Once in a while, a truly great experience is brought to the masses. It isn’t very often that something you loved from when you were younger gets a chance to hit that high level again. Sadly this isn’t the case with the remaster of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy from Grove Street Games, and it is very far from the definitive anything. Find out a little more in our review.
The time we all waited for came and went very quickly. GTA: The Trilogy finally launched on all of our favorite systems and we waited with bated breath and the loading screens flashed on our televisions. Shortly after you start a new game that is where everything goes downhill very fast, at least from my own perspective since I played each of these three titles at launch.
Grand Theft Auto III was my first foray into the fast-paced world that Rockstar created. The huge world, the sprawling city, was a lot to take in. The graphics for the time were defined and it felt like a world you could live in if you weren’t killed by some crazy person driving on the sidewalks. The cutscenes ran smoothly and there was very little cutting or tearing of the characters. All of the models made sense for the period it was created in as well. Even the explosions and NPC AI seemed really good for the time.
Fast forward to 2021 and we have the remastered version of GTA III. The first thing I noticed when I loaded the game up this time is how off the character models look. Faces, bodies, and hands all look very cartoonish as compared to the original version. We have gone this many years and have models from Grand Theft Auto V that could be easily transitioned into this remastered trilogy. It is called the definitive edition but the only thing definitive with it is how it should be better. In the first bridge scene, for instance, it is raining but it just looks like someone created an emitter and didn’t change the settings. Raindrops look like squares and when they hit they stay alive for way too long before their life cycle ends and the effect disappears. I have a fairly decent gaming computer as well but it feels like the game stutters at certain points during gameplay and cutscenes. Not something you would expect from a remastered game. I can play Forza Horizon 5 on ultra but I have problems with GTA? It shouldn’t be happening.
Next, we tried out GTA: Vice City, which was one of my all-time favorites in this series. The music was stand-out good and you always felt the vibes when you were riding around on your motorcycle or in your car. Beyond that, it has similar issues to GTA III. Buildings and character models all look just a bit off and the characters especially suffer from an over rounding issue. Every character beyond maybe your main avatar all look as if they are plastic people. As you rotate your camera around them a visible glow and shine occur around their hair and it absolutely looks like plastic materials were used. Some of the models are also disproportioned and appear wrong as opposed to the original models or even a normal human body. Playing through each mission is similar to the GTA missions in how they work. Based on scripting they are the same but there are still issues with the models and how they look and react with the world. The AI worked a little bit better in this title with it being a more recent game and having the benefit of coming right after GTA III. That being said, I still feel like things have progressed far enough with GTA V that there should be no AI issues either at this point.
Finally, we come to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The most recent of the PlayStation 2 titles and by far it should be the most streamlined of the games, but it isn’t. A lot of the graphics look the best in this version but they are still pretty plain and you can tell they don’t fully fit with the original aesthetic of GTA: SA. The first thing I will say beyond that is how bad the character models are in this one. Of all of the remasters this one is the worst and I can’t figure out why the company had such a hard time remastering a trilogy that had nothing but upside with graphics since the PS2 era. As you roll through the streets on your bicycle or in your car, little details will pop up for you to see. Draw distance has been improved in these so that you can see further and feel more immersed in the world. The voice acting in San Andreas was some of the best of that era and how can you not appreciate Samuel L. Jackson as Officer Tenpenny and Ice-T as Madd Dogg. Voice actors really make a character and a story flow properly, these characters really made me believe in the characters, however, as we look at the models they fall behind like the other games with how they look. Also, I have noticed for each remaster that the character’s hands are always open and do not move. This is a big miss for me and I think there is a lot of room for improvement for any or all of these titles. The cars are the most detailed in this remaster so we finally have something else that is good about the remaster. Any small positive is better than no positives. GTA: SA still has some of the same problems as the other two titles and it is very disappointing that Rockstar would work with a company that doesn’t have the great standards we would expect of these once AAA titles.
I loved to play these games when they first came out and I still play Grand Theft Auto games to this day. If these had been remastered directly by Rockstar with the GTA V graphics and not just the controls then this would have been a hit remaster and not just an afterthought from a secondary company. Some items were better, certain areas were a lot smoother for gameplay, but I am also playing on a PC so I don’t have the limited FPS as console players do. I have been putting my settings for FPS to 144 and I haven’t seen too many other issues with framerate beyond the first couple I saw. Certain mechanics worked well and when it rained, well you couldn’t see.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on the PC with a code provided by PR.