Shows that the series keeps improving.
It took me a while to play San Andreas. After going through GTAIII and Vice City in a relatively short period of time, I felt sort of burned out from Grand Theft Auto so I skipped San Andreas when it was released in late 2004. Recently however I decided that the time was right to plunge myself again, and here I am, being very impressed by the latest installment of this extremely popular series.
In San Andreas you play the role of Carl Johnson, a man raised in the hood with his family of two brothers, a sister and his mother. Obviously, the ghetto is a harsh place so as he grows older he gets implicated in some violent situations which eventually gets his brother Brian killed. Feeling guilty for the death of his brother he moved to Liberty City to escape his memories of San Andreas. Five years later, he receives a call from his remaining brother Sean telling him that their mom has just been killed which causes Carl to go back to San Andreas and that's when the game begins.
The story in San Andreas is by far the most involved and most developed of all the GTA stories. Now I would have still liked it to be developed a bit more, but this is GTA we're talking about, I don't think their goal is to reach RPG or Adventure game status in storytelling. But there would be potential for something deeper still.
The game plays like every 3D GTA to date, so if you've played one of those you'll feel right at home in San Andreas. But there does seem to be a slight downgrade in the gameplay, namely that it does seem to be harder to aim this time around, often you'll press the aiming button and instead of aiming at the enemy Carl will aim at some bystander or something, I don't remember that happening in past games. Also, it could be said that the gameplay is getting slightly stale but then people are still playing RPG's today that play pretty much the same as they did 10 years ago so maybe that isn't so much of a problem.
The graphics are capable, and considering how huge the environments are you can't really fault them for not being detailed enough. But if a game ever screamed for next-gen, this is it. The character models are so UGLY, it's crazy! And GTA is a really sexualized game, there are a lot of prostitutes and girlfriends and whatnot running around, the game really flaunts the girl in the game and still they look like total crap. How am I supposed to want to date a girl in the game when their hands are shaped like spatulas and they don’t have lips or something? Sometimes the character models look straight out of the PS1 era, they're that bad. Now I understand that they had to do it because you can't have a huge world like that with detailed character models, but here's hoping that GTA IV on the 360/PS3 will look much better in that department.
Sound wise, there's nothing to say, it's just perfect. There's a good choice of musical stations as always, on the xbox you can select your custom soundtracks, and the voice acting is top notch. What else can you ask for, cake?
Value is also excellent. After all, I’m guessing it could take around 60-70 hours to get 100% everywhere; it took me about 40 hours to finish the game with 65%. It's a great value, especially now that the game is cheap.
Finally, I thought San Andreas to be a great game, easily the best in the series, but it was also a sign that it is now time to head for the next generation consoles.