Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition – Review

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Release Date
Rockstar Games
PS4, PS5
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Rockstar Games

While we may not be able to be one of the first to give a review of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition, the remake of the beloved Rockstar classics, we can safely say that the release was in hot water for not the usual reason GTA is in for. Rather than the controversy for the violence and other staple of the series the massive uproar was from the fans themselves feeling that they were cheated. Why? The graphics while updated, the models have been a downgrade. If only it was the same issues of the beloved classics but sadly it isn’t. From rains that feel like it is tearing your eyes out, to sudden explosion in the environment. This felt like Cyberpunk 2077 6.9 (nice) edition. But what about now? Is it better? I’d say 50/50. Let’s dive into why this is the remake that had fans divided and opens up the possibility of AI tech remastering older titles not just in GTA but other non-Rockstar games as well. But then again it could simply spell the doom of this new tech.

Majority of us knew the story of the games from Grand Theft Auto III (GTA 3) to Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (GTA SA). The gameplay was still there along with memorable lines and other quirks brought by the previous games. So why is it hated so much? The reason is both user and developer side. For one, the models are mismanaged along with the bugs that were present at launch which has now been thankfully removed . From this point in time at least. Particularly the rain. I don’t even like the rain on the OG games but hearing about the visual bug from launch makes it so much more dreadful. Now for the user side, it could boil down to nostalgia. Some might have been expecting a GTA V style of gameplay but most of us want it done right and with good reason. It was one of our fond memories from childhood that many still would love to go back to. 

Going back to the overall experience, the graphics is commendable. World building wise, GTA SA benefited the most here and ironically has also been under the scrutiny the most. The reason for this is that the nostalgia that GTA SA has on us is undeniable. However, the numerous bugs and glitches doesn’t help sell this remake. GTA 3 and Grand Theft Auto Vice City (GTA VC). But both GTA 3 and GTA VC didn’t fare any better either. To get into perspective. The  graphics is a bit odd to say the least. Both the earlier versions have been upgraded to what it could look like but at the same time exists in that sort of twilight zone that is both good to look at and kind of weird to look at. This being that the game has that updated and beautiful look yet feels out of place at the current and newly released consoles. Going back to the game itself, it feels like a massive nostalgia hit me that I feel like going back to more simpler times. And admittedly, it still has that GTA SA charms along with that GTA VC city suave. What I am implying is at its core Grand Theft Auto Trilogy – Definitive Edition is still a GTA but was mostly marketed for its nostalgia value. It felt like a cash grab and at times a shameless one in fact. Why? The way it was executed doesn’t only feel rushed, it feels more of a port from an android game. And this is justified since the same development team handled the mobile port of the same titles.

Now, what is the so called quality of life improvement here? If I’ll be honest, just the weapon wheel. You can’t even carry multiple types of guns. So that’s that. Then you have to compare the models from the remake and the original. Purists will be a significant market for this game and with the way the models look compared to the original game, this will be a hard sell. If you are new and just don’t have the option to get the original, this won’t be an issue. But from my experience, the models could really do a great deal of retouch. The way models look isn’t that bad, but it isn’t also pretty as well, thus you have to ponder why the lack of attention for the detail on character models.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

From my experience, it was really a huge improvement in terms of quality of life and the updates on control. Why? Let me ask you, can you remember the old control scheme of GTA SA? Yes? It might be muscle memory that could save you but it could save you from that awkward moment that instead of pressing R2 for drive, you just sit there idling by. Like I mentioned before, being the GTA title I have played most of my time, that and a lot of people I presume GTA SA would be the first one they would play. And the first one they will be annoyed at for the lack of better term. For one, it still has no fog for better or worse that masks the size of the map. As mentioned from many launch reviews. The lack of fog compounded with the updated graphics made the overall experience quite underwhelming. The sight of all areas of San Andreas mingling together is what broke the overall feel of the game. Gone were the days that you wonder what was it like from this area, or that.

Then for absolute purists out there, the menu and title screen was changed from that iconic black to what seems to be the mobile port which is perhaps one of the noticeable choice change.

The way the models were also done isn’t that good either. It felt that CJ’s head is just attached to the body ready to be taken away any time soon. In the words of Rockstar, they discussed that what existed on the 3d universe cannot exist in the HD world. And while we are not expecting a full GTA 5 experience in graphics and gameplay, the remake still adhere true to the gameplay of the original. With the controls and weapon wheel the more noticeable difference on the remake. In my experience, I was not able to encounter the aforementioned bugs that causes you to float without the bridge and the rain that made many gamers hate this remake. Lastly, I would like to point out that the load times when I played GTA SA alone is too long. And I want to emphasize that since the other tiles in Grand Theft Auto Trilogy – Definitive Edition doesn’t suffer as much, particularly when going in and out of the buildings.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

While I wasn’t really fond of this title back then, the remake made me remember that this was the title that introduced me to the series. It still has that flamboyant nature that many remembered so well. From the environment to the colorful palettes on both day and night, especially the night time. GTA VC retains that essence from the original. What is noticeably different is the model actors. Now as much as I’d like to stay positive for these kind of critique, the models that were done wasn’t really done good. And this boils down to the fact that Grand Theft Auto Trilogy – Definitive Edition was remade using a new technology. However, the changes made should be taken not simply as a critique of choice on Rockstar’s part but the choice of technique. Rockstar used this on a beloved title that due to such changes made a lot of fans feeling sour.

The first thing I also did once I was able to control Tommy  is to jump into the water and try to swim. Credits to Rockstar for still not budging on this one and letting it stay. Now a lot would say that this isn’t a nice thing to miss out. Another thing that they retained is the driving mechanics and the vehicle physics of the original. What this means is that driving downtown in vice city would be a lot of slip and slide. Which is great in keeping in line with the wacky nature of the game. But with the remakes and remasters that have come and gone, it is usually a case of damn if you do, damn if you don’t particularly in the gameplay/game mechanics . This is a big plus for some purists out there. Overall, if you’d ignore the models and driving mechanics, that leaves a lot to be desired.

Grand Theft Auto III

With no knowledge of the original. My first foray to this title is an eye opener for me for its legacy not only for the GTA franchise but the open world genre as well. This is one of if not the pioneer of such staple in the genre of being able to explore every nook and cranny of the world. With this game, I really have no basis whether or not this is a good remake. But first impression first, I’d say for this game the character model is decent. And If I’ll be honest, I did enjoy my time on GTA 3 since I have no idea what it was. This might be due to having no experience prior.

As you might expect, models are quite different from the original. But the purists out there would still lambast it for not being close to the original and I have to agree. Some models didn’t follow the original design. The only work done was to marginally improve it. Gameplaywise, looking back, it was rough around the edges in terms of the driving and shooting. And this was shared among all the titles in the Definitive Edition.


The game will still play just like the original and still has that overall feeling of nostalgia on it. But what would be the biggest deal breaker for most is the models of the remake. For me personally, it would be the San Andreas and Vice City. Sure I could google the look of GTA 3 vs GTA 3 remake, but that doesn’t do the trick. I would honestly say for its age, the GTA 3 remake managed to do the trick.

The major factor where I could see the reason why it flopped bar the bugs and glitches and also the GTA 5-esque remake is that it felt that majority of the game is a next gen port of the mobile port of the original. Not on the same page? For one, the mobile port wasn’t the main game we used to play as per se, but rather an integrated port specified for the mobile device. Now that very same game is then ported to the current and next gen. So that is why it wasn’t that fully optimized. This then boils down to the factor that as one of the most fondly remembered game of the early 2000’s, majority would want to see it done right. And it doesn’t help that it has long array of bugs, and glitches.

Is it all due to our nostalgia that made this remake bad? Rockstar’s greedy business practice? If we are to look at at this way, only the latter would suffice since rather than having a direct hand on the remake, they just left it to their mobile studio to take charge of porting the game from mobile. And thus resulting to my earlier statement that this is just a console port of the mobile versions of the game. But it isn’t just the sole reason. They used a new technology to remake the Definitive Edition and with that comes an untested tech used for the beloved trilogy. And these factors alone have culminated into the Definitive Edition. Part of it was Rockstar’s lazy attempt to not have a direct hand on the remake, the untested tech to remake the trilogy, and then our high expectations for the remake.

To sum up the Lookback for GTA Trilogy DE , while a good lookback for the previous titles. and a way for us to play them on our current gen’s console. With the array of the aforementioned issues, the experience will be hampered. But beneath this, a major overhaul was still done in terms of graphical improvement and it was done spectacularly. And to Rockstar’s credit, or Groove Street Studio, they at least added a trophy system that fits the whole GTA flair. If you aren’t bothered by the somewhat botched character models, then I say give it a go!

grand theft auto
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition – Review
Score Definition
Here’s the bright side, it’s still better than the average. It’s as playable as you can make it, and some may probably enjoy it more.
Beautifully done remake in terms of updating the world’s looks
Remake that 80% remained true to its core
Major quality of life improvement
Character models that isn’t up to snuff
Lack of quick access map