I wasn’t sold on the GTA Trilogy remaster, but now I am thanks to the perfect new art style

Grand Theft Auto Trilogy Vice City
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

If, like me, you weren’t initially excited about the upcoming Grand Theft Auto Trilogy remasters, well now’s the time to jump on the hype train. 

With the release of its first proper trailer, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, to give it its full and rather clunky title, looks fantastic. And that, I think, is in most part due to its smart new art style.

I had in my head an idea of what the GTA remasters would look like. Essentially, as with the previous mobile editions, I thought it’d be simply the old games more or less upscaled, with the sharp benefits of higher resolutions, cleaner HDMI input signals and 60fps framerates.

My own assumption here killed my enthusiasm. I’ve become so used to half-arsed approaches to remasters, where minimal effort is made to cash in on nostalgia, that I’d been bracing myself for a few quality of life features, a graphical touch up and nothing else.

Five mean talking on a balcony of a club

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

But what’s actually been delivered is something quite a lot more considered. Each game indeed has the requisite current-gen visual polish, from 4K resolutions to 60fps framerates on the more powerful systems, as well as taking advantage of upscaling tricks like NVIDIA DLSS

However, the unexpected element that pushes it into truly worthy territory is the newly revised art style. The Grand Theft Auto series has always leaned towards a sort of caricatured realism, leaning increasingly towards reality with GTA IV and GTA V. But these trilogy remasters really take the caricature style to a new level – rather than going for the photorealism that the newer hardware could quite easily achieve, instead we have more detailed and polished versions of the exaggerated originals.

CJ doesn’t look like an animated peanut!

It’s a great decision by GTA devs Rockstar and remaster studio Grove Street Games, fulfilling what a remaster should – making an older game look in front of your eyes as your nostalgia-and-rose-tinted brain has sympathetically seen it in the many years since its original release.

Man walking past the rear of a car in the woods

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

CJ still has exaggerated muscles and scowl, but now doesn’t look quite so much like an animated peanut. Tommy Vercetti’s constant incredulity is now more obviously painted across his well manicured eyebrows, while GTA 3’s Claude (now 20 years old, remember) actually has a defined face rather than a creamy smudge of anger. And everyone has fingers too!

It’s the perfect use of technology when revisiting an old classic, looking to renew the original without losing the spirit of the originals. GTA games are larger than life, cartoonish in their criminality and bombast. The Definitive Trilogy captures that feeling perfectly – if anything, the visual style here seems to evoke the illustrated character panes that accompanied the old games’ loading screens.

Five people in a kitchen, talking

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

 The rest of the remaster seems to have been given the same amount of care. You’ll now have aiming and camera control in line with modern standards, better maps and waypoint systems, achievements, the ability to instantly restart a problematic mission, improved draw distances and modernised textures, lighting and reflection systems on top of the striking refreshed look.

Car driving in the rain towards the screen

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition also finally has a release date. It’ll be available digitally on November 11 through the PlayStation Store, the Microsoft Store on Xbox, Nintendo eShop, and the Rockstar Games Launcher, with a physical boxed release for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 on December 7. 

20 years may have passed since GTA III first came out, but I’m now just as excited for the wait as I was two decades ago.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.