By Isaac Crisp
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the newest installment in the beloved GTA series from video game developer, Rockstar. This time around, the game takes its use of blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content and use of drugs, and wraps them all around an early 90’s West Coast “gangsta life” theme.
Over the years, the visuals of the GTA series have undergone some dramatic changes. GTA 1 and 2 offered a “bird’s eye view” of the action. While those were still fun to play, they never really offered much to look at. When GTA 3 was being developed, Rockstar decided to do away with the bird’s eye view and go with a view, which engrossed the player into the environment a bit better. They decided to put the angle of action directly behind the player’s main character. The surroundings were also completely re-done. The city (while still fictitious) would be based off of realistic city environment. This meant realistic artificial intelligence for everything. Things like traffic movement, roadways, stoplights, pedestrians, weather and city events all had to be tweaked and altered. This made the whole GTA series much more ambitious in terms of “eye candy” for the player. San Andreas continues that use of realistic urban and city environment but expands it even further, offering three cities for the player to drool over based on San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. All this aside, there are still small problem areas within the graphics, which any keen eye will surely pick up, such as different characters “blockish” looking hands. This is only due to lack of power put out by the Playstation 2. San Andreas is by far the best looking of the series, even with its minor flaws.
San Andreas is where it’s at in terms of game play. There is so much to do in this game, it’s insane. At the game’s core, it is still based around a variety of stylized missions to undertake, but at the same time, Rockstar thought of just about every little game play element it could to put in San Andreas to make game play possibilities between those missions endless. In this installment, the main character’s name is Carl Johnson or CJ. Carl can recruit gang members, go shopping for jewelry or “ice,” steal cars and then take them to a modification garage, grab a bite to eat from the local pizza shack, go to the gym to buff up, play some pool for cash at the bar, place a bet at the horse track, go clubbing, or even take his sweetheart on a date and if things don’t go so good, he can even pick up a prostitute (assuming his car is nice enough). Add all of this and more to that ability to play storyline missions and you’ve got one hell of a good time on your hands, lasting as long as you want it to. The neatest aspect about San Andreas is that Carl will actually change depending on some of the things done in the game. Eat too much? He will get a gut, affecting his ability to run fast and get away from the cops. Work out a lot? Carl will be a “beast.” True, these are simple elements but nonetheless, very cool to be able to do and see.
Sound is very well done in San Andreas. Every character within the storyline has a distinct style and voice. Samuel L. Jackson is among the voice talent. Realistic city sounds are all there with car horns, people talking and sometimes cursing, cars zooming past, etc. When driving a car, the radio can be turned on to songs by artists like Tupac, Dr. Dre, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boys II Men, Wrecks-N-Effects, Stone Temple Pilots and Faith No More, just to name a few.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. It does, in fact, earn every bit of the “Mature” rating slapped on the box. It is definitely not a game you’d want to buy for anyone under the age of 17, although that won’t stop most people from checking it out if they really want to. All said and done, San Andreas is a solid Playstation 2 title that any gamer looking for a good time should pick up.
GAME PLAY: 5/5
OVERALL PRESENTATION: 5/5