It’s been years since we had a Grand Theft Auto release (GTA V launched back in 2013!), so everyone was eagerly anticipating the Definitive Edition of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – a bundle that combined Grand Theft Auto III and its two spin-off titles, Vice City and San Andreas. Was it worth the wait? We checked out the PlayStation version to find out.
Grand Theft Auto III itself is 20 years old already, and came out during a time where GTA releases were far more frequent. It was also the first time the series stepped into 3D, after the first two games and their London-based expansion packs played out from a top-down perspective. It was the start of an era that endures to this day, so seeing this trilogy of games again after the massive success of parts IV and V is nice.
This isn’t the first time these games have been re-released though, as they were also bundled as a trilogy on the systems they originally launched on (in the PS2/Xbox era). This is essentially that same bundle, but with a few tweaks for modern systems that apply to both the technical parts of the game and the gameplay experience.
On the technical front, one obvious change is that all three games now have a greater draw distance, benefitting from the additional power of today’s consoles to make all three cities suffer less from buildings popping in on the horizon as you move through them. Other changes don’t fare as well though, as modern lighting effects generally make (parts of) these games look too dark and weather effects feel incredibly dated even though they’re brand new – the rain effects in particular look like something from a PS3 era title and lack the nuance of what today’s tech can do.
The updated character models and animations are also a mixed bag`. You can tell they were updated rather than just upscaled to a higher resolution, but the end result – like the visual effects mentioned above – looks unimpressive by today’s standards and suffers from visual glitches as well. We assume the latter are easy enough to fix, but the almost cartoon-like visuals make the game look more like the Saint’s Row aesthetic than a Grand Theft Auto game, and that’s not likely to change.
It’s not all bad though, as the environments do feel more detailed and look crisper thanks to higher resolutions, and we also enjoyed having the modern convenience of a weapon wheel to select and switch between guns – which also feel better optimized for gamepad play this time around. While the original games could feel a tad floaty on consoles when aiming, things are snappier this time around, which benefits the flow of action scenes.
Perhaps our expectations were too high for this one, maybe because of the definitive edition of Mafia we saw a year ago, but after such a long wait we certainly expected better, and a few welcome gameplay tweaks don’t change that – especially when bugs showcase a lack of polish.