For the past two years the guys over at Rockstar have released two amazing games - Grand Theft Auto III, and Grand Theft Auto Vice City. Both games truly pioneered the trend of open-ended games, which has since started a chain reaction throughout the gaming world. Now Rockstar is back again for the third straight year with their latest addition to the GTA series in GTA: San Andreas! Is this game keeping on the GTA legacy? Read our review to find out!
Last year when Vice City was released for the PlayStation 2 I was utterly amazed. I remember sitting here one year ago writing the review for the game, having trouble finding anything wrong with it at all, which is why I gave it the perfect ten out of ten rating. Now a year later, Rockstar is back, with a game that is not only better then Vice City, it’s actually quite a few steps ahead of Vice City.
What’s funny about Rockstar is they never seem to overwhelm the public with information on their titles. They instead seem to show fans little tidbits about their games, until finally the game is released, but there never was an overwhelming amount of details given about the game. What most of us did know is the game is set within three cities, which are just enormous. I can’t express in words to do the game justice how large and well drawn out these cities are. The cities are set to resemble a Southern California, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. All of the cities do an amazing job of resembling the cities in which they try and recreate.
In GTA: San Andreas you now take the role of Carl Johnson a former Los Santos resident who has returned from his five years in Liberty City (found in GTA III). C.J, as they call him in the game, returns home after hearing of his mother’s murder, to find his old gang in bad shape. To make matters worse right when C.J gets home he is framed for murdering a cop and from thereon the story takes its different twists and turns. The story is told in the same sort of fashion as before; you do missions, and the games storyline progresses. C.J is very much a stereotypical gang member type of a character and the language in the game goes hand in hand with that. Never in the game have I seen the "f bomb" been thrown out as consistently as it is in GTA: San Andreas. So before I go any further this is by far a Mature rated game and for good reason, it is much worse in both the sexual, and the language part of the game then it has ever been.
One of the newest features of the game involves C.J and his fitness levels. Throughout C.J’s roll through San Andreas you will have to keep the guy in shape by visiting gyms, making him eat food, hair cuts, tattoo parlors, and things of that nature. You know when I first started doing these little side missions/mini-games I was kind of hesitant at first, but the more I played the more I realized that doing these sort of tasks make you even more close to your character then in any other GTA game.
Another new addition to GTA: San Andreas is the addition of the BMX Bike. This addition was one I was skeptical one, but once again Rockstar proved me wrong by incorporating it in a very stylish and distinct fashion. By tapping the X button you will have C.J go take the bike in a sprint, which will last as long as his stamina bar lasts.
One of the most welcome upgrades in GTA: San Andreas is the car handling which is much more responsive then ever before. Now the controls feel more like a normal driving game where the controls instead of before having the tendency to work against you, now has much more solid controls. Along with that comes better hand-to-hand combat, which is a little deeper this year, and a more distinct gun system as well. Rockstar this year really took all of there ideas of Vice City and perfected them.
Now for those of you who don’t want to run through the games extremely long storyline, the game is still an amazing one just to be destructive in. You can still do all of the things that you could ever want, hold up people, go on a destructive rampage, and the game is still as open ended as ever. To be quite honest, I am still breath taken with how impressive GTA: San Andreas really is. Although we didn’t hear much of the game before it was released, come the end of the year you’re going to be hearing a lot of "game of the year" titles rolling around this one, it is really just that good.
If you have ever heard someone complain about the GTA series on the PlayStation 2 it’s normally got something to do with the visuals. Grand Theft Auto III really was the game that set the standards for the series on the PS2, and then Vice City did an impressive job of improving upon it. And once again San Andreas does a great job of improving upon Vice City, but to be quite honest the game is also really showing the age of the PS2.
In GTA: San Andreas we have a game that takes Vice City and improves it in every aspect it can. I think the main area of focus was the character models, which you now can see progress over time. Although it’s nowhere near the age progression system in Fable, the game allows you to see where all of your hard work in the gym has paid off. Also the huge selection of clothes, hairstyles, and tattoos are all welcome additions to the visual system. The environments of GTA: San Andreas have also been upgraded quite a bit with plenty of detail to encompass the huge three cities that the game has in its arsenal.
What I find more amazing then anything is the mere fact the game has so much going on all over the screen and yet the game never really experiences much slowdown at all. Where some games have so little going on and there is slow down, GTA: San Andreas has so much and doesn’t experience a whole lot. This provides for some great destructive scenes where the game is just at its top, providing some great destructive animation.
Overall GTA: San Andreas may not be the most beautiful game in the world, but it does do everything it can working with the aging PS2. The game is still a few steps ahead of where Vice City was which means it is still a really impressive looking game.
The thing about all GTA titles is that it’s really hard not to have fun with these games. They are so open ended and s open to do whatever it is you want to do, that it is quite hard not to find things to enjoy in the game. The story line in the game does have a lot of interesting twists and turns that will provide fans of the series a really enjoyable gaming experience. Not to mention all of the different side missions that you can perform throughout the game, will just add onto all of the good stuff in the game. For the most part if you enjoyed the previous GTA titles then you will certainly enjoy GTA: San Andreas.
For any fan of the Grand Theft Auto series wondering whether or not if they should purchase San Andreas, the answer is absolutely yes. This is a game that really brings fans a whole new world to destroy and devour. The game has so many amazing features, and so many thing that you won’t even experience until you have gotten to the later environments that the length of this game is honestly endless. Anyone who even remotely enjoys the Grand Theft Auto series should go out and get this game, its just that good.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.