By now, we're sure you're well aware of how GTA: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition is being perceived by gamers across the web, and the truth is that we probably don't feel quite as negatively about it as the vocal crowd does. Then again, we can also understand why it's suffering such a poor reception right now. On the one hand, it seems like many of us collectively got our hopes up too high for it. On the other, this undoubtedly feels like a messy, rushed release.
Full disclosure, we haven't had enough time to really put a full review together for the Trilogy yet. We only received access to it on release day, and considering the size of these games and how the 20th anniversary of Xbox is taking priority for us right now, we'd much rather wait until we've had ample time with all three titles to give it a 'definitive' review score - it's only fair. We've been able to play a good few hours of each game on Xbox Series X so far though, so feel perfectly qualified to give some early impressions.
Let's start with the good stuff, eh? First things first, the visuals. Yes, the new graphical style for the Trilogy has come in for a lot of scrutiny over the past few days, but for the most part, we're actually fans of it. In particular, the environments in each game are impressively detailed - a massive improvement on the original games. The main characters might look a little strange and cartoony at first glance, but they definitely still have a familiar and retro-style charm to them. Admittedly, some of the side-characters haven't received the same treatment and are dressed up like a dog's dinner at times, but overall we're generally pleased with the new art style in this remastered package.
Another positive relates to some of the quality-of-life improvements that Grove Street Games has implemented in these three titles. The ability to set waypoints was a much-needed addition that seems obvious by today's standards, and is now available across all three games. You also get the GTA V weapon-wheel system which allows you to slow down time while you pick a new weapon (or radio station), and again this is a nice new feature that works really well in GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas. There aren't any ground-breaking additions or anything, so you have to set your expectations accordingly, but they do at least help to modernise these aging titles a little more for the 2021 crowd.
And as for the games themselves? They're still great fun, albeit understandably dated. The stories aren't as strong as the likes of GTA IV or GTA V, the missions are less elaborate and the maps are understandably much smaller in GTA 3 and Vice City, but if you enjoyed them back in the day, we still think you're going to get a kick out of them now. San Andreas is the clear highlight of the three games in our view, with Vice City not too far behind in second place.
But here's the kicker. As great as these games still are to play, they're riddled with a fairly large array of issues at launch. Take the brightness, for example - apparent issues with HDR mean that the games appear far too dark at times, and so you need to turn the contrast all the way to the left (and brightness to the right) just so you can see what's going on. And don't get us started on the rain, which is an absolute eye-sore and near-impossible to drive through in certain lighting. You've probably seen viral clips of this online, and it really does look that bad at its worst.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Even though we've only spent a few hours with each game, we've run into issues with CJ getting stuck inside of a wall, cars becoming strangely magnetised to our vehicle and ramming it until everything explodes (even if we got out of it), radio stations cutting off for no reason, audio clips ending before they should during cutscenes, missions failing to trigger when stepping into the marker, and a few apparent lighting and graphical bugs at times - although these are quite minor. None of these have been consistently game-breaking for us or ruined our fun for too long, but they're an obvious indication that these remasters needed extra polish prior to launch.
Performance-wise, we've been lucky. Playing on an Xbox Series X with the benefit of VRR support via HDMI 2.1, it's a pretty smooth experience. Fidelity Mode (aka, the default) seems less stable than Performance Mode, yet the visual difference between the two appears quite minimal to the untrained eye. The latter supports a framerate of up to 60 frames per-second, and while it evidently doesn't always hit a consistent 60fps even with VRR enabled, we've been perfectly happy with it so far. That said, your mileage will vary depending on the console you're playing on (and whether your display supports VRR), and we've seen plenty of reports of "laggy" experiences across multiple platforms.
We're going to need some more time with all three games to reach a 'definitive' verdict, but in all honesty, our opinion probably isn't going to change too much. GTA: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition is still a fun way to play these three classic GTA games with a welcome HD glow-up, but it also feels like it needed more time in the oven. The biggest issue right now is that the bundle requires a few patches in order to justify its £54.99 / $59.99 price tag, so maybe stick with GTA: San Andreas on Xbox Game Pass for now, and hopefully it'll be fixed up properly in a few months' time.
What are your thoughts on the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition so far? Let us know in the comments below.