Review: Epic. What else can you say.
Let us get this simple point out of the way: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
has no redeeming social value and shouldn't be played by kids. Any kids. Ever. Now that I have that off of my chest I can also say that I have enjoyed playing GTA:SA
more than any game in recent memory. It is hard to sum up what exactly makes San Andreas
such a great game. You almost have to play the game yourself to determine what it is that you like about it. The best I can offer to you is to lay down as many of the things that stand out about the game as I can.
The Grand Theft Auto
series tackles oft overlooked subject matter with San Andreas
, inner-city gang life. Perhaps represented best in John Singleton's Boyz N The Hood
, the life is not glamorous. It is a daily struggle to get ahead and stay alive. Perhaps this is the making for tragic heroes; People that rise above the situation and improve world for the better. Then again, maybe it is just tragic.
Returning to the fictional Los Santos for his murdered mother's funeral, Carl Johnson finds himself in the middle of the drugs, corruption, and violence that he had tried to escape. It isn't more than a matter of minutes after he steps of the airplane that crooked cops frame him for the murder of one of their own, ensuring that CJ is snared in the web of street life. As Carl, you take up arms to protect your friends and family and to lay opposing gangs low, chasing from one end of the state to the other.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
incorporates a little bit of everything into its gameplay model. You've got some driving, some third-person action, some button mashing, and some rhythm gameplay all wrapped into one package. This variety ensures that San Andreas
has something for every gaming mood that you have. The focus is on the driving and third-person action and revolves around ganbanging in the early 1990s. The transition from the PS2's dual-analog controller isn't smooth as getting use to looking around with the mouse while driving is cumbersome. However, once you get the feel of the mouse camera it is second nature. The mouse & keyboard combination still doesn't feel quite as natural as a solid gamepad, though. If you don't have one you should check out Logitec's Dual Action Gamepad. It is a good, budget USB controller that recreates the PS2 Dual Shock for your PC. On the flip-side, targeting with the mouse is a lot more accurate than using the right thumbstick on a gamepad, allowing you to detonate random cars with gas tank shots with a lot more ease.
Carl's story is told through mission-based gameplay, and you can sink hours into the game without trying. However, if you only have a few minutes available and are looking for a quick gaming fix, GTA: San Andreas
has a slew of mini-missions that you can turn to. Many of these mini-missions and mini-games borrow from existing, successful, genres to expand the playability of the game. Homages to Crazy Taxi
, and Dance Dance Revolution
abound and, while they aren't the focus of the gameplay and might not live up to their inspiration, each one adds to the depth of San Andreas
. These mini-missions aren't just to waste-time either. Many of them provide you an extra way to pull in a few extra bucks. Of course, there is a bizarre satisfaction that you can get out of just popping caps in random car tires and gang members.
The Grand Theft Auto
series has become known for its topnotch soundtracks. San Andreas
lives up to that tradition with 11 unique radio stations that are torn straight from the dial...in 1993. Every station, from Alt-Rock to Country to Talk-Radio is packed full of witty banter and great tunes. Ok, so I don't find the country tunes to be that great but that is a genre flaw, not one of the developers. There are plenty of radio hits from all walks of listening and you can flip between stations on the fly. This is also where the PC iteration has a leg up on the PS2 version. San Andreas
on the PC allows you to create your own user track lists using the music that is stored on your PC. In this day and age of personal customization, user playlists are becoming a must.
Speaking of personal customization, your Carl can be whatever Carl you want him to be. Everything about San Andreas
' protagonist is customizable. There are tattoo parlors and barber shops around town to style your look, clothing houses to pimp your threads, and gymnasiums to stack your body. I'm not sure what it means, but I know three separate people that, upon walking into Carl's bedroom for the first time, stripped him down to his tighty-whities and sent him cruising around town.
You don't play a Grand Theft Auto
game for how it looks. Even with that in mind, the PC version of San Andreas
does outperform the PS2 counterpart. All around, the textures are tighter and provide a sharper look to the game. In general it is a step up. One of the biggest complaints that I had about the PS2 version was that the on-screen map was too difficult to read, between the low resolution on my TV and the size of the map all of the detail was garbled. On the PC version it was never an issue. If your video card can handle the workload you can also enable anti-aliasing to soften up the jaggies that abound in the game. Just be aware that your framerate will take a hit as a result and you really need a solid graphics card to take advantage of the feature.
Of course, any well informed game player, parent group, or Senator with nothing better to do knows all about the recent controversy that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
has been engulfed in. It seems that there is an extra mini-game hidden inside this gem of a game that expands on the dating end of the title. The "Hot Coffee" patch/mod that is available for download unlocks some hidden code within San Andreas
that allows you to engage in sexual intercourse with your girlfriend while you control your progress through a mini game. This mod is more novelty than anything and really adds nothing to this game. In fact, trying to get to the mini-game after you download the mod is more effort than the novelty is worth. Really, leaving this code in the game, even disabled as it is, has proved to be a huge mistake for Rockstar as it has earned the game a stricter Adults Only rating from the ESRB.