GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition: Biggest Changes and Differences

The GTA Trilogy's "Definitive Edition" is filled with bugs and glitches, but do these remasters make significant changes to the original games?

GTA Definitive Edition
Photo: Rockstar Games

Leading up to the release of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, many long-time fans wondered whether or not Rockstar would use these remasters as an excuse to make notable changes to the original games in order to bring them into the modern age.

On that note, we should mention that the GTA Trilogy has already been brought into the modern age (kind of) via various ports to more modern platforms (including mobile devices). As such, you essentially have the original PS2 games (as well as their Xbox ports), the more recent “updated” versions of these titles, and this Definitive Edition remaster. It’s all a little strange, but we’ll talk more about what changes were made to specific versions of the games when we get to certain points.

For now, though, let’s keep it simple. Here is the official list of Definitive Edition updates that Rockstar shared just ahead of this remaster’s release:

  • A GTAV-style controller layout
  • Updated Weapon and Radio Station selection wheels for quick switching
  • Updated Mini-Maps with enhanced navigation allowing players to set waypoints to destinations
  • Improved gunplay and targeting controls, with upgraded drive-by controls in GTA: San Andreas
  • The ability to immediately restart failed missions
  • Updated Achievements and Trophies
  • New Rockstar Social Club Accomplishments for members
  • Plus newly supported languages; including Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Russian, and Korean, in addition to English, Spanish (Spain + Mexico), Italian, Japanese, French, and German
  • Higher resolution textures from characters to weapons, vehicles to
    roads, and more for greater detail
  • A completely rebuilt lighting system, with enhanced shadows, reflections, and more
  • Improved environmental effects such as water and weather effects including rain and fog, plus more distinct changes to highlight different times across the sky, sun, moon and stars
  • Enhanced detail in trees and foliage, plus newly added three-dimensional detail to buildings and windows
  • Increased draw distances to provide a new level of depth and definition
  • 4K-resolution support with up to 60 FPS performance for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X systems
  • NVIDIA DLSS Support for PC
  • Touch screen camera zooming, pans and menu selections as well as Gyro aiming for the Nintendo Switch

Those are all “global” changes to the previous versions of the game, which is really just our way of saying that they are changes to every version of the GTA Trilogy that has been released so far. As you can see, the majority of those changes and updates affect these titles’ visuals and are intended to make the games look more modern than ever (although…well, we’ll get to that).

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What may be more notable in this instance, though, are the ways that the Definitive Edition utilizes various quality of life changes designed to make the GTA Trilogy titles not only look more modern but feel more modern as well. We’re going to have a lot to say about the rest of the Definitive Edition‘s updates and changes as we dive deeper into this release, but it should be said that many of these gameplay and control changes are already being praised for the ways that they make these sometimes clunky classic games infinitely more playable.

What about the unofficial changes, though? Well, that’s certainly where things start to get more interesting.

The truth is that it’s a little difficult to provide a full list of unofficial changes and differences in the Definitive Edition at the moment. While that’s partially due to the fact that these games have only been available for about a day (it doesn’t sound like Rockstar provided anyone with pre-release review copies of the games), it should also be noted that you could consider everything in this game to technically represent a difference or change. After all, the game’s new visuals and art direction mean that nothing is quite like it used to be.

With that in mind, here are some of the more noteworthy Definitive Edition changes and differences that have been spotted in the game so far that aren’t necessarily entirely based on the remaster’s new look.

  • Cars no longer show dirt
  • There is only one “moon phase”
  • Special animations for select vehicles (such as controlling the back of a garbage truck) have been removed
  • You no longer lose weapons when you die in San Andreas
  • There are fewer civilians and vehicles on the streets
  • Analog steering has been removed
  • Local co-op has been removed from GTA: San Andreas
  • Some characters (like Old Reece, the barber) have been replaced with generic NPCs
  • The top-down view option has been removed from GTA 3
  • Vice City‘s vehicles appear to be far less durable and explode more often
  • Some haircut options are missing from GTA: San Andreas
  • Some of the text on storefronts has been changed (this appears to be the result of an error, but some are attributing it to possible censorship or design decisions)
  • A reference to the Confederate flag in Vice City has been removed
  • “Running with the Night” by Lionel Richie has been added back to GTA: Vice City, but all of the other songs that were missing from recent GTA Trilogy re-releases are still missing from the Definitive Edition
  • The “Bridge Facts” Easter Egg has been udpated with remaster information
  • The “orange haze” in Los Santos is missing
  • Some signs and small environmental details (such as a theater marquee in San Andreas) have been completely changed (seemingly due to texture problems/laziness)

Most of these unofficial differences represent changes to the original PS2/Xbox versions of the game as well as the more recent re-releases of these titles, although some differences (like the missing original song tracks) have been present in most versions of these games for quite some time. The point is that most of these changes are somehow unique to the Definitive Edition.

While some fans worried that Rockstar would use these remasters as a chance to “censor” the original games, it seems like the only notable content change that has been made to these games in the name of modern sensibilities/restrictions is the decision to remove the Confederate flag from Vice City (which we’ve previously discussed). While it’s possible that there are other notable content changes in the game that haven’t been discovered yet, I’ve seen some…questionable content in these remasters, so it feels like those fears of censorship may have been largely unfounded.

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It should also be noted that some of the differences noted above (such as the lack of analog controls) are likely the result of these remasters seemingly being based on the mobile versions of these games and the fact they were developed by a studio known for their mobile titles. Of course, that again puts us into that weird territory between “changes” and “bugs.” With any luck, some of these potential bugs that we’re currently considering to be “changes” will be fixed via future updates.

Generally speaking, though, it does feel like most of the unofficial changes that have been spotted so far are the result of the remastering process. It doesn’t seem like Rockstar elected to make many notable changes to these titles’ original content, and I strongly suspect that some of the differences we’ve outlined may eventually be patched out.

Of course, if it turns out that there are additional, significant content changes in the Definitive Edition that haven’t been discovered yet, we’ll be sure to let you know.