Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition Review



Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition

Developer: Grove Street Games
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms:Switch, PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Playstation 5, Xbox One S|X
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 – Available Here | $99.95 – Available Here


During the early 2000’s, Rockstar built an empire with their Grand Theft Auto franchise. Sure, the fifth installment has been basically the only way to go for a decade, but fans still remember and clamor for the trilogy that really defined the experience they have today. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is finally here to bring us back to that era, acting as a compilation of all three titles for modern platforms. It couldn’t be at a better time, but does this set of games still hold up, or does this set miss the mark entirely? Let’s find out. 


It is hard to really fit all three stories in one summary for this trilogy, so let me offer a general synopsis for each, as nothing has changed from the original experiences. Grand Theft Auto III has players take control of Claude, a prison escapee who ends up crossing paths with several different factions of the mafia. The player works to appease different crowds, travelling through Liberty City and doing missions to watch the narrative unfold. It is a simple, yet effective plot that kind of takes a backseat to exploring the wild setting in front of you. 

Vice City is a throwback, with players put in the role of criminal Tommy Vercetti. While not as long, this plot is much more focused, featuring the same mafia/gangster type plot points, with Tommy working his way up to an all-out kingpin of this small, yet thriving city. San Andreas easily is the best of the lot, as it feels like players are a character in Boyz in the Hood, with similar plot points and characters popping up in what is easily the most fleshed out and enjoyable narrative in the franchise. Altogether, it’s a great thing to dive in and out of all three of these titles, as nostalgia is sure to bite the player hard upon hearing the dialogue sequences hit upon the start of the game. That said, the execution of how well these remakes play hinder those nostalgic vibes, as the familiar comfort is often interrupted by glitches, bugs, and even character model replacements that returning players are sure to find issues with as they try to relive what is probably one of the most played franchises of all time. Nothing has changed with the actual stories; they just look and feel jarringly different from how you may have remembered them.  


Imagine every day you walk to work, taking the same road. Eventually, that path becomes so familiar that you barely notice the backdrop, only focusing on your thoughts and current happenings as you trek along forward. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is kind of like that, but now enhance that backdrop, add obstacles that feel intrusive, and take away quality of life improvements that happened over the years, such as added sidewalks or stoplights. Suddenly, even a simple turn into a once familiar territory feels new, but for all the wrong reasons. Each one of these titles suffers from this, as even though I feel I have played all three of these titles for hundreds of hours, I never found that comfort I once had as the games are just a chore to play for multiple reasons. 

The first thing players will notice is the lack of refinement. Let’s face it, even though these titles were deemed great, GTA had sequels that added minor features that changed the way you explored these worlds on foot or in a vehicle. It takes a lot of time getting used to a character that cannot sprint (like in GTA III) or climb up a wall properly, and the return to such an awkward control style is a bit jarring, but nothing that cannot be adjusted to in time. What hinders the revisit further however is the number of glitches, bugs, and so on that plague each and every title – making it hard to focus on nostalgia while adding tedium in doing even the most basic of movements.  

Upon booting up III, the AI seemed off. Cars no longer seem to understand how to drive on the roads properly, often plowing over pedestrians (or your character) for no reason. Many pedestrians were walking into walls, and simple missions felt nearly impossible due to way the main character interacts with the map. For example, there is a mission where you must grab grenades and take out three delivery trucks without getting busted by police. Easy enough. This time around, that mission is much harder as the delivery trucks seemed to get scared and go way off course, where grenades even managing to land correctly still don’t count as a hit. Even facing a pileup caused in chaos, those trucks just plowed right through, while other cars would cause so much damage to my own car that I would usually explode from damage before even getting to get out and chuck one explosive. At times, the grenade would shoot backwards or explode way off target, making this simple mission take way longer that it would have in the original titles.  

I wish it was just one title that had these issues, but it is as if each world was somehow rewired in a way where no AI understood how to function as a human being. Vice City is a little bit better with the AI at times and may be the most playable of the lot, but San Andreas was just as frustrating as you spend a good deal of time on a bike. Let me rephrase that. You spend a lot of time on a bike, with cars that don’t seem to understand the difference between a sidewalk or a street, meaning the player spends a lot of time dodging vehicles, rather than being able to focus on standard objectives. Forget that the player already has issues with aim and movement, or cars that don’t seem to accept an input to enter unless you are lined up just right. There are so many minor bugs in this compilation that it is hard to do anything important without having to rewire your brain to move around all of these new intrusions. 

I don’t want to act as if the games are unplayable, as I did enjoy a lot of my time getting reacquainted with these famous locales. There is a lot to like here, and some improvements do help. New checkpoints allow us to not have to restart a whole mission if we meet our demise, which helps a lot. The new map also is easy to pull up and use, despite some sloppiness that comes with setting waypoints. I kept having to ask myself “was this like that before?” upon finding something frustrating within a mission, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter. This trilogy picks and chooses what it adds refinement to, and usually that refinement is only half-executed. Sure, you can now select weapons easier, but with tank handling on large weapons still being a thing, how much does that actually help? Maybe we didn’t have certain abilities in the original lot, but why do we have parts of new mechanics added in for some sections of gameplay, only to be missing in others? When you have such familiar properties to fans, putting them all together with your quality-of-life improvements is important. Sadly, that wasn’t done here and that is what makes everything feel broken. I would have rather had the same gameplay from the first three titles with no adjustments compared to what feels like a tug of war with new additions and old hat that don’t feel fluid or cohesive.  


This is rough. I personally do not hate the new art style in these definitive versions. Sure, the newly defined features on old characters are a bit comical, but easy to get over as you can at least see the attempt. The screen tearing between all three titles as well as random framerate drops however are not something to laugh about. Character models will randomly contort in non-human ways during animation, and clipping is almost always present when walking near any structure. No, these are not going to look like the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy you fell in love with. It may be bearable, but for returning players who pay good money to obtain a definitive version of their favorite franchise – prepare for yet another release that will leave you running back to a previous platform. 


A lot of people will critique the audio as some games have missing tunes in the soundtrack. In my opinion, Vice City is the only one this is super noticeable with, as without Billie Jean – it kind of hits different jumping in a car. The rest of the audio is fine, I guess. Despite rough dialogue animation, most still sounds as it did, even though I did get mild static at portions. At this point, I can say that the sound work may be one thing that at least takes the lightest hit. 


Rockstar are known for two things these days. Creating long-term commitments for great games, and making a boat load of money off said games from a loyal fanbase. They didn’t have to re-release this trilogy, but the issue is they did, and did it dirty by not showing enough care to actually update it. To top that off, the minor updates that were implemented make what was a good set of games feel unpolished and mediocre three times over. These are three titles that defined a generation of gaming, and you would think someone would have noticed in quality control somewhere that something was amiss. Alas, what we have here is a sad cash grab from a company that typically strive for perfection. Getting Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition may bring back a bit of nostalgia for some, but for others it will go down as one of the first black marks on the publisher’s nearly spotless record. 

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


Grand Theft Auto takes us back to the trilogy that gave the franchise legs, only to make a few stops for some unwanted additions along the way.


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