Review: Putting the ?Grand' back in Grand Theft Auto!
2004 was sure a great time to be a gamer, eh? Lucky Xbox owners got Halo 2, the big sequel to one of the best First Person Shooters ever made. Meanwhile, on the Playstation2, there was a highly anticipated new chapter in the popular car jacking series- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. That game was an absolutely mammoth 3D action game that won rave reviews for its stunning new features, such as character customization and multiple player options. Both games were great in their own way, but it was a shame that some gamers couldn't play San Andreas in 2004 since they didn't have the system. Fortunately, good things come to those who wait because you can now play this edgy/award winning game on the Xbox as well.
This GTA game is just like previous installments because you steal any vehicle (from bikes to a Harrier Jet) you want to help you be a much better anti-hero, but what has changed is that this game takes place in the 1990's and it stars a new lead character. The good news about the new star of this game is that he's an African American, something you don't see in video games too often, especially one this big. The bad news is that it's a GTA game, and part of a series featuring some of the most controversial titles in history thanks to all the graphic violence and sexual themes. Doing nothing to counter this, San Andreas doesn't beat around the bush and has a very gritty and realistic urban storyline much like the feature films Menace II Society or Boys N the Hood. The game does have a few funny moments here and there to lighten things up a bit, but remember - this is rated Mature for a reason, so expect a lot of heavy content with some very foul and extremely offensive language. Keep the kids far away from this one!
In the game you play the role of a man named Carl Johnson. He returns to his old home town after he finds out his mother was murdered. CJ needs to find out just what happened to her and it won't be easy. As soon as he returns back to Los Santos, CJ is instantly greeted with a mixed reception?.to say the least. A lot of your old friends don't trust you anymore, the crooked cops are always on your back and there are rival gangs all over the place ready to shoot you down at a moments notice. You will need every trick in the book to survive the huge fictional cities of Los Santos, Las Venturas, and San Fierro.
If CJ wants to get any answers he not only needs to do several odd jobs to get more money, but he also needs to earn a lot of respect and that's where the game's new role-playing features come in. You can gain experience in the same manner as a traditional RPG (such as Final Fantasy) and you can increase your stats and looks so you can go from a very skinny guy in a boring white shirt and jeans, to a jacked-up muscle head with cool tattoos, a stylish hair cut, and hip cargo pants. Your looks play an important role when doing certain jobs and you can even use them to help you go out on dates with a cute honey. Although it's funny to see CJ get fat from fast food, certain girls won't go out with you if you are a big slob that doesn't wear the right stuff.
Going on dates is not the only extra activity you can partake of. If you are trying to stay in shape you can go to the gym to work out, or why not try to compete in a marathon? If none of that sounds exciting then you can try a game of one-on-one basketball, or how about a Dance Dance Revolution-like game with low-riders? These are just some of the games you can find in this massive title. Another new addition to this particular GTA game is a feature that allows a second player to join in on some of these mini games as well, so you don't have to play with yourself all the time.
If you are familiar with the past 3D GTA games then you recognize the look of San Andreas. The game graphics are amazing simply because Rockstar has been able to create this virtual world populated with tons of citizens and secrets. Although the graphics are still impressive, especially in the real time cinemas, they are starting to show their age thanks to all the slowdown, bland textures, and some choppy animations. It's true that the game does have more polish then the PS2 version, but the problems are still there.
Both GTA III and Vice City were some of the best sounding games for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Thanks to all the millions they made on those hit games they were able to get bunch of big names for San Andreas as well. Turning on the game's radio will reveal a wide list of 10+ stations, each with their own style like rap, rock, and much much more. Although listening to all these stations gives the player a lot freedom, you can still listen to your own custom soundtracks like in GTA: Double Pack for Xbox. Though with all the cool music and hilarious commentary, do you really need to? If all that wasn't enough, the game has some well-acted cut scenes with Hollywood voice talent like Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda, and James Woods, just to name a few. We can't forget the game is filled with realistic sound effects for each vehicle waiting to be taken.