Rockstar apologizes for GTA remasters mess — but just how much is fixable?

Claude with a flamethrower in GTA 3
(Image credit: Rockstar)

After eight days of fan complaints about the sorry state of the GTA Trilogy remaster, Rockstar Games has finally responded, pledging to ensure that the games “reach the level of quality they deserve to be.”

Describing the myriad technical deficiencies as “unexpected,” the company apologized for the state of the games, which “did not launch in a state that meets our standards of quality." 

The developer then claimed that it would address problems with all three games. “We have ongoing plans to address the technical issues and to improve each game going forward,” Rockstar wrote. “With each planned update, the games will reach the level of quality that they deserve to be.”

Rockstar pledged that a new patch will arrive “in the coming days” that will “address a number of issues.”  It’s not clear if this is the one mentioned, but version 1.02 has already landed with an impressive number of improvements across all formats, squashing some of the more egregious bugs, like holes in the map, broken collision detection and platform specific crashes.  

There’s also a bonus for PC players. Given the poor state of the remasters, fans were doubly angry about the removal of the original titles from online stores, and this is something Rockstar has now rectified. 

“We will be adding the classic PC versions of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas back to the Rockstar Store shortly as a bundle,” Rockstar's statement continued. “Additionally, everyone who has purchased Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition for PC from the Rockstar Store through June 30, 2022, will receive these classic versions in their Rockstar Games Launcher library at no additional cost.”

Rockstar had, until now, been silent about the criticism levelled at the remasters. But this statement may have something to do with player anger boiling over into unpleasant social media attacks aimed at the developers and artists tasked with rebuilding the games in the Unreal engine. 

“It pains us to mention that we are hearing reports of members of the development teams being harassed on social media,” the post explained. “We would kindly ask our community to please maintain a respectful and civil discourse around this release as we work through these issues.”

 GTA Trilogy fixes: How much can actually be done? 

After the infamously botched launch of Cyberpunk 2077 last year, it took creators CD Projekt Red months to bring the game up to a playable standard. In a sense, the challenge on Rockstar’s plate is even greater: these are three giant open world games ported to a new engine with myriad problems across no fewer than four formats: PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

In fact, it’s even more complicated than that if, for example, you consider the Xbox One to be different from the Xbox One X, or PS5 backwards compatibility to be different to native PS4 play. This chart from Digital Foundry displaying all the possible performance permeations demonstrates the scale of the challenge ahead.  

Chart showing the different versions of the remastered GTA Trilogy

(Image credit: Digital Foundry)

It’s not very encouraging that Rockstar describes the technical issues as “unexpected.” Any serious level of pre-release playtesting would have revealed invisible bridges, rain that stops over bodies of water and the Switch version struggling with frame rates in the low 20s for a 20-year-old game. 

While squashing the most obvious bugs should be relatively straightforward, your definition of what constitutes “the quality they deserve to be” may differ dramatically from Rockstar Games. The updated character models that have been — unkindly, but not unfairly — compared to Nintendo Miis aren’t a bug: they’re a design choice, and going back to the drawing board on them seems unlikely.

Rockstar Games may be a much larger outfit than CD Projekt Red with resources to match, but this is also not a make-or-break project for the company. While Cyberpunk 2077 had to be a success to justify the years spent making it, the GTA games have already made billions for Rockstar over the years. Any money that the remasters make is just a bonus, really.

With that in mind, we’d be surprised if the “Definitive Edition” is ever in a state to match the dictionary definition of the words. But for now, we just have to see if actions can speak as loudly as words. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.