Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition Review: Not Worthy of Rockstar's Name

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition should have been such an easy release from Rockstar Games. In a time where fans are constantly begging for Grand Theft Auto VI to be revealed, Rockstar seemed like it was going to attempt to put those requests at ease just a bit by bringing back GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas with a fresh coat of paint. And while this idea in theory was a great one by Rockstar, the way in which the studio has dropped the ball on this remastered bundle cannot be overstated. From top to bottom, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is largely a disaster and shows that I've taken many other remasters for granted in recent years. 

Before I blast Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition too much more, let me at least start with some positives. For the most part, the remastered visuals in this trilogy are more than adequate. The three cities across each Grand Theft Auto game look more crisp than ever before. This remastered collection largely presents these titles in the way that you remember them, not the way that they were originally, which is a good thing. That being said, new elements such as an unlimited draw distance also work against each title and show you how small and blocky these game worlds really look. 

Despite the graphics largely being solid, though, the performance in Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is surprisingly bad. By default, each game will have "Fidelity" mode turned on rather than "Performance" mode, but I'm not sure why. In my own experience with Fidelity mode, I struggled to consistently hit 30fps in any of the three games, leading to each looking incredibly choppy. By comparison, Performance mode is drastically better and makes each look much smoother. What's baffling about this is that for any of these games to be unable to hit 30fps on a next-gen console like the PlayStation 5, which is where I played, is laughable. Even though a number of new graphical updates have been added to these titles, for games that are all roughly 20 years old to be unable to perform well on modern hardware is more than disappointing. 

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(Photo: Rockstar Games)

One of the aspects of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition that I surprisingly like the most, at least in some cases, involves the character models. I think it was a wise decision for the developer of these ports, Grove Street Games, to lean into the cartoonish style that GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas all boasted rather than trying to make each title look more realistic, akin to Grand Theft Auto V. The downside is that the characters that you'll come across in each GTA title are quite inconsistent. For every character you'll see that looks "normal" in this style, you'll see another that has body proportions that are out of whack or facial features that make them look deformed. It's quite clear that Grove Street Games essentially didn't touch up these character models whatsoever and the ones that were altered weren't done so to great effect. 

More so than the visual aspect of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, the thing that perhaps disappointed me the most about this remaster came with its audio. Rather than improving the original voice lines, sound effects, or any other auditory features seen across all three Grand Theft Auto games in any manner, it seems like Grove Street Games opted to pretty much do nothing at all. Dialogue is likely the worst offender of this, with some voice lines sounding like they were recorded in a tin can by modern standards. More could have been done to make the audio aspect of these games closer to what we've come to expect from titles in 2021. 

By far the most damning thing that I can say about Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is that all three of the games in this package feel incredibly old. Other than a boost to visuals, the main aim of many remasters and remakes is to make games from yesteryear feel more accessible and playable in modern times. For the most part, that goal fails miserably here with GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas. Although there have been some tweaks to gunplay, inventory management, and other gameplay mechanics in all three titles, the work that was done wasn't even close to enough to make these games feel more palatable in 2021. Instead, it becomes a chore to try and navigate through these open worlds that are starting to feel ancient. 

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To truly bring home how much of a disaster Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition really is, all three games are rife with random bugs and other oddities. Perhaps these GTA titles were always like this, but some of the AI routines in each game are straight-up broken. The most notable occurrence of this comes when driving, as I found that cars would wreck left and right at times for no discernable reason. All of this combined with the fact that I kept experiencing frequent crashes back to my PS5 dashboard made the experience of playing these games even more annoying than they should have been. 

If you're looking for a trip down memory lane, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition can definitely give you a hit of nostalgia that you have been looking for. Once those rose-tinted glasses begin to fall away from your face, though, what you'll be left with is a bundle of three remastered Grand Theft Auto titles that are really starting to feel their age. Even if you still find great enjoyment in these titles from the dawn of the open-world gaming era, the other bugs and lingering problems will surely begin to rip you out of the experience. In simplest terms, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is a mess of a release and isn't anything close to the level of quality that we have come to expect from the Rockstar Games name in the past. 

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Rating: 2 out of 5

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review and the collection itself was reviewed on a PS5.