Vice City and San Andreas add to the disappointment •

We’ve already reviewed the opening entry for the Definitive Edition of Grand Theft Auto Trilogy – and found the remaster to be more than final. Integrating the RenderWare-based originals into Unreal Engine 4, presumably in order to exploit the advanced rendering capabilities of modern technology, provides an experience that is at best insufficient. The mix of old assets, AI-enhanced textures, improved / smoothed geometry vehicles, reshaped characters, and modern render sensibilities is shocking to say the least. GTA3 was the oldest game and potentially showed the biggest boost possible, but what about Vice City and San Andreas? And what about the recently released fixes – is the situation any better?

Before delving into individual games, it’s important to put the fixes in context. Since they arrive relatively soon after the release of the trilogy, we should expect them to be in development for quite some time – probably before launch, before the backlash. The patch notes suggest so, ticking off fixes for a range of bugs instead of fixing the fundamental issues that arose during the game’s launch. Our work on the games was mostly done on the unpatched launch code, but we spent a lot of time revisiting Vice City and San Andreas after the patch. Unfortunately, none of our issues with the game had been resolved and performance was also unchanged. Interestingly, San Andreas rain effect improvements are mentioned in the patch notes, but even that seems to work the same as before.

Looking at the trilogy as a whole, if there’s one title that fares the best, it’s Vice City – perhaps because its original aesthetic is the most “compatible” with the new look of. the definitive edition. There are at least some big similarities in color schemes, so the often jarring look of the revised GTA3 and San Andreas isn’t as overwhelming in Vice City. However, the decision to move to EU4 and the way the transition was handled still presents the same inherent issues: the point where even the sand on the beaches looks like a shiny artificial surface. However, this is not a complete cancellation: the realtime lighting works, the cubic reflections on the cars look good, the ambient occlusion is heavy but OK. Explosions are also a nice improvement.

Here is our video breakdown of GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas, tested on all consoles of the current generation in Definitive Edition.

However, that doesn’t mean the game is worth buying or that the developers have made the right choices. Character rendering is exceptionally poor, to take just one example. The original Vice City had raw yet expressive characters, but they fit in perfectly with the overall look of the game. New versions are complemented by additional geometry, sporting weird-looking physical materials with weird animation. There are all kinds of quirks here, from eyebrows that seem to move on their own, to phones that slide up and down when the characters talk to them. The worst offenders are the pedestrian NPCs, where the reinforced geometry doesn’t seem to match the animation montage, resulting in esoteric alien-like creations.

But here’s the thing – whether by accident or by design, Vice City is indeed the best of the bunch. We weren’t impressed with GTA3, but San Andreas is perhaps the most disappointing game in the pack. The original saw Rockstar pushing hard in all directions with the biggest open world the developer has created, as well as improvements in all areas of visual design and gameplay. San Andreas has a muted, yellowed look on the original material, driven by the in-game color scheme and effects like shimmering heat and fog. It was still bound by technological limitations but Rockstar worked on it expertly and for the time it was amazing.

All of the visual changes and compromises that ruined GTA3 and Vice City are still here in San Andreas, but the key point is that the developer just doesn’t understand or seemingly pay much attention to the original design vision of the The basic aesthetic is completely redesigned, bundled together in favor of something that just doesn’t look as good-looking, as stylish or as impressive given the host hardware. Yes, you get UE4 features like PBR materials, new dynamic lighting, modern highlights, new character models, and ambient occlusion – but again, there is the same lag between the old and the new. . It just doesn’t work. On top of that, the apparent disregard for the original content comes with very bad effects – for example, the absence of atmospheric fog means the entire world is visible from the air with nothing to obstruct your view or simulate distance, which means no feeling of depth to the world. Even the water cuts across the horizon without any fading, making the world feel like the world has just ended, that you are in the smallest of the Flatlands. This is also an issue on the other remasters, but it’s much more of an issue here, given the size of San Andreas’ map and the wide variety of planes the player flies.

Either way, the rendering of the character model is even worse compared to Vice City – which probably isn’t worth mentioning too thoroughly as the various memes on social media have already highlighted the problem with abrupt effect. The key point, however, is that it’s not just the misshapen NPCs that are the problem, but the main characters as well: Kendl is a higher poly remastered model, but any identity in the character is lost in the remastering process. This, combined with things like the completely completed low poly Tuff Nut donut visual gag just suggests that there is a real problem here in understanding the basics of what this game really is. There are also some basic comprehension issues, such as scaled textures now showing spelling errors.

Grand Theft Auto 3 Definitive Edition – our tech review covered all console versions of the game, generations past and present. And all the quality / performance modes too.

From a performance standpoint, for these two games, not much has changed compared to Grand Theft Auto 3, which we’ve already reviewed. On this title, we have evaluated each version of the game on console, on past and present generations. For Vice City and San Andreas, we limited ourselves to current generation consoles only. Regardless, we’re still looking at two games tested across four consoles, with fidelity and quality modes (or in the case of Switch, docked and mobile modes). These can all be inserted into three different visual quality levels and they apply to every game in the pack.

At the top of the stack are the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and S-Series in quality mode – all targeting 30fps and suffering from inconsistent frame rate. Major visual improvements here include improved shadow resolution, reflective puddles in rainy conditions, and volumetric clouds. The PlayStation 5’s performance mode – oddly enough – includes all the functionality of fidelity mode, simply operating with an unlocked frame rate (which makes performance inferior to that of the X series). The S series is also in the foreground, but loses volumetric clouds. The mid-level versions offer the basic visual feature set, and that’s what you get in the performance modes of the X and S series.

Meanwhile, at the very bottom is the Nintendo Switch, which loses higher resolution art, motion blur, shadows under point lights, better water rendering, ambient occlusion, and interior mapping for some rooms behind the windows. In addition to this, the drawing distance is also limited. The loss of AO and reduced shadows means nothing seems connected to the ground anymore and with that in mind, there is a real argument that the original PS2 is better than Switch, which had shadows based on located sprites. under the characters and vehicles that at least tried to anchor these elements in the scene. Performance on Switch is generally appalling, with low resolutions combined with frame rates often below 20 and incorrect frame rate if you hit 30 fps. It is really disappointing.

Sticking to performance, the X series in performance mode has the best chance of hitting 60 fps locked in, but still has a few drops, even if it only targets 1800p. It’s the same with the PS5, which suffers even more in performance mode due to its use of the leading visual feature set. The S series, on the other hand, targets 1080p in its high frame rate mode and performs pretty much the same as the X series. When it comes to quality modes, the S series goes down to 1440p while the PS5 and X series remain at 1800p – however, the 30fps cap is poorly implemented with frequent stuttering via inconsistent frame rate. The startling reality is that no version of GTA Definitive Edition performs well in 30 fps or 60 fps – unless you run the PS4 Pro code on PS5 and take a big beating of the resolution. It is far from good enough.

Ultimately, you can’t help but wonder what could have been. These remasters are based on already compromised mobile ports that have always had issues and already too far away from the source material. Rather than returning to those games with a Bluepoint-quality Shadow of the Colossus-style remaster / remake that respects the original material and puts serious resources behind the modernization process, the decision was made to double down on the already flawed work, resulting in into something messy and inconsistent with sub-par performance. It’s also a product that’s quite at odds with what we’ve come to expect from Rockstar – the meticulous, forward-thinking ethics behind games like GTA5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 just aren’t present in GTA at all. Definitive Edition. It’s a deep disappointment and we have to ask ourselves where Rockstar is at: bugs can be fixed, performance can be optimized, art can be overhauled – but how much can things really improve when fundamental bases of the final editions are so flawed?

A big thank you to Olivier Mackenzie for his analytical work on Vice City and San Andreas.

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