Once upon a time, I considered the sight of a Rockstar Games logo attached to a video game’s artwork to be a guarantee of proper quality. Your money was most likely going to be well spent, and countless hours would be lost in the said video game. After the release of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, I am afraid to say that is no longer the case.
This remaster of the three classic Grand Theft Auto titles on PS2 is an absolute abomination. From the awkwardly verbose title, to the dodgy graphics, the glitches, the game crashes – Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is quite simply a title to avoid (for the time being at least).
In terms of graphical improvements on the original PS2 titles, “The Trilogy” offers improved lighting and reflections, along with much-improved foliage and color palette. However, this is where the graphical improvements end. We are then left with the absolutely bizarre character models, character faces being needlessly changed (for the worse), textures that look out of place, and spelling mistakes on signs.
Despite boasting about improved draw distances, there is a visible pop-in (and pop-out) of vehicles and characters. And we can’t forget the poor texture pop-in and also clipping of cars (especially in the tunnels in Grand Theft Auto III). After all of this, we are left with an overall look that can only be described as The Sims and Fortnite smashed together by some artificial intelligence used to upscale the old PS2 textures.
As Digital Foundry reported in their breakdown video, this “Trilogy” is actually a port based on the previously released mobile ports. From personal experience, those were unplayable at times in their own right (even on a Sony Xperia Play phone).
Why Rockstar chose Grove Street Games, (which specializes in making ports for mobile) to develop a title for a console is baffling. It certainly hasn’t paid off.
Grand Theft Auto “trilogy” runs poorly, even on a PlayStation 5. Frame rates dip when there’s a lot of action on the screen. This was part and parcel of the PS2/PS3 days. However, these titles are 15-20 years old. The fact that there is even an option for “fidelity” or “performance” mode for a game this old, on such powerful hardware in comparison is another headscratcher.
During my playthrough, I experienced numerous game crashes. Whether I had just failed a mission, completed a mission, or if nothing at all was happening – the game’s arse would just collapse. Thankfully, one improvement Grove Street Games added into the game was an autosave and checkpoint feature. This somewhat mitigated this issue. However, once again, the game crashes on a title originally released on the PlayStation 2, on a PlayStation 5, which is scandalous.
These crashes became game-breaking during my Vice City playthrough. One particular mission (involving steering a boat through checkpoints) always resulted in the game crashing. I ended my playthrough of Vice City at this point. I could only re-attempt a mission, and have the game shit the bed on me for so long.
In terms of sound, “the Trilogy” has pretty much the exact same audio as the original games. The audio quality of the speech during gameplay still has that ultra-compressed sound to it. Speech becomes a lot higher in quality during cut-scenes. The soundtracks are almost as classic as they were in the PS2 originals, but with quite a few tracks omitted due to licensing issues. This fault doesn’t necessarily fall squarely on the doorstep of Rockstar Games. Artists or labels could have just flat out refused to agree to re-license their music to the Grand Theft Auto brand. So, it might not be exclusively a money issue.
One slight improvement in this remaster is the controls. Grove Street Games have implemented a sort of pseudo-Grand Theft Auto V style control layout. This mainly comes in the form of the weapon wheel and radio selection wheel. This isn’t a true like-for-like copy and paste implementation of this feature. The shooting and driving are not 100% like GTA V. If you go in with this expectation then you will be especially let down.
Even though the “Trilogy” has been given a new coat of paint and updated control schemes, these games have still aged quite a bit. This is mostly down to the early-2000’s level of AI. If you played these three Grand Theft Auto titles back when they were initially released, you’ll be reminded of how the AI used to behave almost instantly. Cars drive erratically as if they are trying to block you off on purpose. Pedestrians will randomly attack each other then just stop and stare at each other. Small details like these, along with now outdated and somewhat primitive mission structures all add up to show the age of the “trilogy”.
If you are used to the old Grand Theft Auto games and remember what it was like to play countless hours of these titles, then the nostalgia will help you get by for a good while. There’s no doubt whatsoever that these titles are actually good games. Fun is still to be had during the playthroughs. However, it is the shoddy and lazy execution of this “remaster” that absolutely ruins the experience.
I used to consider Rockstar Games to be the last bastions of video game quality. Sadly, this is no longer the case. The sketchy practices of setting the review embargo as the game’s release date itself said it all I’m afraid. Rockstar knew they were releasing a car crash of a game. This goes against everything that we know Rockstar Games for: deep, thorough, high-quality releases.
This Grand Theft Auto “trilogy” remaster is the complete opposite. It is a lazy, poor-quality cash grab from an already cash-rich company. If this game was QC’d at all, then it is even more astounding that this “trilogy” saw the light of day. If you want to play these particular Grand Theft Auto titles, then get your PS2 out of the cupboard and play the originals. Or even better – get them on PC and use whatever community-made mods that haven’t yet been DMCA’d by Rockstar.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition for the PlayStation 5 provided by Rockstar Games.