia they may generate, because they are still adventures that always go very to the point, that have a very varied development, that offer many possibilities to unleash chaos, which have fantastic settings and which, in the end, are relatively easy to play with and know how to make us have a good time. Here we have to highlight GTA: San Andreas especially. This authentic wonder continues to leave us with our mouths open with the amount of content and mechanics it includes, not to mention its fantastic missions and the peculiar tone of its story and characters.
Probably, one of the greatest successes of these new editions we have in details such as the inclusion of control points so that we can restart the missions directly when we fail, more comfortable control and aiming system, an improved map with which to set routes and a wheel to select the weapon we want quickly and efficiently, details that are always appreciated and make this a more accessible experience.
So if the games are the same and include improvements, where is the problem? Well, in everything that derives from the change in the graphics engine that Rockstar has opted for. To modernize its graphics, Grove Street Games has remade the trilogy in Unreal Engine, bringing with it new modelling, new lighting and reflections system, more detailed and high-resolution textures, and scenarios that show more elements on the screen.
The bad news is that this commendable attempt to renew its visual section has not turned out as well as it should, and we have a constant feeling. At the same time, we play is that of being in front of an unfinished product that has been launched in a hurry to reach the promised launch date. Not surprisingly, the engine change causes a considerable amount of programming errors that range from problems with physics to effects, textures, and modelling displayed incorrectly, through all kinds of crazy bugs with which we have suffered the occasional death. Unexpected. To this, we must add that the new character design has seemed horrible in most cases, losing much of the essence that characterized them. It does not apply to all since some of the protagonists have been decently, but they are the exception to the rule.
The elimination of some effects, such as the fog of San Andreas, also causes the popping to be much more exaggerated. Some atmosphere and scale have been lost since the drawing distance has remained similar to the original. They are small things that add up and pile up, dulling some classics that deserve much greater pampering, and problems such as how badly HDR is used to the point of darkening the image to unsuspected levels do not help too much.
To top it off, we have to highlight how poorly optimized it is. The performance problems it suffers even on consoles like PS5 and Xbox Series X, where it cannot maintain a stable 60 images per second rate when it should have been a bare minimum even in the older generation. Suppose you are interested in the Switch version. In that case, we must warn you that the problems increase enormously because of a poor resolution and an inadmissible framerate and full of severe drops at almost every step we take, something applicable both on a desktop and on a laptop. And yes, in the hybrid, the maximum that it reaches is 30 fps.
Finally, there is not much to say about the sound since the soundtracks, the effects, and voices have been maintained. Unfortunately, due to licensing difficulties, some of the songs that we could hear on the radio have been lost, which is a real shame as we were left without hearing, for example, the Michael Jackson songs playing in Vice City.
The intention was good, but Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition has fallen very far from being that definitive version we expected of three essential classics that forever redefined action and open-world games. You can tell that there has been an effort to improve and update them, but what has reached digital stores is an unfinished and full of problems product that has come out of the oven long before its time and that is in urgent need of a good number of patches in all their versions.
We will not deny that we have been surprised to see the regrettable treatment that Rockstar itself has given to such a fundamental and relevant part of its legacy. This much-loved trilogy once marked millions of players around the world and their video game industry. Yes, suppose you bite the bullet and overlook its innumerable flaws. In that case, you may enjoy what this remastering proposes since the quality of life improvements are appreciated more than it might seem, but that does not mean that we are talking about three works that deserved much better.
We prepared this review with a digital review copy for the PS5 version of the title provided by Rockstar.