Monday, November 29, 2021
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Grand Theft Auto 3: Definitive Edition – the good, the bad and the ugly

We had concerns about Rockstar’s remastering of the PS2-era Grand Theft Auto Trilogy – worries that didn’t abate when it was discovered that all three games would be drawing upon the flawed mobile ports, remasters shoehorned into Unreal Engine 4. We’ll be looking at all three games in the pack, but we wanted to start with Grand Theft Auto 3. It’s the oldest title in the line-up and we imagined that it would be the one with most to gain in the remastering process. Taking a step back from the controversy, it’s fair to say that Grove Street Games’ work is not without merit, but there are a lot of problems here – issues that are so blatant and jarring and ridiculous, it’s hard to understand how the game made its way through quality control.

Let’s start by talking about how the remaster compares to the original PlayStation 2 release – which we would imagine is the way that most console players coming to the Definitive Edition would have first experienced the game. In its original form, GTA3 on PlayStation 2 was built using RenderWare – a popular middleware solution from Criterion that was used in a huge range of games during that era, including all three GTA titles. Let’s be clear here: GTA3 wasn’t a visual masterpiece. Compared to contemporaries such as Metal Gear Solid 2 and Gran Turismo 3, it fares badly. However, it was ambitious, with a full time of day system, weather simulation and of course, ‘open world’-style free-form exploration of Liberty City. Many of these concepts had existed in the original GTA games but this was the first time it could be experienced in full 3D and the resulting sense of freedom is precisely what made it unique and special in 2001.

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