Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition was released on PC just last Thursday but wound up promptly taken down as Rockstar’s official launcher went offline for maintenance. The service is back now, but you still can’t buy or play Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, or San Andreas, and the whole ordeal may be due to the unintended inclusion of code not meant for the public eye.
Rockstar says they’re working to “remove files unintentionally included in these versions” but didn’t specify which files they were referencing. VGC first reported that Grand Theft Auto’s PC collection includes developer notes from original releases and music files with expired licenses. Most notably, the code also contains links to Hot Coffee, a sex mini-game in San Andreas that led to a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Rockstar, class-action lawsuits, and a moment that reignited the games-have-too-much-sex panic.
Vadim M., a GTA authority who has long documented its history, highlighted instances of the Hot Coffee code on Twitter. The San Andreas remaster doesn’t have the assets required to make it work, but its bones still remain. Vadim hypothesized that adding those missing pieces back in may not even be possible, as the game’s exe file seems to prevent it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the whole Hot Coffee debacle, the saga began to unravel back in 2005. Modders originally discovered inaccessible files for the Hot Coffee sequence produced by Rockstar North, and the studio initially blamed hackers for messing with the source code. Ultimately, that wasn’t the case, and the FTC found that Rockstar and parent company Take-Two Interactive misrepresented sexual content included in San Andreas to the ESRB—they got off with notice and no fines.
There are some other weird tidbits in the new trilogy, too. Vice City’s Prawn Island was apparently once named Porn Island, and Well Stacked Pizza references call it Pizza Hut. Another screenshot includes developer notes reading, “This shit doesn’t work the way they wrote it below so we’ll just show the text and place the blip at the beginning of the mission.”
I wonder, who are "they". ???? pic.twitter.com/oeqKjFoDnk
— Vadim M. (@NationalPepper) November 11, 2021
While a peek into early development is kind of neat, the whole launch is a bit of a disaster, and players are responding to Rockstar’s initial tweet regarding the file mess-up with calls for refunds. The anger is now bleeding through to its Metacritic rating for PC, where Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition sits at an incredible 0.6 user rating.
Perhaps the real punch to the gut here is Take-Two’s use of DMCA takedowns. Kotaku chronicled Take-Two’s continued action against GTA modders and the removal of their work across multiple games in the series—making sure they burn down any goodwill with the folks that spent years fixing their games. If you’re trying to revisit the original three, that’s not possible either. Rockstar delisted old versions of Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas from digital storefronts everywhere. So, for now, your definitive edition may be a PS2 disc.