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KitGuru Games: Rockstar’s GTA trilogy remasters are a broken mess

Just in time for 20th anniversary of Grand Theft Auto 3, Rockstar launched Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition this week, promising graphical and gameplay enhancements for three classic GTA titles. While many of us are eager to dive back into Vice City or San Andreas though, you should probably avoid these remasters – at least for now. 

Since launch yesterday, players on consoles and PC have been running into problems with the new GTA Definitive Edition titles. Those who pre-ordered the games on PC seem to be worse off, as at the time of writing, none of the games are playable. A couple of years ago alongside the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar moved away from Steam and began pushing its own game launcher. Currently, the new GTA remasters are only available through the Rockstar launcher, which has suffered a catastrophic failure.

The Rockstar launcher has been offline for almost a full day, with services going “down for maintenance” almost as soon as the Grand Theft Auto remaster trilogy launched. Rockstar has also since stopped selling the PC version of the game, removing the option from its website. Currently, Rockstar has not announced any plans to bring the game to Steam or another PC platform, like the Epic Games Store, leaving PC players with little in the way of choice. Aside from PC players being completely locked out though, there are a number of other issues with these updated versions of GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas…

Lighting has greatly improved, as have cars and textures throughout the city. Driving around, you'll notice more reflections, shadows, and sources of light in general, which brings a sense of awe at first. However, the dynamic lighting system has also made some areas in each game too dark, making it very difficult to navigate at times. The new dynamic weather system also has its flaws, with some effects, like rain, looking decidedly PS2-era, falling in a grid pattern within a small radius around the player. Due to this, it looks like there is a small rain cloud directly above you at all times, following you as you travel. You can see what I mean in this clip from GameRiot. I have also noticed some strange level of detail issues in other areas. There is a nice new fog effect for steam grates in GTA 3 for instance, but the effect only appears when you get very close, and disappears almost instantly once you drive past.

In some cases, Rockstar has replaced models and textures throughout each game world, but they didn't check that everything aligned correctly, leading to some odd instances of clipping, broken textures, or even street markings looking very wonky and out of place. You can see some great examples of this being spread around on Twitter. Speaking of things looking out of place, that brings us to the character models, an area that certainly needed more improvement.

Now I don't mind the more cartoony art-direction of the older GTA games, which has been exaggerated further with the new remasters. However, I can't help but feel like the character models should have been completely replaced, rather than slapping on new faces. Yes, character faces are more legible in the remaster, but they also look very odd and out of place with the rest of the character model. There are also a number of visual bugs with characters, in San Andreas for instance, there are bugs that cause character's bodies to contort in weird ways. As you might expect, there is already a bug compilation up on YouTube showcasing some of the worst instances of graphical and gameplay issues in-game.

The worst part about this is that some of the definitive edition's best visual improvements were already achievable for GTA Vice City and San Andreas on PC using mods. However, this is no longer an option for newcomers to the series, as Rockstar has delisted the classic versions of GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas. Worse yet is that Rockstar parent company, Take-Two, has been at war with the modding community ever since the release of GTA V, often shutting down the most ambitious and promising projects.

Divisive visual updates and gameplay bugs aside, the game is also facing some substantial performance issues on consoles. There are reports of substantial frame rate drops in the trilogy's “performance” modes on PS5 and Xbox Series X, falling well short of the 60FPS target. On last-gen consoles like the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, there are also issues with frame pacing, causing hitching while driving through areas and making cars difficult to control. Unfortunately, I have been unable to check out the PC version at all, as the Rockstar launcher continues to be down.

In all, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition feels like it needed more time in development. Rockstar was on a deadline to meet Grand Theft Auto 3's 20th anniversary this month, but meeting a date should never be more important than delivering a polished product. It seems quite clear that a delay should have taken place so the developers could at least test the game more thoroughly. Given the state of the PC and console versions of these remasters at launch, I'd imagine the upcoming mobile versions of each game will slip from Q1 2022 to later in the year.

If you're looking to replay some classic GTA games in remastered form, then this isn't the way to go and I can't help but be disappointed in the fact that the modding community was screwed over to pave the way for this. At launch, these new versions are far from the “definitive” way to play these titles. With that said, these definitive editions are also now your only option to legally purchase these games. If you absolutely must have them for your collection, then I'd wait for a deep discount sale at the very least, as these remasters are certainly not worth the launch price of £54.99.

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KitGuru Says: Did any of you pick up the GTA remasters this week? What do you think of them so far? 

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