Rock star has gave us a first look at the upcoming Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Collection and shows the tremendous work that has been put into improving the graphics of the games. With a remaster, you’re never entirely sure whether you’re getting a remastered version of an old game or a completely redesigned product, but so far it looks like Rockstar and developer Grove Street Games are treating these classics with awe they deserve.

Rich Stanton, News Editor: What blew my mind was the simple trick of transitioning from the “old” scenes to the new ones that really emphasized how much brighter and cleaner those environments look. Like many people, I imagine that I haven’t played these games in well over a decade, so my memories of them are always “better” than the things that actually looked back then and that could be seen as if Rockstar had Reached into my brain, took out the nostalgic glasses and somehow turned it into a game. I honestly wasn’t that keen on the GTA trilogy, but suddenly I can’t wait to get back to the beautiful, pastel-soaked Vice City, put on some Duran Duran, and burn rubber.

Nat Clayton, News Writer: It’s a really strange aesthetic! GTA 3 through San Andreas came out at a time when you couldn’t really pull off the grounded, somber look of 4 and 5, so here’s how to get around it by improving their looks and tone. This remaster tries to retrospectively explain that it was a deliberate stylistic choice, and what you get in the end is that eerily shiny lo-fi look. The kind of thing you’d see in a 90s magazine or fake game that pops up in the background of CSI.

My experience with the early GTAs is playing them in my brother’s best pals cramped bedroom and putting up with his mean jokes because your parents wouldn’t buy you 18-rated games. Can a remaster capture that energy? Would even want it?

An aerial view of GTA Vice City.

(Image credit: Rockstar North)

Evan Lahti, Global EIC: As someone who reads a lot of those ’90s magazines Nat, I find it nostalgic and funny. It’s an aesthetic that’s more focused on how these games actually looked than on how we remember them. The look preserves the literal shape of the games and their characters, how absurd and ugly those performances are, the jagged models of the PlayStation 2.

It was unrealistic to expect these remasters to reverse the allegiance and style of modern GTAs – that would ask Rockstar to make three massive games from scratch.

Phil Savage, British Editor-in-Chief: My first reaction was “Huh!”, Followed closely by “Err?” and finally with “Hmm ?!”. In short, I don’t know where I’ll end up with it, and probably won’t until I play it. The environments and lighting look great and would clash badly with the early low poly character models of the original. Rockstar had to do something, and as Evan rightly points out, getting the look of modern games would never happen.

Maybe part of my reaction is because I still like the look of those old GTAs. As a PC gamer, they’re not a relic of the ancient past – inaccessible unless I rescue a dusty old console from the attic. They are there, in my Steam account, ready to be played whenever I want. History is inevitable on PC: it’s as easy for me to play Deus Ex or Doom II or Planescape again as it is to play something new like Far Cry 6. Completely detached from the expectation of something new and better looking, I have no problem with the aesthetics of certain epochs.

The reason I’m not repeating the old GTAs is because the control schemes are clunky and the controller support is poor. These Definitive Editions could have modernized all of that and left the look as it was, and I would have been perfectly happy. They never would – that’s not how you do a remaster – but that’s why I’m unsure of the new style.

A panoramic view of GTA San Andreas.

(Image credit: Rockstar North)

Robin Valentine, print editor: I think i like that? It’s definitely a bold choice, and that’s appealing in itself – I’ve really had enough of remasters by number, which often create a messy look by combining boring, high-resolution textures with environments and animations too old to go with them to harmonize. Bringing the old look into a new shape that works in harmony is a cool move, and I think it also maintains a nice separation between this era of GTA and the more modern episodes. If anything, I think they could have gone further – things like the spiky anime hair gesture towards an even more exaggerated style that they weren’t entirely committed to.

Steven Messner, Managing Editor: It honestly reminds me of something you’d see in Dreams, Media Molecule’s PS4 game engine. There is something about the character models – especially the protagonist from GTA 3 – that gives me that “carved out of clay” atmosphere that I can’t take care of. But I think I like it a lot too, it’s just so different?

Chris Livingston, feature producer: I’m glad you didn’t try to cram a ton of extremely realistic models or effects into it. It’s always weird when a Pixar movie has super cartoon characters with bizarrely realistic hair. Why? Why should this one aspect look real under the rest? It’s staggering. It looks like Rockstar did a great job keeping and updating the classics without anything looking really out of place. But on the flip side, considering it’s not a massive upgrade or transformation, I think the originals are as good as they are, too. I think if I ever want to play them back, the original versions will be fine with me.