Beyond the HD facelift, Grand Theft Auto Definitive Edition comes with a slew of changes and enhancements to introduce these three classics to a modern audience. Here are some of the biggest differences we’ve spotted so far..
The three games share a lot of the same changes across the board – namely the GTA 5-inspired gameplay enhancements such as combat controls. Previously, you’d have to cycle between weapons mid-combat using both triggers, and use the right bumper to aim and one of the face buttons to fire. This control scheme was often a little bit hectic during tougher gun fights.
In the Definitive Edition the process has been simplified with the welcome inclusion of the Weapon Selection Wheel. It also slows the game down like Grand Theft Auto 5. Both aiming and firing are now handled with the triggers as you’d expect in 2021, and the Weapon Wheel slowdown provides respite if you’re in need of gathering your thoughts during combat.
2. RADIO STATIONS
The process of choosing your favourite radio station has changed, with that too receiving the GTA 5 style selection wheel.
But the improvements aren’t just for those on-foot combat encounters, as drive-bys are now much easier to pull off. Originally, you’d be awkwardly driving and using the face buttons to look left or right and then firing your weapon, which wasn’t all too intuitive. Now, Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City and San Andreas all feature improved vehicle gunplay, and it’s as easy as looking around using the right stick and firing your weapon in whichever direction your camera is facing.
The GTA Trilogy also has an updated navigation system featured throughout all three games. Before Grand Theft Auto 4 introduced the GPS to our HUDs, maps in GTA were pretty rudimentary, with San Andreas allowing you to add a target to your map and the previous games not offering much else. But much like GTA 4 and 5, you can now place waypoints wherever you wish, with your car creating a route to your desired destination.
Another much needed quality of life improvement is the ability to restart a mission immediately after failing it, and mid-mission checkpoints for those particularly long outings. So whether you’ve failed to follow that damn train or somehow landed in the ocean, this checkpoint/restart system solves a lot of problems.
While there’s plenty of positive, quality of life improvements to be found, some changes are a little questionable…
6. WORKING OUT
Prior to the mobile port, in the gym’s you’d need to alternate between two face buttons to increase your power and continue gaining those reps when weight lifting. The more muscles you have, the easier it’ll become to fulfill a harder workout. Now the entire process has been simplified, reducing this mini-game to a single button input, which somehow has introduced a bug allowing CJ to, without any effort, lift the heaviest weights – despite having no muscle.
Another holdover from the mobile version is the inclusion of an Auto Climb feature, which has CJ climbing over obstacles without needing to jump, all while sprinting. This might sound useful but can often lead to CJ falling to his death. Thankfully, this can be turned off in the options menu.
In the original San Andreas, aiming at an enemy brought up a coloured reticle effect, which indicated how much health an enemy had. Green for full health, orange for half and red for danger. But in the Definitive Edition, this feature has been removed and swapped out for a white outline instead.
CJ no longer has a unique walking animation for when he’s either skinny or super buff, something which was noticeable in every other prior version before the mobile port.
10. RUN AROUND LOS SANTOS
Another fan favourite from the PS2 and Xbox era that didn’t make the cut was the couch co-op “Run-Around LS” mode. As the title suggests, this allowed two players to run around Los Santos, causing as much havoc as they desired. Sadly, this is no more.
11. CINEMATIC CAMERA
The Cinematic Camera isn’t included in the Definitive Edition either. While not a deal breaker, it was a unique way to experience these cities from a different perspective. Sadly, even GTA 3’s top-down camera angle – a reference to earlier GTA games – didn’t make the cut either.
12. SPECIAL VEHICLES
Special vehicles in GTA San Andreas, such as the forklift, dozer and others, can no longer have their unique animations controlled with the right analogue stick. Instead, there’s a d-pad button prompt allowing only for the maximum or minimum of any action – no more direct 1-to-1 control like in the originals.
13. PHOTO ALBUM
The camera, an item used throughout San Andreas, no longer allows players to save snapshots to the photo gallery. Although you can easily save pictures and videos with whatever share function the system you’re playing on has, this game mechanic was removed way back on the mobile version and is still nowhere to be seen.
14. SPEED BLUR
A nice touch found in the original versions of San Andreas for consoles was the inclusion of speed blur on the screen when tanking it in a car or when activating nitrous. The faster you went, the more prominent the effect was, but it’s absent in the Definitive Edition of San Andreas. The same goes for other small visual effects such as the haze from flames, the engine wash of the Hydra and even the jetpack as well.
In Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City, both Claude and Tommy Vercetti turn their heads when the player presses down the analogue stick to look behind them. Another small but cool detail lost in the Definitive Edition.
Mission difficulty has also seen some changes. The infamous Demolition Man mission in Vice City adds an extra 30 seconds to the players clock and during the mission Ceasar Vialpando in San Andreas, the lowrider competition has now been made easier by removing most of the actions needed to pass, enlarging the circle to hit the button and it even warning the player what button to press next.
Grand Theft Auto Trilogy: Definitive Edition looks a lot different compared to its predecessors. Nearly every texture has had a bump in resolution and detail, from roads, to weapons and even characters – but some have fared better than others.
Funky character models aside, the rebuilt lighting system found within this updated trilogy is both a blessing and a curse. In Vice City, the iconic shopping district of Ocean Beach looks beautiful at night, populated with its many neon-lit storefronts and hotels. The pinks and greens create an ’80s aesthetic that looks great in motion.
In GTA 3, the oppressive highrises of Liberty City offer little light and can make some cutscenes and even general gameplay too dark for viewing.
19. DRAW DISTANCE
Although it was more of a technical limitation of the time rather than an artistic one, the fog and light haze found in the original versions of San Andreas added to the game’s sundrench LA atmosphere. Now, thanks to increased draw distance, you’re able to spot just about everything in front of you. Most of the time, this isn’t an issue but I’ve got to admit it’s weird seeing Mount Chiliad from the bridge near Grove Street, or seeing the entirety of the map while flying around a jet – which makes the world feel incredibly small.
20. IMPROVED WORLD DETAIL
However, there are some nice additions such as enhanced detail in trees and other foliage, making the forests around Flint County in San Andreas, or parks and neighborhoods around Liberty City, a touch more realistic. On top of that, 3D parallax interiors are also included for a bunch of buildings and windows throughout each of the three games, breathing more life and depth into these vibrant cities.
21. THAT RAIN…
One last thing – don’t get caught out in the rain, as certain updated environmental effects are a bit of a mess. During a storm, rain falls in thick, white lines that can easily obscure your vision while driving around at night.
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