If you didn't play Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City and San Andreas with a crumpled, messy piece of paper that had all the coolest cheats scribbled on it, did you play them at all? Not if you ask us. In many games, cheats are just cheap shortcuts that make progress easier. However, in these GTA games, they were a whole new way to play. So, they had better still be there when The Definitive Edition drops this November.
With the November 11 release date of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - Definitive Edition drawing near, Rockstar Games has steadily been revealing more and more details about the remastered games. We know that the control scheme has been updated to a more modern style and is based on the controls of GTA 5, that the UI has gone through an overhaul and that while the remastered versions are sporting fancy high-res textures and effects, they maintain the classic low-poly aesthetic for an authentic experience.
We also know that, while the characters, missions, story and overall content of the games is unchanged, they have been subtly tweaked to match modern sensibilities. Games as a medium and their audience have, optimistically speaking, grown and matured, and things that flew back in the early 00's just don't fly anymore.
So far the only example seen in the trailers is the removal of the confederate flag from Phil Cassidy's outfit, but we imagine a few others will crop up - back when GTA: Vice City was released in 2002 to rave reviews, it was also voted "game most demeaning to women". That said, we still expect these to be the same controversy-inducing titles that anti-game activists loved to hate.
While we're definitely eager to hop back into Claude Speed, Tommy Vercetti and CJ's shoes to cause glorious chaos across a fictionalized America, Rockstar hasn't revealed whether The Definitive Edition will sport the original cheats these games had. We don't imagine this will be confirmed either way until release, and we're holding out hope it won't be a disappointing outcome.
Those cheats became central to the cultural impact of these games. How many of your fond memories about San Andreas also involve a worn piece of paper that made the rounds among your school friends during recess? How many rumors and made-up brags were about super secret, super cool cheats nobody else knew about and were totally real, honest?
When we thing about cheats in video games now, the thoughts that come to mind first are usually related to hackers in whatever the popular battle royale at the moment is, followed by a lot of swearing. Cheats today mean ruined matches of Warzone or jerks hiding in floaty rock in Apex Legends. Even when it isn't about multiplayer hacks, some games went and turned cheats into microtransactions you have to buy. Cheats today suck.
Those aren't the cheats of yonder. Cheats back in the day were used to make the typically tougher games of past decades easier, or in many cases, more fun. They were a way to add more flavor to a game with fancy codes and button combinations, or were outright a utility when using a command console in PC games, in which cases cheats and mods walked hand in hand. Even then, what GTA was doing was a cut above the rest.
In GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas, cheats weren't just a crutch; they weren't just about making the game easier (it's not like they were much help in following that damn train, CJ), but also about adding new dimensions to gameplay entirely. They were about customization. For all the over-the-top action and satirical hyperbole, GTA was still firmly rooted in reality - definitely much more so than GTA Online, with its orbital lasers and stunt races and flying motorcycles with lock-on missiles.
However, the developers didn't really let that restrain them. A bunch of features and options that crank the crazy past 11 wouldn't fit that realistic approach, so they we put behind a cheat. Basically the devs gave players a toy box full of fun stuff and closed it off with cheats to draw a boundary between what was the in-universe "normal" and what was the dumb entertaining nonsense you could unleash at your own peril.
Every GTA title has had cheats in some form, but none do it quite like the 3D era games. Oh sure, GTA 3 has your standard cheat codes for pumping up your health and armor or giving you weapons; you can spawn tanks and rocket launchers thanks to cheats in Vice City; and you can tweak the RPG-lite mechanics and tune CJ's stats with San Andreas' cheats - but that's surface level.
Cheats in these games let you turn off gravity, speed up or slow down the flow of time, give your character superpowers and play god with all the NPCs populating the game world. Some of the cheats were outright dangerous and permanent, like those which armed all civilian NPCs and/or made them hostile to the player character. You could essentially 'brick' a save file by repopulating the whole world exclusively with heavily armed enemies of infinite quantity.
Essentially, when you were done playing the game "conventionally" - or even before, however you roll - you could start messing around with these cheats and squeeze several extra hours of fun out of them, especially with friends over to witness the carnage. And that's after the dozens upon dozens of hours of content in them already which don't need any kind of cheats.
Sure, The Definitive Edition already packs in three games into one release, so there is plenty of content on offer already - we're not saying it's a slim package if there aren't any cheats. However, when you have such classic pillars of their respective genre which also happened to do cheats better than arguably anyone else; where the cheats themselves have become part of the experience and the nostalgia; leaving them out would be outright criminal. You just can't have GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas without these iconic effects.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition will be hitting digital shelves on the 11th of November on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch. We'll have our ancient paper-based cheat sheets ready.