Rusty's San Andreas Review
In 2004 we saw the release of 3 major story driven games; Halo 2, Half Life 2, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. While Halo 2 disappointed in the story department, Half Life 2 and GTA had amazing stories that cannot, I stress, CANNOT, be missed by any gamer, quite possibly ever. GTA did not have my favorite story out of the 2, but I have recently went back and finally finished it.
The story in GTA is by far the best thing found in the game. Besides it being an incredibly fun game to play, having an amazing soundtrack and voice overs, I found most fun following the story, and I think I would have still enjoyed it more then those aspects if I was watching someone plow through the story. You play as Carl “CJ” Johnson, a man who escaped the troubles of street life by moving to Liberty City. He comes back 5 years later, because his mother has gotten killed. Once he arrives, he realizes his surroundings are more messed up then he thought of them to be. There are many twists in the story that will make you want to come back and play more.
Mission structure also helps with the story. You will never (almost never) find yourself doing things twice. Mission's range from high speed Go-Kart chases, to bank heists.
There are 3 main cities in San Andreas; Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas which represent Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas, respectively. They faithfully recreate whichever city they represent. You will see the all the major landmarks found in each of the cities, such as the Las Vegas Strip, which is represented as the Las Venturas Strip. All the cities will also have the districts found in their real life counterparts. You start the game in Ganton, which represents Compton in Los Angeles.
The music in the game is superb. Like in the past GTA games, there are radio stations that you listen to in a vehicle. The radios range from rock of the early 90's rock and soul, to reggae and house. Whilst San Andreas' soundtrack isn't the best out of the previous titles, it definitely has a good one.
GTA's voice overs are probably the best part about the audio. Many stars like Samuel L. Jackson, David Cross, Ice T, and Axl Rose being a DJ of the classic rock station make an appearance. It is really well written, and preformed even better.
Gameplay in San Andreas is the same you'd expect from any GTA game. You run around, do missions, and when you're bored, you probably set yourself weird tasks like plowing through pedestrians, or using that really awesome bunny hop cheat that makes CJ go like 100 feet in the air on a bicycle. There have been a few things added to this formula, like RPG-esque stat building. You can work out at the different gyms in the game (although they are all the same) and build up your stamina by running on the treadmill or riding the stationary bike, and building up your muscle from the weights.
By having higher stamina you can sprint farther, pedal longer on the bicycle, and swim at higher speeds longer.
This time around, you can create custom outfits for your characters, unlike in the past games, where you had a preset outfit. “Pimping” out your car also makes an appearance in the game. You can drive to the Trans-Fender and you can choose what color you want on it, or what paint job you want done. You can put hydraulics on it, different wheels, and stuff alike. Be careful not to flip your car over though, the spontaneous combustion of flipped cars makes a return.
Speaking of vehicles, there is a plethora of them in this game. There are nearly 200 vehicles, which is a big jump compared to Grand Theft Auto's approximated 85. They range from sports cars, to combine harvesters, to jet planes, to bicycles.
Graphics in the Grand Theft Auto series have never been one of the series best features, and this game shows it. With games like Half Life 2 that came out in the same year, this game just looks like ass. The animations in the cinematic's look pretty spectacular, since they were motion captured, but the animations inside the actual game don't stand up so great. All the pedestrians walk the same way, only some of them differently.
I am running a low mid-ranged system in today's terms, and I was getting a good 35 – 40 frames per second.
In conclusion, I think that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an amazing achievement in storytelling and gameplay, but could've used more polish in the graphics. I definitely consider this one of my favorite games of 2004.