Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition
No, seriously, why?
I still remember the original announcement for the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy remaster like it was yesterday. The "Definitive Edition," it called itself, left players in a state of disarray. On one hand, the beloved GTA trilogy was being ported to modern consoles and not just San Andreas. San Andreas is always considered to be Rockstar's darling and for good reason. For many, it was the company's magnum opus and for others, it was the twilight of a bygone era. All Rockstar had to do was port this iconic trilogy, maybe give it a fresh coat of paint, and let the copies sell themselves.
Unfortunately, what was supposed to be the company's "auto-money printing nostalgia machine" turned into a killing machine. The switch to Unreal Engine gave the games a fresh new look, but at the cost of everything going belly-up. The facial models reached uncanny valley levels of horror, the rain effects were laughable, and everything felt off. Returning fans wishing to relive memories were in for a rude awakening. Upon release, the "Definitive Edition" was a disaster no matter the console or platform. One can only imagine how it plays on the lowest-hanging fruit, the Nintendo Switch.
Grand Theft Auto 3
Before we begin I'd like to address the 9 GB elephant in the room in terms of the trilogy's size advertised on the game's cover. We have surpassed the largest Switch game that was NBA 2K22 by a long shot no pun intended. While Grand Theft Auto 3 is but a mere gig of space, San Andreas and Vice City are a different story, with the latter being 5 gigs and the former closing in on 6 gigs. I'm not the best at math, but to my knowledge, 5 + 6 + 1 = 12, which is three more than 9. Players who purchase Grand Theft Auto Trilogy must be aware that you'll need at least 12 GB of space for all three games.
GTA 3 itself runs surprisingly well on the Switch. This is, of course, after setting the bare minimum for the game's performance. While there are occasional stutters and slowdowns, I'm willing to chalk this up as a coincidence. I recall the original Grand Theft Auto 3 having similar issues but here's the thing. If you're calling this game the "Definitive Edition," then should it be common knowledge to improve on the original's flaws? Modern targeting and car physics are nice, but if twenty-year-old problems still exist to this day then what's the point? Also, unless players bump the Brightness and Contrast to the highest settings, everything is far too dark. Let's not talk about the faces or better yet, let's lie and say we did.
Grand Theft Auto Vice City
Most of my analysis from Grand Theft Auto 3 will continue while talking about Vice City as not much changes in the latter to warrant a topic change. What I will say is that beginning with this game, the tonal shift in Grand Theft Auto would begin. A wise-cracking street smart protagonist who intends to survive in a world that wants him six feet under is the synopsis for Vice City. It would also be the template for future GTA games as evident with San Andreas.
One of the positives that set Vice City different from others in the trilogy was its aesthetic. The same can be said for GTA 3 with its overcast weather and muted colors. Vice City glorifies itself in its 80s vibrance, hazy motion blur, and coastal aesthetic. Unfortunately, the "Definitive Edition" strips the game from its soul as it looks as comparable to GTA 3. This is something I will also bring up in San Andreas but it feels like copy and paste. Even the menus are the same except for a different color palate. At least Tommy's face and model "fits" the Unreal Engine, sort of. It's the Vice City people will be familiar with, minus the things that made the title unique plus added performance issues.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
Everything I said about the first two games apply here, with its weird facial models, its "copy and paste" assets, and "modernization." If GTA 3 had its own aesthetic along with Vice City, San Andreas had the West Coast humidity feeling. Banging in San Andreas should feel different than banging in Vice City and Liberty City. The only thing different between all three cities are their unique assets. Each game feels like a mod of a larger "game" that just so happened to have "Grand Theft Auto" in its title. Like a fanmod that featured the maps of all three games yet with the same exact engine.
What's humourous is that the intro for each game in the definitive edition are just copy and paste from their original counterparts. I feel like GSG did just that without even bothering to adjust audio levels as the volume spikes to crazy levels yet the in-game audio is super soft. Ironically, the greatest highs and the lowest lows are present in San Andreas as the engine works best with the game. The palm trees and haze from the ground helps emulate the original's aesthetic. Unfortunately, with a much larger environment, there are considerable load times. Overall while it may be the "best" of the bunch, it's still severely lacking to make it worth playable.
Is The GTA Trilogy On The Switch Bad?
I feel like I've said that something isn't bad "for the Switch" far too many times that it comes off as an excuse. So instead of saying that "for the Switch" the GTA Trilogy runs decent, I'll say yes, it is bad. There has to be a moment in time where developers must take accountability that their product is bad and not use the limitations of a console as an excuse. The Grand Theft Auto Trilogy: Definitive Edition is a train wreck, but there are instances of the devs trying to put out the fire with a paper cup.
The abysmal rain effects in the original product was changed to a reasonable filter effect and several bugs were squashed. Switch owners who buy the physical version will have access to the most up to date version of the games. It's a shame that the other existing bugs seemingly multiply because it's on the Switch. Players who aren't bound by nostalgia and want an open world game should look towards the Saints Row series as it is far well optimized than this mess.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is available across all major platforms and PC.