San Andreas Definitive Edition Graphical Analysis – What’s Changed?


Wwith Grand Theft Auto 3 and Grand Theft Auto Vice City Establishing Rockstar’s beloved franchise as a household name in the game, it’s understandable that many eyes were on what the developer was doing with the franchise next. After a two-year development cycle, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas would finally come out with rave reviews and an equally excellent commercial reception, the latter making the game the best-selling PS2 game of all games.

Set in the state of San Andreas which has been heavily inspired by California and Nevada, the game has managed to deliver the series’ most heartfelt narrative to this point. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas has now received a definitive edition as part of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, and a bit has been changed under the hood. Let’s take a look.


The original Grand Theft Auto San Andreas seems to use the same lighting scheme as the first two games, although there are some noticeable but subtle improvements right away. Shadows appear to have a higher resolution and are cast with good precision. Inlaid highlights are widely used, a particular example being the way lights project around the foot of palm trees. The same technique seems to have been implemented for most buildings and other objects in the environment. However, there are also some issues. The surfaces of the vehicles are not reflective, which makes the game look rather drab, as if they were made of pastel colors, which had been a minor point of criticism when the game was released. an aesthetic design choice from Rockstar, but it definitely looks pretty drab today.

Games Definitive edition is built on Unreal Engine 4 and uses a brand new, highly efficient lighting system. As one could notice immediately upon starting the game, the world looks a lot richer than its original counterpart thanks to details like precise shadows and high resolution. Vehicle surfaces also reflect sunlight and other light sources such as traffic lights, street lights, and even lights wrapped around the palm trees I mentioned earlier. With the new lighting systems in place, the world seems to be a lot brighter and sunnier, making it look rather distinct from the original.

Character models

grand theft auto the trilogy the definitive edition

Rockstar was already struggling to pack character models, texture elements, and a lot of stuff into the PlayStation 2’s 32MB RAM, and of course with San Andreathe size of the map eclipses those found in City of vice and GTA 3, it’s understandable enough that the character models don’t seem to have a massive improvement. On top of that, the game also had to consider even more character models for NPCs, as the state of San Andreas is home to a multicultural group of people who all have to be different from each other. The number of polygons looks about the same as City of vice, which already had double of those found in Grand Theft Auto 3. However, better facial animations make the overall presentation a bit more palatable than previous entries, making it a big improvement.

The Definitive edition appears to use some sort of AI scaling for textures and character models, with manual tweaking presumably done to keep it looking authentic. However, of the three entries in the trilogy, San Andreas seems to have seen the worst in terms of updated character models. Even main protagonist Carl Johnson doesn’t seem quite up to the task, and the same can be said of many other character models. The surroundings, on the other hand, look great, although, as mentioned earlier, a lot of the heavy lifting seems to have been done by the updated lighting.

Streaming, NPC density and drawing distance

grand theft auto the trilogy the definitive edition

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas uses the same RenderWare engine used in previous entries in the series, although major updates to the engine allow the game to have both denser and larger environments without having to sacrifice performance. The game map is not just a city like City of vice Where GTA 3, but it’s an entire state – you have Los Santos, San Fierro, Las Venturas as well as large swathes of the city’s outskirts. Las Venturas and Los Santos are quite impressive with their dense neighborhoods giving the illusion of a believable space. NPCs are, of course, varied and appear more in number. The AI ​​is also a bit more sophisticated, as enemy gang members will try to take you down if you enter their territory. Drawing distance also appears to have received a boost, although the game uses fog to obscure detail in remote areas of the map and give the illusion of a larger map.. Overall, streaming tech is the most efficient of the three inputs – and the game definitely pushes this generation’s hardware to its absolute limit.

Of course, that’s not as bad in the modern gaming landscape where we have games that are exponentially bigger than San Andreas. Making a world this huge without any issues isn’t a big deal either, especially for a game engine like Unreal Engine 4 which is used by the game. Definitive edition. An increased level of detail of the characters and the surrounding environments does not require any reduction in the drawing distance, quite the contrary. The drawing distance is increased, which is especially evident when zooming in on the city in a fast car or walking along the tops of buildings in an airplane. However, the fog is absent, making the game map appear smaller than the original, which could be a problem for fans of the original version. NPCs seem to have roughly the same number, although it didn’t require much upgrading anyway.

Animation and other improvements

grand theft auto the trilogy the definitive edition

Rockstar used motion capture and stop motion capture techniques to create animations for City of vice, and the same techniques seem to be in place for San Andreas as well. Protagonist Carl Johnson can swim, climb ledges, and roll in combat, which, of course, required a lot of new animations to be created. The animations are also much more varied and smoother, making it a big improvement over the original. However, there is no noticeable improvement in the animations in the Definitive edition talk about. On the loading front, the original version takes several seconds to load on the PS2 hardware. Load times are significantly improved compared to the original in the Definitive Edition, thanks to modern hardware equipped with SSDs. On a PS5, the game only takes a few seconds to load a save.

Physics and attention to detail

grand theft auto the trilogy the definitive edition

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas has a fairly sophisticated physics system which is a major improvement over City of vice in a number of subtle but effective aspects. You can ride bikes, attach nitrous boosters to cars, switch cars to low-rider mode, ride a jetpack or parachute – all of which have their own physical systems in place. The definitive edition does not significantly falsify it.

However, there are some changes in the attention to detail. Explosions and smoke are better in all areas with high resolution textures, and waves are much more realistic. The flora and fauna seem to have been added to the bodies of water, which is noticeable when diving underground. After throwing grenades, the terrain texture on the impact area changes to reflect the explosion – compared to the original which only left a black mass of texture in place. I didn’t particularly notice any noticeable changes in interactivity with the environment.


Grand Theft Auto San Andreas has received a litany of improvements over the original in a number of key areas, including lighting that breathes new life into this ten-year-old game. Of course, the same can’t be said for the character models – who didn’t get the love they should have had. There aren’t any noticeable changes to the game’s animations or physics, making it a pretty poor repackaging of the original. As such, it would have been in the game’s best interests to spend more time in the oven.

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