LifeisXbox’s Grand Theft Auto 3 – Definitive Edition Review | I remember it like it was yesterday. Walking to my local EB Games store (now known as GAME here in the UK) picking up my Playstation 2 console with GTA 3 and Max Payne. I rushed home. Set it all up and spent the next 24 hours glued to my small CRT TV in my room, exploring every inch of Liberty City. Lips 96FM would be my radio of choice whilst listening to how some kid’s friend called Joey sewed his hands together. It was the golden age in gaming. Nothing had ever been this close to real life, nothing had ever entertained me so much. Since its release back in October 2001, there have been many versions of GTA that have come about. Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories for the PSP (both excellent by the way), GTA China Town Wars (one of my personal favourites), and of course the mobile ports of GTA 3, Vice City, and San Andreas. Then there is the Original Trilogy. One that has been available on PC and consoles for the last few years. One that I have played to death and enjoyed every minute of. Whilst our own Dae Jim reviews San Andreas for Xbox, I have had the pleasure and also the trouble of reviewing Grand Theft Auto 3 Definitive Edition for Xbox to see how the remaster developed by Grovestreet Games and Published by Rockstar has turned out. Spoiler alert. There are some issues.
“I wanted to love this remaster.”
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we liked!
- A City Reimagined | It shouldn’t come as a surprise but Liberty City has never felt so alive to me. It’s a vast difference from the original 2001 version where there was always a dreary dark tone overlapping the world that somehow gave it a depressing, monotone look. Liberty City now feels more vibrant than before with lights, more pedestrians, more cars, more everything. It does in many ways feel like a brand new city to explore and whilst technically there is nothing new to find or do, the high-resolution textures, lighting with ray tracing, and dynamic weather components make it feel like an entirely new game. I’ll cover more on the weather later as some aspects of it desperately need looking at, but for now, let’s stick with it.
- New Music | Technically there was nothing wrong with the original music and this is one of the reasons Rockstar had to go ahead and make a new trilogy. The licenses for certain songs had expired and instead of renewing them, they opted to go ahead and add new tracks and remove some of the old ones. There are 55 new songs available over all of the radios, and most of them are pretty cool additions, so much so that some of the more obvious ones that have been removed I don’t miss. I think most people will argue why did we need an entire remaster of the trilogy that has since turned out to be a PR nightmare for Rockstar and just add in the new songs via an update? Well, I guess we will never know but I am sure more than a few of you can guess why. The rest of the sound effects are great and still make me giggle with each passing pedestrian telling me I can sail the seven seas.
- The Graphics | There are two sides to this argument so I will cover the positive first. The graphics on GTA 3 Definitive Edition are nice. I like the change. Yes, it took some getting used to, and again, we can sit here and debate about if it isn’t broken why to fix it, and normally I would agree with you. But since Rockstar and Grovestreet Games were remaking these anyway, it seems silly not to point out the changes that have been done. I mentioned earlier about the ray tracing component of the game but the 4k textures pop. Signs are now readable. Cars look vibrant and metallic, lights cast dynamic shadows and the colours pop whilst driving around the city. It’s part of what makes the game feel more life-like. Then there are the characters…. and the rain.
- Better Controls | The GTA 3 Definitive Edition controls are more akin to the likes of GTA 5 with its better drive-by controls and Weapon selection system. This makes things a lot quicker and snappier in a gunfight and doing drive-by shootouts are now easygoing and very helpful on some of the games’ later missions.
- The Graphics Again? | The characters in the game have all been redone. Albeit with a noticeable cartoony Fortnite looks to them. If Grovestreet is trying to see about acquiring a Fortnite crossover deal with Epic Games, they nailed it. It’s a look that doesn’t fit well with the rest of the game. For example, just taking your player character over to a building will make them stand out like a sore thumb. The buildings look real and have that life-like quality I mentioned above and the characters look almost cel-shaded as if they have been drawn into the scene with a heavy black felt tip pen. It’s a little strange to see this design-wise. The next thing I need to complain about as I am sure most people will agree is the rain. Why is it so chunky? Why is it so white? Why does it all hit the ground at the same time and hurt my eyes? From my understanding and research that I have found on the internet, it looks to be a particle system that spawns over the player’s head and follows them when they move. I can understand from a performance standpoint why this would be better, but if the Playstation 2 could do it back then, why can’t we do it now with all the power the Xbox has under its hood?
- The Shooting | The Definitive Edition of the GTA games now comes with what they are calling an Advanced Targeting System. It Locks on to the nearest enemy and highlights their character with a white outline showing the player that you have a target selected. The only issue with this is that I constantly found in close quarters that I was targeting the wrong person or, it was locking onto civilians. You can break the soft lock by aiming the stick away from the current enemy and then free aim but it’s very long-winded and can lead to some frustrating shootouts. This can be turned off in the settings but by default, this is left on.
What we disliked
- Nothing worthy of the price tag | The biggest issue I have with this collection is the price tag. £50/$60 for a collection of re-textured games that beyond that offer nothing new. The whole package feels like a cash grab to me and it’s very disappointing to see a publisher for who I had a lot of respect for succumbing to this sort of tactic. Not only this, but the poor optimisation of all 3 games have left many with a sour taste in their mouths. All 3 games perform sub-par in fidelity mode and performance mode isn’t that much better.
- Accessability | With a AAA publisher who is well known for their accessibility options in GTA 5, Red Dead Online, and more, it would have been nice to see these carried over to the Definitive Edition of GTA. The usual subtitles are here and volume controls, but other than that, there is nothing else here for people with accessibility needs to play the game comfortably.
- Poor Optimisation | With all 3 games hitting into single-digit frame rates at some points it begs the question as to why this was allowed to go on sale as is. I understand that Rockstar had to deal with the licensing issue but they knew this was happening and the whole thing has been poorly planned and executed from the start. Rockstar needs to address this immediately instead of spending their time suing modders who are only trying to help make the games that they buy more playable.
- The Bugs | The level of bugs in GTA 3 Definitive Edition is staggering. Flying cars, empty streets, flying pedestrians. In one case I had a game-breaking bug in which I was unable to trigger a mission by stepping into the coloured ring. It was very frustrating. Tie this together with the optimisation and other mechanics of the game and you are left feeling very unimpressed.
How long to beat the story | 15 Hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 40+ hours
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Gaming is in my blood. Be it handheld games, Xbox, PC, Switch or Playstation, I am all over it.
I make my own games as part of my profession and love playing co op games with friends in my spare time. Avid dog lover and camper van enthusiast.