Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is releasing in a few days, and it’s not at all surprising that so many people are as excited about it as they are. Even though on paper it’s just a collection of remasters of three games that are nearly two decades old, there’s something special about this specific set of three games and the specific set of circumstances they’re releasing in that lends an unusual weight to this upcoming launch. It is a launch that may very well be one of the biggest releases of the year.
Given all the major games that have come out in 2021 and all the rest that are still going to release before the year is out, for any other remastered collection a statement like that might seem like hyperbole, but the GTA trilogy has just so much going for it. There are several factors that have contributed significantly to all the hype and anticipation surrounding its release, and the biggest and most obvious of the lot is the fact that the three games it’s bringing back – Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – are among the greatest games of all time.
Even a collection of fairly conservative remasters that just touched up the visuals and performance would have been a guaranteed hit for Rockstar. Grand Theft Auto 3’s legacy as the blueprint for any and all modern open world games makes it an instant classic; Vice City has arguably the best setting, the best characters, and the best story in the entire series; and San Andreas is, in many ways, the pinnacle of the absolute freedom in a massive sandbox that the series is so strongly associated with. It helps, of course, that the inherent strengths in the core designs of these games make them timeless to the extent that, even going back to them now, you’re bound to have fun. Of course, there are aspects of each game that haven’t aged very well, for one reason or another, but as overall packages, they’re still excellent experiences.
So yeah, even a conservative upres of GTA 3, Vice City, and San Andreas would have been an alluring proposition for a large number of people out there- but what makes GTA: The Trilogy an even more enticing prospect is the heavy remastering work developer Grove Street Games has done on it. All three games have been brought over to Unreal Engine, and visual improvements include a new lighting system, upgrades made to environmental assets, increased draw distances, higher resolution textures, greater detail in foliage and vegetation, improved detail in models for characters, weapons, and vehicles, and much more. From what little Rockstar has shown of the three remasters so far, all the visual upgrades are coming together nicely. Each of the three games sports much sharper and more detailed graphics, but they each also retain their distinct art styles and aesthetics.
And of course, plenty of notable gameplay improvements are being made as well, from GTA 5-style targeting and gunplay controls (which also includes updated drive-by controls in San Andreas) to various quality-of-life upgrades, including selection wheels for radio stations and weapons, being able to set waypoints on the minimap, being able to instantly retry a failed mission, and more. What we have with the remastered GTA trilogy, then, is what ever remaster should ideally be- the most a game can be improved short of actually being remade. Much like Mass Effect Legendary Edition did earlier this year, it looks like GTA: The Trilogy will attempt to walk the fine line between bringing over an experience as is and making necessary improvements to visuals and gameplay in order to modernize it.
Clearly Rockstar is going enough with the remastered trilogy to guarantee that it sells well (which, honestly, it would no matter what- it’s GTA, after all), but even looking beyond the scope of the trilogy itself, there are other factors that might provide a bit of a boost to the general interest the masses have in it. Players have been desperate for new single player GTA content for a long, long point at this point. Grand Theft Auto 5 launched in 2013, and unlike its predecessor, it got no single player expansions. In the years since then, where GTA is concerned, Rockstar has been singularly focused on GTA Online, and while there are millions out there who’ve sunk countless hours into it, there are just as many who’re not too happy about how Rockstar has essentially neglected the single player side of the franchise entirely.
Even GTA 6 isn’t going to be out any time soon. Reports have claimed that the game is in early development and might not be out until as late as 2025. In the absence of any new single player GTA content in close to a decade, significantly improved remasters of three two decade-old classes begin looking like a very attractive alternative indeed. It’s also worth mentioning, of course, that those aforementioned GTA 6 rumours claim that the game is going to be set in modern-day Vice City. Whether or not those rumours are accurate is a different discussion altogether, but if they are, it sure would be a lot of fun to visit Vice City’s original rendition in the 2002 game in preparation of heading over to its modernized reimagination in Grand Theft Auto 6 a few years down the line.
In many ways, GTA: The Trilogy has an unfair advantage over a lot of other major releases scheduled for the coming weeks. These are three excellent games that have proven their worth over the course of almost two decades, and each of these three holds a special place in the hearts of millions. Bringing them back in a single package, and with as many meaningful improvements to visuals and gameplay as GTA: The Trilogy clearly seems to have, is, simply put, a treat for the fanbase. And given how massive the Grand Theft Auto fanbase is, the upcoming trilogy looks set to do well on all fronts. Of course, there have been examples of remasters over the years that have significantly botched games that are highly regarded and beloved by millions – the Silent Hill HD Collection and Warcraft 3: Reforged are just a couple of the more high profile ones – but as long as GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition can avoid stumbling as poorly as those remasters did, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on.
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