PlayStation 2 review
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Fri, 7 January 2005
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You are probably already playing this game. If you arenāt then you certainly should be. It took me a while to get to this one because I was busy with other games and stuff (yeah it is a tough life), but now I can safely report what anyone else who has played it will likely tell you; Grand Theft Auto- San Andreas is a phenomenally great game.
The game is set in the early ā90ās and goes for a more āgangsta hip-hopā style, instead of the mafia vibe of the previous two games in the series, and does it extremely well. If you ever listened to NWA records or watched a movie like Boyz N the Hood you will know exactly what to expect from this setting. You play as a character known as CJ (Carl Johnson) who returns to his home of Los Santos (the gameās version of LA) to attend the funeral of his mother. Trouble starts for CJ soon after he arrives and never lets up from then on. Initially everything mostly revolves around gang wars and corrupt cops, but thereās plenty more to it than that. The story is strong and the characters are full ofā¦ah, character. The plot keeps your interest up at all times with various twists and you always want to find out what will happen next. It has become somewhat clichĆ© to say this but in this case it is very true; a big part of the experience really is working through the game and letting the story unravel, so I wonāt give any more of it away here. I will say though that it is much richer and more complex than it may first appear to be.
San Andreas has the most varied gameplay of any GTA game so far. In fact, it probably has the most varied gameplay of ANY game so far. There is so much to do in this game that it is almost unbelievable. More importantly, pretty much everything that can be done is worth doing, because it is all rewarding and just plain fun. Thereās so much extra stuff do aside from the actual missions that you could play for days just mucking around with everything. You can change the way CJ looks, from his hair style and clothes to his physique. Whatās more it actually affects the way other game characters react towards him. You can walk into a bar and play a game of pool, which has accurate ball physics and is quite addictive in its own right. You can play some basketball, gamble at casinos, pick up hookers, have a crack at some old-school arcade games, bet on horse races and so much more. One of my favourite additions is the ability to swim. Not only does it mean that you know longer die as soon you touch water (which really used to piss me off in the old versions) but swimming provides the player with even more areas to explore.
The mission themselves are equally varied and there are often several different ways to get through them. Some of the things youāll be asked to do are: driving nearly every conceivable type of vehicle, stealth based thievery, action-packed shoot outs, arsonā¦ah, forget it! There are just too many things to mention. Iāll put it this way; every time you think you have done it all the game will give you something different.
Youāll never get bored playing through the missions, but you will likely get frustrated at times. Unless you are some kind of āsuper happy gaming god freakā, some of the tougher missions will have you attempting them several times before you succeed. The game gets pretty tough, but not in a bad way. The challenges are always fun and the difficulty just makes beating them all the more rewarding.
CJ has a variety of statistics that can be built up throughout the game. His respect metre increases as he completes missions, his fitness level can be improved by going to the gym, his ability with different types of weapons gets better the more he uses them, his sex appeal goes up by wearing cool clothes and driving nice cars and so on. All of these aspects make a noticeable difference, for instance the more fit you get the further you can run without getting tired. This is an excellent element to the game and helps ensure you become thoroughly absorbed (some might even say obsessed) with what is going on with CJ and his world.
GTA III was a big game. GTA: Vice City was a very big game. GTA: San Andreas is a freaking super-sized-woolly-mammoth-standing-on-top-of-Mt.Everest big game! There are three preposterously huge Cities included and all of the desserts, mountains and countryside between them. This would have to be the largest game world I have ever come across (so to speak). No matter where you go you will likely find something that can be done there, which is pretty amazing.
Iāve heard some people compare San Andreas to a role playing game and I completely agree with that analogy. With the amount of exploration involved and all the character stats you can build up this is GTA: RPG and I love it. Donāt stress though all you non-rpg people; you donāt have to slay any dragons or build up your magic levels here.
GTA: SAās mechanics are even better than those of Vice City. The aiming system has been improved making targeting much smoother. All the vehicles handle extremely well, with noticeable variation between them. You can now sprint, swim or cycle by tapping the X button as well. Considering the variety of the game, the control system does a remarkable job and always feels pretty natural
The gameās graphics are absolutely excellent considering (once again) how much there is to display and the amount of variation required. San Andreas is clearly pushing the PS2 very hard and as such you do get some slowdown here and there and a few other little glitches. However, those problems are easily overlooked because the majority of the game is beautiful. The buildings are excellently rendered as are the roads. All the different cars and other vehicles have a distinct and accurate look to them. The character animation has improved dramatically since the last game too. Various effects are implemented such as heat shimmer, motion blur (when you are going really fast obviously) and a really cool grainy effect when it is raining. The level of detail is quite extraordinary for a PlayStation 2 title (I donāt mean that to pick on the mighty PS2, it is just getting up in years, thatās all).
San Andreas features one of the best soundtracks going. There are a great many songs in the game (mostly from the 90ās period in which the game is set) by some very well known artists. While driving a vehicle you can listen to hip-hop, country, reggae, classic rock and more. Guns ān Roses, Dr.Dre, Willie Nelson and Soundgarden are just some of the many and varied acts you can expect to hear. The mock commercials and radio talk station are still included, all littered with Rockstarās dark sense of humour, they had me laughing out loud on a few occasions.
You could play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for months and months. I know that I fully intend to do just that. Thereās so much to it that almost anyone could find something about it that appeals to them. Obviously it shouldnāt be played by kids or those easily offended though; thereās a whole heap of swearing, violence, sexual content and racial stereo-types involved in the game. Otherwise, this really is one of the greatest games Iāve ever played and quite possibly the very best PlayStation 2 game ever made. I couldnāt imagine any gamer not digging this one and I simply canāt recommend it highly enough.
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