Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition Review

It’s fairly common, when revisiting an older game, for things to not look and feel quite as you remember. Well, in the case of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, that goes doubly so. Rockstar’s botched remastering of these three legendary open-world titles is well known at this point, so it isn’t surprising to say that GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas all deserved better than this – especially considering this marks the franchise’s first appearance on a Nintendo platform since 2009’s Chinatown Wars on the DS. That said, while this trilogy is by no means as “definitive” as it should be on Nintendo Switch, the stories of Claude, Tommy and CJ are still very playable if you can look past the obvious technical downgrades compared to other home console versions.

GTA 3 has aged the most, but it still mostly holds up 20 years later.

What you’re getting from this collection isn’t so much a complete remaster, but a mix of old and new. The frame rate is so choppy, and resolution so blurry in all three games, that it can often look like these are the original PS2 iterations given a graphical bump. In some cases this is by design. Rockstar has been very clear that its intention with The Definitive Edition isn’t to completely overhaul these games but, instead, capture the classic spirit of each and make them playable on modern devices. This means that cars boast the same pop-in distance, old-school animations have been kept intact, and environments still appear “boxy”, for the lack of a better term.

I’m of the belief that, while you could completely remake these games from the ground up, the likes of San Andreas and Vice City’s streets simply wouldn’t feel the same had that been the case. Instead, the PS2 trilogy tout an uprezzed, almost toyetic quality, which could have worked had this Nintendo Switch version been give the proper level of polish. As it stands, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is a serviceable way to re-experience these games on a Nintendo console, but – in either TV or handheld mode – you likely won’t be able to enjoy the intended benefits.

Modern controls have been added to improve driving and general gameplay, but shooting is still finicky.

Okay, into the games themselves proper, and the discussion becomes a bit brighter. GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas are still very much the same games we know and love, even down to framing of the slightly redone cutscenes and many of the songs you’ll hear on the radio. Most of my time was spent in Vice City as it’s the one closest to my heart, and The Definitive Edition was a great way for me to fulfil my childhood ambition of finally rolling credits on it. Tommy Vercetti’s journey from tourist to underground crime lord is full of blood, bank robberies and banging ’80s beats. All of which are a blast to revisit.

The same can mostly be said for GTA III’s Liberty City and San Andreas, too. Both maps have been recreated with almost all of the finer details intact, which makes driving through them and causing chaos just as thrilling as it was in the early 2000s. Even GTA III, as the grandfather of modern open-world games, still touts enough life and detail that going for 100% completion feels satisfying. While that game strives for simplicity, however, San Andreas – as the apex of the trilogy – has a bit more going on, with an itemised food system that affects your weight and health, the ability to purchase individual clothing sets, and gym visits that affect your muscles. 17 years on, the minute level of detail seen in CJ’s adventure is startling, but it won’t be for everyone.

Vice City is easily the city with the boldest identity out of the three.

Aside from graphics (sort of), the biggest change with Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is its controls. Whereas before, constantly tapping a face button to run could prove tiring, all three games here allow you to adjust this to a simple hold. There are various subtle tweaks like this to be found in each game’s menu, including the level of aim assist sensitivity, adjustable gyro controls, vehicle camera height and more. Whatever your preferred way to play, it’s fairly easy to enjoy a modernised experience with regards to how the games handle.

Some aspects like the core mission design do feel dated. San Andreas, by nature of being the newest, is less guilty of this. But a lot of your time in these worlds is spent merely travelling from one place to another, stealing a car or performing a hit, and driving your way back to accept another mission. Fortunately, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition makes failing missions less tedious thanks to much improved checkpointing. Upon being busted or wasted, you can now immediately jump to the mission’s starting cutscene.

Even cutscenes can looked very blurred when playing on the TV. In handheld mode they fair better.

Is The Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch the ideal way to play these three modern classics? Probably not. Even still, for players craving the convenience to take what used to be considered gigantic experiences with them on the go, you could do far worse. Recently, Triple-A Switch ports have proven that we should expect better from a re-release like this, but such technical drawbacks shouldn’t completely put you off returning to Grand Theft Auto.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition £49.99


Despite being inherently flawed on a technical level, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition excels in opening a window to three amazing crime-driven open world classics on Nintendo Switch. Just don’t go in expecting complete greatness.