Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition launched on Steam on January 19, after a long period of exclusivity in the Rockstar Games store for PC players. Featuring remastered versions of Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the bundle launched back in late 2021 in not-so-ideal shape. Multiple performance and visual issues plagued each entry, and while Rockstar has released some patches since, this re-release demands caution.
At the moment, it’s not possible to purchase the original versions of the three games on Steam, which means the Definitive Edition package is now the solely available bundle on the store. After some hands-on time with each title, here is a breakdown of what you can expect (or rather what to prepare for) from the GTA Trilogy’s Steam version.
Does the GTA Trilogy work yet?
Well, the answer is complicated. Yes, you can largely boot up the GTA Trilogy on Steam and play each one of the games without that many issues. At least from my experience, I didn’t encounter any particular bug that prevented me from going to point A to B without that many issues (I’ll tell you more about the hostile car drivers later on). Glitches such as the heavy rain that made it almost impossible to see are no longer present.
That said, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is largely from being in an optimal state. In all three cases, the games get stuck loading during the first boot-up. After the Rockstar Games launcher opens — which, yes, continues to run in the background even with the Steam version — I get a black screen and the game’s process doesn’t respond. So each time I have to open up the task manager, end the process, and open the game again. All games also asked for firewall permission, too, in case you’re interested in knowing.
Presentation-wise, the games are a mixed bag. I went with GTA Vice City’s Steam version first, and to my surprise, the top right corner of the UI was present throughout the whole starting cutscene. This didn’t repeat itself afterward, but it wasn’t the best first impression. In terms of interface, all three games share the same structure — the options are displayed on the left side of the screen, while the background itself is the game’s map. You can use your mouse to drag it around, but it’s not until you actually select the map button that you get to see the icons or place waypoints. In addition, sometimes hovering over this menu with the mouse selected the button above where my mouse cursor was pointing towards. While not a deal breaker, the presentation as a whole feels unpolished.
In terms of visuals… it’s complicated. None of the three games defaulted to my PC’s standard resolution, which is 1080p, and they had black bars on the side until I changed the setting and restarted them. In-game, some cutscenes showcased characters with blank or outright clipped eyes, and a few models looked blurry when seen up close. A few other times, the position of NPCs or key objects — such as the bomb that goes off at the start of GTA III — was clearly in a different position than intended. Again, while these issues won’t prevent you from playing the GTA Trilogy per se, they add up to become a constant distraction.
Your mileage will vary in terms of the new overall aesthetic of each game, both due to the different use of lighting and the different model designs. But even if you don’t mind everybody’s faces looking like a mixture of a surprised baby and a squashed clay figure, some lighting effects are distracting at best and disruptive at worst.
Floating items such as police stars or quest markers emit their own light, and it’s incredibly bright, to the point where you can see their reflections on fences or other nearby objects. Shadows have the opposite problem, especially during cutscenes, where characters are often obscured (although this is sometimes related to the current in-game time of day). In other cases, it’s the reflections that can hide characters, such as in the drive-through scene in San Andreas where the group is picking up food. The glare against the front windscreen was so intense that I could only see CJ clearly inside the car.
Is the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition worth playing?
Truth be told, revisiting GTA III or GTA Vice City in this day and age feels inevitably clunky, and most of the small additions are merely subtle changes, such as the radio channel wheel from Grand Theft Auto 5 now present in all three games. It’s also worth mentioning that there is a decent amount of accessibility options present compared to the original releases.
There were, however, some odd instances here and there. For example, sometimes hitting police cars or bikes doesn’t immediately lead to having a wanted star. Sure, this is helpful, but off-putting still. Driving in general just seems to be chaotic — in GTA III, I couldn’t go traverse for more than a few blocks without seeing a car crash or a killed pedestrian on the floor blocking a street.
In San Andreas, sometimes drivers will just enrage themselves and start hitting you, over and over, for no reason. During one particular instance, they managed to flip my car around, so I got out before it exploded. But even after the deed was done, the driver continued to reverse slowly and then marched against the wreckage in an endless loop.
Unfortunately, performance can be quite arbitrary as well. Using an RTX 2060, i7 8700k, and 16 GB of RAM, I was on the 60 FPS mark most of the time running the highest settings. But the framerate dropped often across all three games, sometimes without a specific reason. DLSS is an option at least, but overall, it seems like the games are acting in a much more demanding way than they should, and impacting performance as a result. (The fans of my PC did a strange, continuous noise while playing them, which I had never heard before.)
All in all, if you’re planning to see all three games through, you’re bound to encounter issues and glitches such as the ones described above. If you really want the GTA Trilogy on Steam, they’re the only sole option available, and the presentation leaves much to be desired. But if you have a PS2 laying around still, that might be your best bet to soak into nostalgia without being horrified or disappointed every ten minutes.