Now that the Rockstar-embarrassing, staccato-titled Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition is out on Steam, this terrible trio of remasters has bailed out of Rockstar Store exclusivity and rolled into the speeding bumper of easy Steam Deck compatibility. I’ve spent this afternoon ambling around the redone GTA III, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas, in handheld form, to confirm what you probably already know: they’re all still a bit crap.
While this isn’t an exhaustive technical teardown, I can’t rightly tell where, if anywhere, the Steam release actually improves these notorious remasters. Within minutes, it’s clear they’re still largely the same glitchy messes of dull upscaled textures, lifeless lighting, malformed character models, and ropey animations that we all had a desperate chuckle at back in 2021. The main difference is that with Steam Deck support, they can waste your time outdoors as well.
Except perhaps that’s understating it. On the Deck, all three of the GTA Trilogy’s component games now deliver exciting new ways to be disappointed, particularly though their wonky performance. On Low quality, they’re capable of hitting 60fps, but will often suddenly lurch down to 30fps. Then climbing to somewhere in the 40-50fps range, then collapsing again, then jolting upwards again, and so on.
The issue here isn’t just the bigness of the numbers – to own a Steam Deck is to come to terms with the fact that 30fps can be playable, and some of the best Steam Deck games can only reach that level on their lowest settings. But at least those perform consistently. The GTA Trilogy can run smoothly enough that activating SteamOS’ built-in 30fps cap feels like leaving good frames on the table, yet that smoothness might only last for a few seconds before another 50% drop. It’s bafflingly common for these oscillations to occur several times in the time it takes to drive through a single city block.
It's not clear what causes these drops, though I doubt it’s the Trilogy’s overall fidelity. Those Low/30fps champions I had in mind were along the lines of Elden Ring and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, not half-hearted spit'n'polish jobs on three games that didn’t look particularly great two decades ago. GTA III, the oldest and ugliest, actually sputtered below 30fps a few times. Just… how. HOW.
This Steam release, then, isn’t so much a redemption moment for GTA Trilogy – Definitive Edition as it is one, hopefully last attempt at recouping its costs. Again, I’m likely preaching to the choir at this point, but whether you have a Steam Deck or not, don’t bother.