Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy instantly became one of our most anticipated releases of 2021 the moment it was announced. However, the first few days since launch were rough to say the least, from Rockstar pulling the PC version to the subsequent barrage of fan footage and screenshots, picking apart the three remastered classics.
What exactly do you get with Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy? This bundle includes Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas, all updated for newer consoles by developer Grove Street Games. For GTA fans it offers an imperfect, albeit nostalgic trip back to when the series really took off and became a household name. There’s a chance you missed out on playing the three games, in which case Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy acts as a decent way to experience them without dusting off retro consoles or fiddling with the mobile ports. If you hadn’t guessed already, this comes with some caveats.
There’s nothing overly horrendous about this remastered collection. It simply lacks the care and attention you would expect from Rockstar, especially when it comes to honouring such landmark games. Games that would change the industry forever, shaping an entire genre, and massing a cult-like following.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy spruces up GTA III and its two sublime sequels by introducing a glut of gameplay improvements alongside higher resolution characters and textures. On top of that, those playing on Xbox Series X and PS5 can expect 4K visuals and up to 60 fps performance.
So, what are people complaining about?
Issues vary between the three games, though there are some unifying complaints. The trilogy’s protagonists and other key characters have undergone a decent makeover, but each Grand Theft Auto remaster is overrun with garish, gormless-looking NPCs. As for Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas, each of these vast playgrounds boast beautiful vistas that haven’t been modernised to everyone’s satisfaction with improved lighting, effects, and textures awkwardly wallpapering over the original blocky architecture and environmental design of these games. You can see the telltale signs of 3D models and textures run through AI processing to upscale, but this has seemingly been pushed live without a human touch to find and fix where it’s gone awry.
We’ve yet to snag on any particularly egregious bugs that affect gameplay, even on the Nintendo Switch, though performance can often take a hit. GTA III is the most noticeable in this respect, the oldest title of the trio chugging when there’s too much action on-screen.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy doesn’t go far enough, especially when you look at more accomplished remasters as remakes (Mafia: Definitive Edition springs to mind) or the efforts that modders have gone to in the past. What’s more disappointing here is how Rockstar failed to temper the expectations of its notoriously zealous fanbase. With no direct gameplay footage shown ahead of its release, many will have paid full price despite this glaring red flag, soon releasing this wasn’t the dream package they thought they had been sold.
That’s not to say the remasters are a complete dud. Improvements such as the modernised radio and weapon wheels have been imported from newer games in the series. Map waypoints, better gunplay, and being able to immediately restart failed missions are also welcome additions any GTA fan can also get behind. Although Rockstar re-released these games on PS4 and Xbox One not so long ago, they were clearly more awkward and unwieldy to play as you traced your way back through the series’ legacy.
On one hand, being able to play this enhanced trio of stone cold classics on new consoles is a blessing. The story, the characters, and the settings are still there, as are the countless opportunities you have to cause chaos, no matter how perverse your desire for destruction is. However, there’s a lot to be desired in terms of overall presentation, especially if this meant to be Rockstar’s love letter to its own grand legacy.