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Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition review for Switch, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series X, PC


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Grove Street Games/Rockstar Games
Medium: Digital/Cartridge/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

So…Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is kind of a mess.

I mean, it’s definitely not the worst game ever, by any stretch of the imagination. There are some good points to it, even if not many people are in the mood to hear them at the moment. It’s an interesting piece of gaming history, for starters, and even if the scope of open-world games has grown substantially, in a lot of ways they haven’t moved that far beyond what GTA III was doing twenty years ago. So if you want to revel in the nostalgia of the early 2000s, for better or for worse, you can do that here.

Mind you, that kind of raises the question of why you’d want to. I know that GTA III — as well as San Andreas and Vice City — were gaming landmarks for a lot of people. But I wouldn’t say that they’ve aged incredibly well. While I know the games were meant to be satirical, a lot of the time you have to squint really hard to see what exactly the satire is — and, needless to say, the line between winking satire and uncomfortably sexist/homophobic/racist caricature has shifted a lot in the last few decades.

Moreover, the gameplay itself is kind of forgettable. Again, while this game may have set the early standard for what an open-world game was, much of the time it’s simply fetch quests or transporting something or someone from Point A to Point B. You certainly can ignore your missions and simply screw around, but compared to the open-world games that have followed over the past two decades, it’s a lot less memorable.

Mind you, the flip side of that coin is that none of these games feel overwhelmingly huge. Personally, in most open-world games I usually reach a point where I just don’t feel like exploring any further. Assuming you’re okay with the game’s other issues — which I’ll get to in a moment — you’re almost certainly not going to feel that way in GTA III’s Liberty City, and you’ll probably find the somewhat larger Vice City and San Andreas to be manageable.

But there are plenty of other issues. In fact, one of them is even intentional: the three games that make up Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition are ugly and cartoonish. Where the original games had a certain grittiness that fit in with the vibe the series was going for, here that’s been stripped away. Instead, everything looks bloated and ugly, and not in a satirical way, either.

The biggest issue, though, has got to be the performance, particularly on the Switch. Glitches abound. Cars and buildings pop in and out of existence: one time my character was crossing the street, and he got run over by a shimmering object that I assume was supposed to be a car, but that may also have been a ghost, and another time I got a little too close to a wall and I caught a glimpse of the empty void beneath the game.

The people also aren’t bound by the laws of physics: one time I ran over a pedestrian and launched them straight off the top of my screen, while another time I parked on top of someone, only to see them vibrate their way up through the car onto my roof. Most memorably, I once saw a pedestrian plummet from the clouds down to the middle of the street, where they then walked away as if that had been their intention all along.

On the one hand, random moments like these make GTA’s world feel sort of like they exist beyond simply being playgrounds for your characters. On the other, the randomness sometimes extends to you, in bizarre glitches — like, for example, the time I tried stealing someone’s car, except they didn’t get out, and their controls overrode whatever I wanted to do. Though in a way, I suppose that glitch was balanced out by the time I jumped out of a speeding car, only to see it continue driving on down the road, and then stopping at a light and making a turn once it had right of way.

On some level, of course, all of this is hilarious. One of the great things about open-world games has always been the weird, random quirks you get from a game trying to generate a living breathing world. Seeing as GTA III practically invented the genre, it’s fun to see them still present.

On another level, though — the one where people are paying money to buy these games — it’s a lot less funny. I mean, enterprising hackers have managed to get the original trilogy to work on a Vita at a level that’s not too far off from what you get on the Switch. That’s kind of appalling. I’m sure that with plenty of patches, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition could reach a point where it becomes worth revisiting these games, but at this point in time, that seems a long, long way off.

Rockstar Games provided us with a Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C+

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition – Nintendo Switch (Video Game)

Manufacturer:  Nintendo
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This title will be released on December 7, 2021.

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