The Challenges Facing the GTA Trilogy Remaster
It might not be a new mainline entry, but for many players, developer Rockstar’s announcement of the PlayStation 2 GTA trilogy remaster is just as good. As told in the official announcement, this remaster aims to bring GTA 3, Vice City, and San Andreas to Switch, mobile, PlayStation, and Xbox systems. Porting over three of the most popular games ever released is no easy task, and it’s not just as simple as getting them to run. Rockstar is taking one hell of a swing, and they’ve left some spectators wondering if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
According to Rockstar’s official website, the remaster includes lighting and environment upgrades, higher resolution textures, increased draw distance, GTA 5 style controls, and more. We would have to assume that this nebulous more includes support for better resolutions, higher frame rates, and maybe even an extension on San Andreas limited coop system (though we wouldn’t bet on this last one).
The Challenges of Adaption
Porting and updating software to different systems isn’t just important for games, it also reaches into a wide variety of different interactive entertainment, communication, and business software. Each of these avenues comes with its own set of challenges, though overwhelmingly these challenges aren’t as profound as what the GTA Trilogy faces.
Take a program as simple as Zoom for example. On mobile, this chat program is incredibly easy to use thanks to the simplicity of mobile UI design. While Zoom on PC is also easy to use, it has to overcome the mental hurdle that many people erroneously believe computer usage to imply. In this case, the issue is largely overstated, as anyone who uses the PC system will quickly learn.
In entertainment, a similar concern was originally considered as users years ago moved from Netflix on PC to Netflix on Smart TV systems. In this case, it was again the technological unfamiliarity that most people feared, that simple experience would soon alleviate. On the other hand, in some cases, such as with the move of online casinos towards mobiles, porting efforts have been much more successful. In the case of this software, mobiles ended up perfectly suited to the way slot games work, with the ease of play meaning the system transfer more than paid off.
Back in video games, history is full of ports with potential failing to live up to their promise. The original Resident Evil 4 port to PC was a prime example of this, as was the original Devil May Cry 3 attempt. In both of these instances, not understanding the demands of a different system lead to disaster, and while we expect Rockstar to understand the basics, the more complicated roadblocks could still prove a problem.
What Could Hold the GTA Trilogy Back
As with any older games, a problem we constantly overlook is that we consistently view older titles with rose-tinted glasses. We judge them today by how they made us feel at the time, and while this is only natural, it also betrays a potential shortcoming in taking a trip back. When a game is great it’s not simply great, it’s also often great for its time.
Some of these games might age well enough to be considered timeless for some players, thanks to a strong design vision and understanding of a system’s limits. Others, like Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, were simply revolutionary at the time, but they’ve also aged so badly that playing them today is a painful experience. Though we’d hope the gameplay changes of the GTA Trilogy can alleviate this problem in terms of raw controls, they’ll be less influential on story and mission structure.
Next up, we have to consider what the changes to graphics could do to the atmosphere of the trilogy. These came out before the overuse of bloom, volumetric lighting, motion blur, and chromatic aberration became an all-too-common problem. As we’ve already seen in the preview content, the Trilogy will, at the very least, include a far greater emphasis on bloom and reflections. These are impressive effects sure, and they might even better represent the original vision of the developers, but they’re not what players grew to love. While you can surely modify these options out on PC, we’d not expect console players to be so lucky.
The other major graphical feature which bears a specific mention is the increased draw distance. At the time of release, all three games in the PS2 trilogy were considered truly impressive in how massive they made the world appear. Though they felt this way, much of the real size was obscured by the fog effects made necessary because of the short render distance. Without this distance fog, the sense of scale could be heavily impacted, making the games feel more claustrophobic than expansive.
Last but not least is the concern that the trilogy won’t feature the same famous soundtracks as the original. The radio stations have always been a key part of these titles, just as the right music for movies can make all the difference. Rights change, however, and since even GTA 5 has had to remove tracks over time, we’re curious how many of the original trilogy’s songs will be included in the remastered release. If we can’t cruise the deserts of San Andreas while blasting Free Bird, then it’s hardly the same experience.
With only a short wait left until release, barring any surprises, it won’t take long until our questions about the GTA Trilogy are answered. As always, we caution our readers to wait for reviews and not preorder copies, just so we can be sure Rockstar has met the mountain of challenges these games represent. Let’s just hope it’s gotten easier to follow the damn train, and that flying helicopters for David Cross is no longer the nightmare it once was.