Published on November 24th, 2021 | by Sean Warhurst
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition PlayStation 5 Review
Summary: A disappointing remaster of some of the most influential games of all times leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
A lot of noise has been made online in the week or so since Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition dropped, and none of it good.
Rockstar Studios is a name that gamers associate with ambitious and polished titles that consistently push the envelope, and many fans were understandably chuffed to hear that the PS2-era classic trilogy of GTA games were being remastered with overhauled controls and updated graphics.
These games pioneered the franchise and are arguably some of the most important titles in modern gaming, kickstarting the open-world trend and, along with the Metal Gear Solid titles, ushering in a more cinematically influenced style of video game with more mature themes and content.
It’s hard to understate just how influential and monumental the series was back in the day, which makes this janky, half-assed remastering effort even more of a bitter pill to swallow.
Inexplicably farmed out to Grove Street Games, who quietly rebranded themselves from War Drum Studios after their poor handling of the 10th anniversary GTA mobile ports, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is a masterclass in how to completely and utterly drop the ball in almost every single respect when attempting to polish up older games to fall into line with modern conventions and expectations.
Now, again it must be reiterated that the three games that form the foundation of this remaster are still seminal classics in every sense of the word; I’ve actually recently played through both the Vice City and San Andreas ports that were available before this releaseand, aside from some archaic control schemes, they both held up fairly well.
When reviewing a remaster, it’s always a question of whether you focus on the games as a whole or just hone in on the remastering effort itself and score it accordingly; in this case, I’ve opted for the latter, as everyone and their dog knows just how solid the original GTA trilogy was back in the day.
Some of the welcome additions to the games include the aforementioned overhaul of the control scheme, such as fine tuning the targeting and using the triggers to accelerate rather than the face buttons of the controller, falling more in line with GTA V; the gunplay still kind of sucks, however, and I actually found myself struggling due to locking on to the wrong targets far more than I did in my playthrough of the original editions.
If you fail a mission you’ll get the option to restart rather than having to travel to the mission point again from either the hospital or the police station, which is definitely a welcome change, as is the minimap, addition of the weapon wheel and GPS functionality.
The negatives far outweigh the positives, however, such as the amazingly poor performance on the PS5; for games that are twenty years old that should feasibly run smoothly on a mobile phone (which, not coincidentally, datamining has found that these remasters were initially designed for), the fact that they struggle to maintain a steady framerate on something as powerful as the PS5 is just unforgiveable.
AI upscaling was used to upgrade all of the text in-game, which has led to some horrendous spelling errors and even ruined some of the more risqué jokes from the original games, such as “Guitar Wank” being changed to “Guitar Henk”, and while some updated character models and animations look quite impressive, others resemble eldritch abominations.
One of the biggest issues I encountered was the rain, which essentially obscures the screen whenever it falls, particularly in San Andreas. I actually held off on finishing this review when I heard that a patch was being rushed out to address some of the more glaring issues present but, despite being on version 1.02, there are still hardly any noticeable improvements.
The draw distance is much better this time around, but cars, pedestrians and objects still seem to pop in at roughly the same distance as the originals. The cleaned up visuals come with a caveat as well; despite being crisper and more refined for the most part, a lot of the original atmosphere has been lost as a result. San Andreas no longer has the heavy yellowish fog over Los Santos and it just makes everything feel too sterile.
Clouds are pretty much just painted onto the background rather than hanging in the sky, and even little things like the splash when you land in water has now been replaced with a tiny ripple.
Other issues really hamper any enjoyment that can be gleaned from playing through the games, such as cars inexplicably exploding almost immediately after catching fire, making it nearly impossible to exit, and the pinpoint accuracy of enemies who also often have the ability to shoot through solid objects.
It’s clear that a lot of corners have been cut here and Grove Street Games and Rockstar were kind of hoping that the original trilogy’s reputation would be enough to carry sales, which is honestly pretty scummy… You can’t tell me that the game had any semblance of quality control if it has been released in this state.
There’s an old saying that goes “You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter”. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is almost the exact opposite of that proverb, with the core foundation of the three titles still retaining their charm, albeit in an anachronistic way, but the sterling gold nugget that is the original trilogy is now slathered in so many scoops of steaming shit that it’s hard to appreciate them for what they are.
Compounded by the fact that Rockstar pulled the original ports from digital storefronts (although they’ve vowed to gift them as a way to recompense disgruntled PC players; no word on console players getting the same consideration though), this release really is a massive clusterfuck that will leave a lasting stain on Rockstar’s legacy, even if they weren’t directly responsible for the remaster.
Some of the more glaring issues can hopefully be fixed with a few more patches but it’s debatable whether GSG even have the ability to support the game to the degree that it needs, as there were major issues with the 10th anniversary ports that were just never addressed and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same fate befell Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition.
(Note: The physical releases set to drop on December 7th will only be for the PS4, Xbox One and Switch, hence the use of the PS4 box art below)
Primary Format – PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series S/X Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Game Genre – Open-World Action/ Adventure
Rating – R18+
Game Developer – Grove Street Games
Game Publisher – Rockstar Studios
Reviewer – Sean Warhurst