What? Is it even allowed in the TouchArcade bylaws to pick multiple games for a Game of the Week? Well, I’m doing it, even if it means being sent to Video Game Jail. Now I should probably preface this with the fact that I have not previously played these Definitive Edition versions of the GTA games on other platforms, and if you even kinda sorta follow the video games scene you’ll remember that they were quite the mess when they launched back in November of 2021. So I have the benefit of experiencing these games after two years of updates that have (largely, as I understand, but not completely) addressed all the issues from the original launch versions. In fact, I’m pretty sure that these new mobile versions have features that the games on other platforms don’t have yet, like the Classic Lighting option. Hey, I’ll celebrate any time us mobile gamers get a bone thrown to us compared to those on other platforms.
Given that I am removed from all that drama of the original Definitive Edition launch, all I can say is: Wow! These enhanced versions are excellent. Now these three games, even being two decades old, are huge games, and I’m only a handful of hours into a replay of GTA III, and have only poked my head around Vice City and the massive San Andreas. So it’s very possible that I’ll come across some of that “bad stuff” people were up in arms about with these versions somewhere down the line. But just on a base level, and having redownloaded the original mobile versions of all three GTA games to compare, it’s easy to appreciate all the little quality of life improvements these new releases have. From the more modern control schemes to the modern-style mini-map and so much more, playing the Definitive Versions of these games makes it hard to go back to the originals, even if they are still incredibly solid ports for the time they were released.
Let me talk about Classic Lighting. It’s “on” by default, and the games look fantastic. Super moody and super atmospheric, especially at night, even if things are a bit too dark at times. If you turn the Classic Lighting to “off” then it looks like an almost entirely different game. It’s most noticeable at night, and doesn’t look TOO bad during the day, but holy moly does the game look like crap with Classic Lighting turned off. I just don’t understand why anyone would want it that way? And honestly, if this truly is a feature only found in these new mobile releases, I can see why everyone is still so down on the Definitive Editions on other platforms. I would straight up not play these games if there was no option to turn Classic Lighting on, it’s that important to the whole feel of the game. Our pal Mikhail offers up some comparison shots of both lighting options in his review of GTA Vice City – Definitive.
Everything else aside, I’m just having a blast revisiting these classic games. I’ve replayed all three as they were released on mobile over the years, but that was a long time ago now, and since then I’ve only ever dipped into these games on occasion to cause some open world mischief. Prior to that I don’t believe I’ve played through and completed the stories of each since their original PlayStation 2 releases approximately half my lifetime ago. So this is just fun. I’m happy to have modern-feeling versions of these classics, and while the majority of my time playing has been spent using the Backbone controller I’ve also popped in when I didn’t have that handy and played with the touch controls which are actually quite serviceable. Perhaps best of all is that all three titles are available for free to anyone with a Netflix subscription, and even if you aren’t a subscriber there’s regular standalone paid versions for $19.99 apiece.