Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy on Xbox Series X — Cult classics lacking polish

This is a screenshot of the Xbox Series X version of Grand Theft Auto Vice City

Last week, Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. The package includes remasters of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. All three titles are regarded as cult classics, but how do they play with modern controls and upgraded visuals on Xbox Series X? Read on to find out.

Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas run at 4K resolution and up to 60 frames per second (FPS) on Xbox Series X. They offer two modes, Fidelity and Performance, which appear to lock the frame rate to either 30 or 60 FPS. By default, the game is set to Fidelity so you don't notice any FPS drops. Unfortunately, the input lag is horrendous at 30 FPS so I'd recommend switching all three of the titles over to Performance from the Options menu.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy features upgraded visuals like car reflections, water reflections, high-resolution rendering, and different character models, but the games still look quite dated. It's clear that the remastered bundle is meant for existing fans of the franchise. They won't attract that many new players in my opinion.

Despite the upgrades, including revamped controls, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas need a lot more work to look like contemporary games. Had these titles been along the lines of the recent Resident Evil remakes, they would've been more appealing. While all three games still tell amazing and relevant stories, they suffer from performance and visual issues that detract heavily from the overall experience.

Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III was released before Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Due to this, it feels rougher around the edges than the other two. While all three exhibit performance issues to some degree, Grand Theft Auto III on Xbox Series X has the most frequent frame rate drops to 20 FPS, even when the 60 FPS mode is engaged. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a close second.

Apart from that, I noticed that the default brightness and contrast needed adjusting. I had to raise the brightness to 100% and lower the contrast to 25% to clearly witness the action. Even during the day, the title looked dark. Since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City didn't exhibit this issue, I think it's a bug with the high-dynamic-range (HDR) lighting in the Grand Theft Auto III remaster.

Luckily, the game's plot redeems this port to some degree. You step into the shoes of Claude who's betrayed by his girlfriend Catalina. It's an old-school tale of revenge and involves making a name for yourself in the city by causing all sorts of mayhem.

The controls are standardized across all three games. However, the sensitivity seems a little too high when you're playing with an Xbox Series X|S controller. Again, this is mostly an issue in Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Depending on what you prefer in terms of thumbstick sensitivity, you'll have to spend some time tweaking various settings to figure out what you like.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City tells my favorite story out of the three because it plays out like an old-school Martin Scorsese film. Plus, beloved actor Ray Liotta voices the protagonist Tommy Vercetti. It's all about experiencing 1980's flair and ruling the city, two combinations that are hard to beat. A major drug deal goes south due to unknown assailants and it's up to you to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is probably the most polished remaster out of the lot. The only change I made was to switch the game to Performance mode from Fidelity to improve controller responsiveness. Unfortunately, even then I noticed some stuttering during gameplay, especially when driving around town, but it didn't detract too much from the title because the drops were few and far between. The drops are less frequent than in the Grand Theft Auto III or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas remasters.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City uses bold colors so they pop on a modern display. Additionally, the reflections on cars are the most noticeable in this version. They add a layer of complexity to the visuals that wasn't there before. The controls are relatively good, but I'd still recommend turning down the sensitivity a little to gain more precision, especially when aiming and firing weapons.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas tells the story of Carl Johnson, simply known as CJ, as he returns to the city of San Andreas due to his mother's murder. You have to help rebuild your gang while also uncovering what really happened to her. It's a compelling journey even though there are a lot of performance and visual glitches, some that can even cause your console to crash.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also suffers from the dark HDR lighting issue like Grand Theft Auto III. Luckily, it's not as severe so you just need to turn the contrast down to 40% and the brightness to 70%. As expected, the performance issues are back and the frame rate drops to around 25 FPS when you're driving around town. Unfortunately, it gets stranger.

All three games feature weather effects like rain, but Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has some odd lighting during storms. When it's dark, rainfall streaks across the screen like white bullets. It's the strangest phenomenon I've ever witnessed in a game. It actually hurts your eyes and makes it impossible to see anything. I would've taken a screenshot, but at that moment the game also crashed my Xbox Series X. Luckily, many users on YouTube managed to record it.

It's clear that Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy needed to be delayed to 2022. All of the games suffer from performance issues and some feature bizarre visual problems like dark lighting and white rain. As I mentioned in my Battlefield 2042 Xbox Series X preview, I understand that game development is also a business, but releasing products in such a poor state — where months of polishing are required — isn't acceptable. It only damages the reputation of the publisher, studio, and franchise.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy costs $59.99 on all platforms. In its current state, I simply cannot recommend purchasing it. Hopefully, developer Grove Street Games, with the assistance of Rockstar Games, will rectify this in a timely manner. It's unclear if that's possible because game development has shifted dramatically due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many titles, including expansions and updates, have been hit with severe delays due to the adjustment required to work from home.


Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy is available on the Microsoft Store or the platform of your choice. The package launched on November 11, 2021. Due to some controversial files that are part of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the title has been pulled from PC until they're removed.

Rockstar Games provided a code for Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy. The game was tested on an Xbox Series X console.


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