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How Not To Do A Remaster

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At first, I was stoked: the ability to replay Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the go with the Switch was a radical thought. Then I waited patiently. And then first impressions started pouring in. Now, I’m not so stoked, merely disappointed. Again.

What’s more iconic than riding an eighties car in the sunset near the beaches while listening to Flash FMmusic for the me generation? The trouble is, Rockstar (or Grove Street Games, the company behind the remaster) decided to remove songs from the much-loved radio stations. There goes my playlist. To be honest, I couldn’t care less whether or not it’s because of licensing issues: the point is that the “Definitive Edition” is no longer definitive.

What else, let’s see here. Just pull up a random recent GTA Trilogy article on any news site and you’ll be flooded with reports of refund requests. The game is apparently released in a very buggy and incomplete state. Players simply exiting a building are killed for unknown reasons. Cars suddenly explode or disappear on intersections after a short drive. Helicopter models are duplicated in an endless loop. It rains inside. NPCs are killed by cars in cut-scenes. Due to the strange decision to remove the fog system, that cleverly hid the early noughties' shortcomings such as a very limited drawing distance, the popping effect of cars appearing and disappearing is laughable. In case you’d like to to laugh (or cry) along:

YouTube video FxF4NhN9LfI

No worries, just buy the original game. Good idea there, except, you can’t anymore! The remastered version is labeled Definitive for a reason, right? The original versions of Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas were pulled from the digital stores (more licensing issues?). So, let me get this straight. (1) The remaster sucks. (2) I can’t buy the original one anymore. Ergo, (3) We’re implicitly told to go scour the second hand market?

Someone on Twitter summarized it as follows:

There are a lot of headlines circulating about people demanding refunds for GTA: The Trilogy. Honestly, this is something I totally support, just like I did with CyberPunk last year. Unfinished, buggy, game launches have become far too common over the last generation or two.

Unfinished, buggy games—a day one patch appeared two days ago to fix the worst bugs, gobbling up another 4 GB of your precious hard/flash disk storage. Back in the day, the was the size of two GTA games installed, combined. Wow. And yet people keep on finding ridiculous bugs.

This bad habit of “release first, fix later” must come from the agile world, where the “minimum viable product” or MVP is lauded as the savior for all financial woes. Wanna buy a sports car? We’ll deliver a bicycle without brakes first, that okay with you? Don’t get upset, we’ll slow and steadily release new features and won’t charge extra, pinky swear. Guess what, with physical releases, this is impossible to do.

Well, some do try. when I bought a physical copy of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for Nintendo Switch, I threw it in a drawer for a year before being able to play it because of the abundance of bugs present in the Switch version. It still plays like crap.

Yet another sobering lesson: don’t get overexcited when a publisher announces a remake of a game you have fond memories of. However, it can be done: the Diablo II remaster, which employs a smart a pixel-by-pixel transformation layer, universally received praise—against all odds, after Activision Blizzard cause players to lose faith with the awful Warcraft III remaster. Age of Empires II HD is great precisely because nothing was changed, except the resolution—the same is true for Okami HD. The question is whether or not those examples are “remastered” versions. Sure they are: they aren’t “remakes”, where everything has been hauled over while staying true to the authenticity of the original release, like the Monkey Island ones.

I wish big companies would stop abusing patches and required internet downloads as an excuse to touch up vital parts of the game after the release date. Even Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons is guilty. One and a half years after the release of the game, they finally decided to reintroduce The Roost, the museum café. In the (3)DS version, it was shipped on cart.

Nintendo Life’s review conclusion, awarding it a staggering 4 out of 10:

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition on Switch delivers three of gaming’s true greats in a shockingly rough package that manages to suck pretty much all of the fun out of Rockstar’s stellar crime epics. This is a poor port, a shoddy, stuttery, low resolution mess full of bugs, glitches, audio problems and more besides. If can grab this one on any other platform, we’d advise you do so or, at the very least, hold off until it’s been patched and hopefully improved in the future. As things stand, this is a very, very long way from ‘definitive’ — this isn’t the way we want to remember these games.

Oh hey, it’s me, your retro guy, scoring another point in favor of physical releases!

tags icon games Grand Theft Auto

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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