Rockstar’s GTA remasters sure are a mess, huh

Rockstar, taking time out from their busy schedule of counting their money, fleecing people for microtransactions and working out precisely how many more generations of hardware they can get away with releasing the exact same game on, recently put out a “definitive” trilogy of GTA remasters, covering three of the most popular titles in the series: the PlayStation 2 era games Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.

Releasing some GTA remasters should have been easy money for Rockstar, but dear Lord they’ve made a right hash of things, as a variety of players have been making very clear on the Internet.

GTA remasters
The most notorious image doing the rounds at the moment.

I must confess I was initially skeptical as to the validity of many of the claims, since it wouldn’t be the first time that people on social media have posted doctored screenshots and video footage in order to make a game they dislike look bad. “Compilation” images such as the one seen above are often a tip-off to this sort of thing.

But having spoken personally to some people I trust, it seems that Rockstar really has done a colossally terrible job on these GTA remasters. So let’s have a good look and laugh at some of the worst crap that is going on — and those of us who still have their PS2 or original Xbox copies on their shelves can have a good laugh at the shitshow that is gaming in 2021.

My good friend Infernal Monkey (who runs a thoroughly NSFW Twitter account, just to pre-warn you) has been spending some time with the GTA remasters, particularly San Andreas, and has posted a few screenshots of the most egregious issues he’s found. Above we can see a major issue with the landmark Mount Chiliad, from which all sense of atmosphere has been stripped thanks to the complete absence of clouds and distance hazing. Not only that, but our hero CJ is clipping right into the terrain rather than standing atop it correctly.

The issues with this part of the GTA remasters get even worse when you get in an aircraft, as this additional tweet from Infernal shows. The complete lack of distance hazing means that it’s possible to see the whole map in one go — including its edges. This destroys the sense of immersiveness that the original had; the fact you couldn’t see very far into the distance in the original PS2 release of San Andreas made the world feel all the more impressively vast… but now you can see it for what it is.

Meanwhile, this tweet from @VinePotato, part of a much larger thread on graphical issues with the GTA remasters, puts the issue in further perspective: without the distance hazing, it’s possible to see Mount Chiliad from Grove Street, which was impossible in the original games.

This isn’t just a technical matter: the fact that you couldn’t see very far in the PlayStation 2 original version of San Andreas was also partly for stylistic reasons. The whole game, particularly when you were in Los Santos, was bathed in a sort of dull orange haze, which was intended to reflect the rampant air pollution in real-life Los Angeles.

While at a stretch you can say that the GTA remasters might be attempting to reflect a more modern view of city life, where we’re much more concerned with clean air, GTA San Andreas is supposed to be set in the ’90s, when we were very much at the height of our filth-spewing disgusting human ways.

And, of course, there are seemingly bugs aplenty in all of the GTA remasters — including a bunch that haven’t been fixed since the original days, plus some that were introduced for the oft-forgotten Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions from 2013.

All in all, it’s not looking very good. Some of the issues stem from the fact that the games have been ported from their original RenderWare engine to Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, but a lot of these issues feel like they should have been caught much earlier. Yes, it’s entirely possible that Rockstar could patch out the main problems — including some frame rate issues on Nintendo Switch in particular — but when we’re talking about games that are between 17 and 20 years old and ran just fine on their original hardware, one would think they could have got these GTA remasters right first time around.

GTA remasters

Apparently not. Oh well. Still, these days if you shop around you can probably pick up a complete PS2 system and copies of all three games covered by the GTA remasters for not much more than this “definitive” trilogy costs. And at this point I’d recommend you do that! Because then you’ll have a PS2 as well, and the PS2 is awesome.

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