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GTA Trilogy: 5 things you need to know about your return to the 3D Universe

GTA 3
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

It’s been one of Rockstar’s worst-kept secrets of late, but the GTA Trilogy release date has been revealed, marking our imminent return to GTA 3, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas via the incoming Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition.

20 years have passed since the longstanding crime sim series first made the jump to 3D, and with this latest Pay ‘n’ Spray paint job, it looks and feels better than ever – with tweaked visuals, controls and in-game menus among many other quality of life improvements heading to Liberty City, Vice and San An. 

Before you make the journey, though, here are five things you need to know about your return to GTA’s 3D Universe.

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When are we going?

GTA 3

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

As revealed on the 20th anniversary of Grand Theft Auto 3 (October 22), the GTA Trilogy release date is November 11, 2021. That’s its digital release, mind, but the old school among us fret not – a physical version also lands on December 7. When it does, you can play the GTA Trilogy on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. How much will it cost? $60/£55 across all platforms. It’s also worth noting that the GTA San Andreas Definite Edition will be available on Xbox Games Pass from day one

What you lookin’ at?

As seen in the above trailer, a whole load of visual improvements are breaching the shores of Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas. These come courtesy of a resolution upgrade, a rebuilt lighting system, and reworked character and vehicle models, to name but a few nips and tucks making their way into the game. 

That's all coming alongside improved dynamic weather aesthetics, sharper shadows, clearer reflections, and an increased draw distance that will see Portland Harbour looking more like a scene from The Wire than Silent Hill. These games might be two decades old, but Rockstar is putting in the work to make them look and feel as good as they can be.

Taking control 

GTA 3

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

How each game’s protagonists Claude, Tommy, and Carl handle themselves, or rather how you handle them, has been improved this time around too. I can’t tell you how many times I missed the mark during GTA 3’s sniper mission, ‘Bomb Da Base II’, and I blame that wholeheartedly on shady controls. Whether that’s the case or not is up for debate, I’ve no excuse this time around because the GTA Trilogy will employ “new GTA 5-inspired modern controls”, which should directly affect targeting, driving, and general navigation around each map. The former is likely where this will mark the biggest improvement, especially when applied to cycling through hordes of advancing enemies – which all three games have plenty of, in the absence of decent cover-shooting.  

Planning the route

GTA 3

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

That last part will make a bigger difference than you think. In the wake of the GTA Trilogy announcement, I fired up GTA 3 to reacquaint myself with old school Liberty City, as a means of better appreciating its imminent face lift, and could not believe how difficult driving is compared to GTA 5 and GTA Online. Not only do cars handle like tanks, there’s no sat-nav inspired mini-maps, meaning I spent inordinate amounts of time circling destinations trying to find the exact alleyway I was expected to turn down. Further to this, Rockstar promises updated weapon and radio wheels, as well as Gyro aiming for the Nintendo Switch variation.  

Who’s behind it? 

GTA San Andreas

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Working alongside Rockstar North, Grove Street Games (known as War Drum Studios once upon a time) is developing the GTA Trilogy in Unreal Engine. Over the last decade, the studio has specialised in porting games to mobile devices and has done so for Rockstar on numerous occasions – with the likes of GTA: Chinatown Wars, GTA 3, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, Max Payne, and Bully all being ported to iOS and/or Android.  


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Joe Donnelly

Joe is a Features Writer at GamesRadar+. With over five years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.