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Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy: The Definitive Edition review – an infuriating disappointment

Guardian Technology 17 Nov 2021 03:28

Given the extreme complexity of the art form, remasters of decades-old games can be … variable. But when a publisher applies the label “definitive edition” to newly packaged versions of three landmark open-world crime games, games that loom so large in collective pop-cultural memory, it is reasonable to expect more than unstable rereleases with a graphical update. These versions of Grand Theft Auto III (2001), Vice City (2002) and San Andreas (2004) are in no way definitive. Seeing them like this is more than a disappointment. It is infuriating.

Graphical glitches, irritating controls and random crashes were, to be fair, all part of gaming in the 00s, before the days of online patches that allowed developers to fix things bit by bit. We put up with it then. But why are we putting up with it now, and paying for it? These remasters feel less stable than the PlayStation 2 originals. Within a couple of hours of starting GTA III – the oldest and least interesting of these three games, an astonishing step forward for gaming in 2001 that feels a little sterile now – I had reached a mission that I couldn’t complete, because the character I was chasing kept falling through the world. Once, my car randomly exploded. I ran through collectibles that I could not pick up.

Grand Theft Auto The Trilogy: Definitive Edition – Vice City.

Here’s why this stings: Rockstar is notorious for its perfectionism. This is a company that most recently spent the best part of a decade painstakingly recreating the old west for Red Dead Redemption 2, down to horse sweat and grime on gunmen’s revolvers. The level of craft in Grand Theft Auto games has always been exceptional and astonishing. I don’t want to use the word careless, because I can only presume that nobody who worked on these remasters intended them to be substandard. But whatever the reasons behind it, the lack of care and attention to detail evident undermines the entire character of these games.

Grand Theft Auto The Trilogy: Definitive Edition - San Andreas screenshot - CJ and his crew

GTA is a series known for its violence but man, it’s about more than that; it’s a world, it’s a place, it’s a story, about the characters you meet and inhabit and about what you do in the giant, anarchic playground that it gives you. These are huge games; not everything in them is in good taste, not all of the dialogue has aged well. But they are still worth replaying, and worth preserving. Just not in this state.

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