Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition Review (PS4)

The main 3D era of Grand Theft Auto had a huge impact on games. From GTA III laying the groundwork for the open world format as we know it, and Vice City refining the formula in a nostalgic setting right down to the reach of San Andreas, these three titles are a vital part of the medium’s history. These remasters attempt to modernize the look of these games and improve the quality of life. While there is a considerable degradation in art direction and many careless oversights, Grove Street Games does a generally decent job of modernizing these classics for a new generation.

Happy to see you again

This trilogy is a remaster of GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas, not a remake. As such, all games feature the same animations, physics, and general gameplay as the original. However, the engine used is the Unreal Engine instead of RenderWare and the textures are now all in HD. But before we get into the significant differences, let’s take a quick look at the PS4 version. It operates at 30-50fps at the time of its launch state. It’s also not 4k, unlike the PS5 versions, which sucks. There are two adjustment modes. The first is “Fidelity”, which gives more details like water reflections at 30 fps capped. Meanwhile, “Performance” mode gives you the supposedly uncapped framerate without these effects. This latest-generation option therefore remains viable, even if it is ultimately inferior in terms of performance compared to next-gen consoles.

On all platforms, there are quality of life adjustments that make all the difference. You can access a weapon and radio wheel that works just like GTA V. Sure, it feels a little weird to have this modern mechanic in older games, but it works better now. Additionally, you can now restart from checkpoints, but apparently only in San Andreas. Of course, in the other games you don’t lose any weapons or money on death, but there are no checkpoints for what is arguably more difficult games.

The most drastic addition is the sophisticated aiming system, which locks onto enemies (also like GTA V), however, when aiming at enemies there is an unnecessary white outline on the characters which only distracts you instead. that help. As such, the classic San Andreas locking system is always superior. Overall, however, these games are smoother thanks to these improvements.

San Andreas Establishment Shot

Out-ish with the old, with the new

To scratch the surface of the environmental overhaul, let’s review the apparent positives. The new lighting is fantastic and really adds a new layer. It can certainly be pretty, from neon signs and traffic lights reflecting off cars and pedestrians to physics-based rendering. The reconstructed foliage also breathes new life into each map, replacing 2D flat textures with long, lush fields of grass that actually move when they collide. Heck, a single weed sticking out of the sidewalk in San Andreas will move if you enter it. In terms of urbanity, all the buildings and roads are newly textured and they look great. If you want to look into a building, it will now have fully modeled interiors. Of course, you can’t go in there, but this new level of immersion is awesome. These revisions ultimately correct the flat appearance of older games, allowing worlds to feel more realistic.

A major downside to this trilogy is that it is remastered from the mobile ports. These ports have removed much of what made the originals special and the omissions have been carried forward. The biggest loss is the sense of artistic direction of each game, which sucks in favor of clarity. For example, GTA III and San Andreas are games with gloomy atmospheres. This tone was partly captured by their PS2 versions’ use of a bluish haze (GIII) or orange glow (SA), resulting in a wonderfully elegant aesthetic. Now there is no color coordination, often flat. At night all games look better, but during the day it usually looks boring. Details such as newspapers blowing the streets and a burger spinning above a fast food restaurant are gone. There are dozens of other mistakes too, due to AI scaling and general carelessness that hamper your fun if you’re really careful.

GTA Trilogy San Andreas Drive-by

Polarizing design

The character models have also undergone a major overhaul. First, and this is subjective, the three main protagonists all look better than their PS2 counterparts. As of Grand Theft Auto III, Claude looks more emotional than his original polygon-rich model. I also prefer Tommy’s new Vice City model, but it always looks better in the anniversary edition. Finally, CJ has a more detailed design, which looks better technical but lacks more facial expression in the cutscenes. Clothing for all character models is also fantastic, with detailed stitching on the fabrics and a wearable feel instead of just flat 2D textures. Overall I think they are an improvement over the originals although your mileage may vary.

But then there are random models of the secondary characters. Some characters have lost details such as the forehead lines and have overly smooth, gel-like hair that reflects too much light, leaving them to look a bit like plastic dolls. The worst part is the lighting in many cutscenes, which seems either too dark (San Andreas) or bright and too reflective on the characters (GTA III). This change in art style that I mentioned earlier applies to these designs, as everyone looks more cartoonish than the semi-realistic style that Rockstar was initially looking for. San Andreas suffers the most because it is a game with a gritty tone and the most realistic environment. However, Vice City seems the most cohesive of the trilogy as it was dynamic to begin with. Nonetheless, I think the models are for the most part well made and superior.

Claude

How you imagined the games of your childhood

The remade weather system and drawing distance are also a mixed bag across the trilogy. San Andreas takes the brunt of it again, with no heat waves to really light up this west coast setting. There are also no strong effects of dust storm or fog. Instead, the game promotes a perfect draw distance. While distant horizons look great on foot and while driving, seeing the entire map from an airplane or a tall building takes away any mystique the game once had. Gone are the vibes, and the map just looks small now. There’s also the rain effects, which are weird because they look more like looping animations rather than something like an actual downpour.

However, there are more positive things to be found throughout the day in these games, like real-time observation. Shadows are cast very realistically on the day-night cycle. Speaking of which, the cycle itself emphasizes certain parts of the day with great results. While the daylight hours may seem dull, the night presents the player with very high quality textures of stars and moons. And, if you play on the new generation, you also get volumetric clouds. At dawn and dusk, these elements of the new art style come together to produce truly picturesque results. You’ll get the Vice City Hotel’s Ocean View neon sign, reflected in passers-by below, or the infamously brooding look of Liberty City. Whatever you take away from these games, you have to admit that they can look striking, and the fidelity is a far cry from the PS2 era of consoles.

Remasters Look Good, All They Need Are Patches

Despite having its rough edges, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is an interesting remaster of three classic titles. Its visual overhaul keeps these games from feeling too old-fashioned, and quality of life improvements modernize the experience in a way that meets today’s standards. Of course, its new art style and character models won’t suit everyone, but it could spread to gamers over time. And of course, while these aren’t the “definitive” editions we expected, this is an admirable attempt to present three groundbreaking games to a new generation, and I’m glad it exists.

You can purchase Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition cross-platform on PSN here.

Developer:

Grove Street Games

Editor:

rock star games

Release date:

November 11, 2021

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