Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
For those of you who have been living in a
very deep hole in the ground you play the part of Carl Johnson, also
known as CJ. You left the streets of San Andreas and went to Liberty
City when some really bad stuff went down in the hood. You've returned
as your mother was killed and it's up to the sons to bury her. Upon your
arrival you are framed for the death of a police officer by other
crooked cops and thus your adventure begins. No money, no weapons and
only a bike leaning against a fence in an alley.
After this brutal return back to life on the streets, CJ comes back with
a vengeance with you at the helm as he wins the respect and loyalty of
both his brother Sweet and the rest of the crew he used to run with, the
Grove Street family. From the very get go you are gonna find yourself
totally immersed in the 1990's West Coast America gang bangin' scene
with the vehicles, dress and tunes of the time in a gameworld that sure
is one of the biggest ever created for any format.
There are a swag of missions here that will truly stagger you, ranging
from the very very easy to tasks that will have you doing them over and
over again. The best advice that I can give is that you find a safehouse
nearest to the tasks, buy it and then save before taking on your next
mission as the map is so huge that it literally can take about 10
minutes just to get from one area to the other. It took me about forty
odd minutes to get from one end of the game world to the other and that
was in real time folks without stopping for missions or any other
distractions. It's so big that you can actually get lost.
The sense of authenticity that you have come to expect from the series
has also come back with a great deal of environments being explored.
You'll start with the ghettoish seedy streets then making your way
through to the sticks where the rednecks live and all environments have
been done with such detail that you really do forget that you are just
some couch potato twiddling your analogue controls. You become CJ and
nothing else matters.
I always feel odd when I'm reviewing a game of this calibre as there is
no real way that I can let you know just how good it is and truly do it
and you any justice as words aren't enough to describe the actual
gameplay experience that lies in wait for the person who picks it up.
All I can say and will most likely repeat is that this is the best
hundred bucks that you can spend on a game, so if you have to budget,
make this the one that you get.
Something that really surprised me (what didn't?) about this game was
the inclusion of two player mode. There are several points in the
various areas that you unlock that have a two player symbol that
appears, the first of which is at your girlfriend's house, yes you get
to pick up the chicks in this one legitimately and take them on dates!
Instead of your standard date taking place, simply bung in the second
controller and go on a killing spree with a mate who will take on the
guise of whatever non player character was meant to go on the
date/mission with you. As you will find, each date goes toward your
overall status with the ladies and they will eventually give you
presents and maybe even a hotted up vehicle if you play really nicely.
Oh by the way, you can swim in this game. That's right, no more crashing
off a bridge and dying, just get out of the car and swim to safety. Need
to elude the authorities? Just go underwater and see if they lose the
scent. The game has built up a system similar to role playing games
where CJ builds up experience if he keeps repeating a certain activity
and that includes accuracy when firing weapons. Some advice if you want
to get into this game and kick butt is to get weapons early and do all
the shooting you can. Eventually you'll get hitman status with that
weapons and then go crazy with guns akimbo (two at same time) on certain
weapons. Machine pistols such as the Tec 9 are absolutely deadly when
wielded in this way.
CJ's appearance also changes through the game depending on how much you
let him eat and how much time you spend on foot. Your muscle mass can
increase by going to the gym and pushing weights or you can become a
couch potato if you so choose. The thing to take into consideration is
that if you do the right thing by CJ, then it rewards you in terms of
stamina, accuracy etc. The gym and other relevant areas appear
accessible in the game after completing certain missions, just like Vice
Non player characters abound in this game bringing with them a host of
celebrity voice talent including Samuel L Jackson as corrupt cop Officer
Tenpenny and Chris Penn as his sidekick Eddie Polaski. You name, it and
these guys are into it, bringing CJ under their control through coercion
and threats. You also have an older brother Sweet and sister Kendl along
with all your old homies from the hood. The player is welcomed into
their midst and there is a real feeling of being part of a big family.
Once your sphere of influence extends beyond this point you will find
that CJ has a respect meter that can be viewed along with his other
stats. Once your respect is high enough you can recruit non player
characters from Grove Street to come with you on drive bys and the like.
This is one of the few times that it annoyed me a bit. Your homies will
lean out of the car gangsta style and shoot at enemy gang members, even
when the cops are there and the law won't react one bit. Get out of the
car to help them and then the law comes down on your head. There will be
the odd cop chasing someone but not to the extent that I thought would
Three major metropolis' wait for you to make your way through starting
with Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fiero (San Francisco) and Las
Venturas (Las Vegas) with the action kicking off in Los Santos and then
as the game progresses, the other areas open up. All sorts of modes of
transport are available to the player as well from the 90's including
Latino low riders, beat up old cars, motor bikes, quad bikes, boats to
name but a few. There are aircraft available but if you go over to them
without going to flight school, I found that I couldn't get into the
planes, the doors are all locked.
Back again is an outstanding soundtrack with multiple radio stations and
songs from that period in time. The in game DJ's react to changes in the
weather in the city and if you listen closely there are tons of in jokes
including some from Chuck D, front man for Public Enemy who does the
voice over as Forthright MC stating that he MADE Public Enemy! There are
also the obligatory chat channels and when you go into Ammunation (where
you can buy all sorts of weaponry and also hone up on your accuracy),
make sure you stand still and just listen to the instore advertisements!
For you freaks who love customization, you can rip your own soundtrack
in this game which is a really cool option and adds itself as a radio
station to your game. You can add some DJ banter in there if you want to
but it does sound a bit disjointed.
Character reaction to CJ is featured in the game and NPC's will react to
your clothing, appearance, tattoos and either diss you or give you ups.
There are a number of clothing stores that you can buy from which are
then added to the wardrobe of all the safe houses you can buy. But money
doesn't come easily initially until you notice that drug dealers start
showing up in the game. These are predominately a black man in a black
singlet, jeans and a beanie with his arms crossed, or a white guy
wearing a grey hoodie. They always have money (between 1 -2 grand) and
are always armed, but a great way to get cash fast. I found approaching
with stealth with a knife and taking them out to have best results.
As with the previous games, the physics of all the vehicles in this game
is spot on with access to garages to increase the ability of your
vehicle. You can make your very own pimped out ride complete with
nitrous boosters that will get you going at crazy speeds that generate a
blurring effect similar to when you achieve burnout in the game of the
same title. If you feel slack and don't want to drive, simply get onto
the train at the train station, how cool is that? Possibly the only
vehicle I didn't like was the quad bike in terms of handling and having
fun and considering that you have to ride one in a mission with Catalina
There are so many side missions and secrets built into this game that
you really are never going to finish it as far as I am concerned. Aside
from the general gameplay, there are buildings to tag with your gang's
logo, things to find in the water and a host of other activities to
choose from. I would quite often lose track of the proper flow of the
game when I was playing around with all the other things you can do in
these massive cities that truly have lives of their own. Take the time
to truly explore all these areas for yourself and you will see what I
Make sure when you are exploring that you take advantage of the
Xbox-centric feature that is the super duper 30 second replay! I loved
this feature and used it when I had a hardcore gun battle that just had
to be replayed, this was just perfect to go back and live the glory all
I think part of the reason that San Andreas is so spectacular is that
you can get lost within the game. Similar to Vice City, you can simply
roam around and cause mischief, ride your BMX at a skate park or simply
go for a swim, not to mention the amount of gambling you can do at Las
Venturas on a number of real games, players are going to find their
progress crawls along very slowly unless you are determined to just get
the missions finished and done with. I must admit even at this point in
the game, I am pretty damn sure that I am not near the finish yet,
however have clocked in so many hours on the game that I reckon that I
am even dreaming about driving through the streets, everything has that
washed quality that presents in the game.
The best thing about the Xbox version is that despite the PS2 version
being absolutely magnificent, the visuals on the beefier Xbox are great
and then some. Put into the context of the hardware being used on each
system they are both displaying the game to the best of their ability.
That said this version is the sexier of the two hands down! There are
clearer textures and better looking character models that reinforce the
perception of an even more vibrant gameworld.