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GTA: San Andreas

Score: 98%
ESRB: Adult Only
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Racing (Arcade)

Graphics & Sound:

Unless you have been hiking the mountains of Nepal for the past 8 years seeking enlightenmentÖyou probably heard of Grand Theft Auto. This immortal series started on the PlayStation, and was a far cry from todayís 3D-free roaming worlds. I happened to buy one of the copies back then, and it was a blast. The formula holds true for today, especially in the most recent outing, GTA: San Andreas.

Graphically, this is a perfect game to showcase the power of the PC. While similar to the console versions, the PC does boast some added details, basically totally eliminating some pop-up, ragged textures and whatnot. It is nice not having load times either. But as far as setting groundbreaking standards like Half-Life 2, this is not the case do to the huge size of the environments and NPCs milling about. The devs over at Rockstar strived to create a faux-California type area for this latest outing, and boy is it impressive. Details such as boardwalks (Santa Monica), and huge bridges (Golden Gate), as well as the urban slums and city sprawls, are all included here, as well as many lakes, villages and a tremendous amount of indoor areas, all of which are under a living weather/time pattern. They seemed to add more life to the streets this time around as well, and it helps match that gritty urban feel of this "ghettoized" version of GTA.

Sadly, the graphics arenít totally stellar. A lot of textures look angular thanks to lack of mapping support, clipping issues persist and no dynamic lighting whatsoever. The character models arenít the most impressive either, but the fluid animations more than make up for this. Itís just the polygons tend to mask the small details of faces, hands etc. Also, if your system ainít a beast, it will look shoddier than on the high-end systems. For instance, my rig (see specs at end of review) is pretty modest but still ran things well with a decent Radeon 9800 128MB. I still had my share of the problems mentioned before, but it was no big detractor.

Sound wise, GTA has always been really keen on including lots of awesome music via the radio station. In this title, they have included 8 CDs worth of music (which is available for sale separately) from numerous bands. The list includes BUT is far from limited to (parentheses are the radio channel); Public Enemy (Classic Hip-Hop), Hank Williams (Country), Kool and the Gang (Funk), Tom Petty (Classic Rock), 2 Pac (Modern Hip-Hop), Danzig (Alternative), En Vogue (Soul) James Brown (Rare Grooves, older stuff mostly) Dillinger (Reggae), Raze (House) and lastly an odd, humorous collection of talk radio programs hosted by Andy Dick and Axle Rose, to name a few. In all, this is a TON of music to cruise to -- 12 stations in all.

The voice work is also impeccable once again. GTA has been using some big time voice talent recently (Ray Liotta in Vice City) and this title is no different. James Woods, Peter Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson, and Ice T round out the amazing cast of San Andreas. Of course, stars are nothing without a nice script, and thankfully, this one is excellent. Lots of realistic patterns of speech that are contextually important to the story. A lot of funny quips come about too from CJ (the main character) and the surrounding populace, and it isnít just limited to the cut-scenes.

Sound effect wise, some pretty solid stuff here as well, from weapons effects to the ambiance of the landscapes. Hearing the throaty rev of a sports car, contrasted by the whine of a ninja bike really adds to the value.


With the advancements brought in Vice City, namely helicopters, motorcycles, purchase of real estate and a better storyline design to boot, how was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas going to top that? Well for starters, an entire state is up for exploration this time around, integrated together by several cities.

You take on the role of Carl "CJ" Johnson, who returns to his old stomping grounds of Los Santos after spending time in Liberty City after his mother passed away. At first, you spend most of your time in Los Santos, until the lengthy plot propels you to San Fierro, and Las Venturas, with a few odd country spots in between. The gameplay has returned as well, buffed out and modified this time, but still solid as ever. The mini-games are all here still, like the stunt ramps that score you mad points, as well as the rampages, taxi missions etc. Like Vice City, you can have your pick of vehicles to jack, from planes and motorbikes to helicopters and huge semi-trucks. This variety has always been extremely compelling, especially when each transport handles differently. Need to run a roadblock? Best grab some heavy tonnage. If that fails, try and sneak by on a sleek bike - just donít hit anything or it's Road Rash all over again. Combat adds several new movements such as crouching, strafing, stealth attacks (a la Splinter Cell) and a new evasive roll. And you can swim! All the old guns are back like the Uzis and shotguns, as well as some new additions. The game also employs a skill system (more on other RPG elements later) relative to each weapon. Over time, his lock-on range increases and he even gets a John Wu style dual wield technique. What else screams urban, gangsta warfare than brandishing two Mac-10s, one in each hand?

The meat of the game has always been the plot-advancing missions, and they really shine again. From insane chase after chase, over run-down concrete rivers, to stealth missions and beyond. All told, the missions are much more dynamic than previous games, and offer pure exhilaration not found in many titles out there. The environment is always a deadly element as well, especially now with the increased gang threat. Full on gang wars even erupt, forcing CJ to take a side and attack or defend in all out brawls. By controlling areas of turf, you are rewarded with some money, a nice little addition to the pride of laying the smack down. There are some A.I. issues though. A lot of times, your brothas in arms will dawdle about, ignoring cops completely and forcing CJ to carry the load (not unlike in Dynasty Warriors).

New to San Andreas are the increased RPG elements, in terms of watching your personal stats, exercising, dating, eating, etc. Itís almost like GTA meets The Sims. But thankfully, itís not as laborious as that latter title. Maintaining your physique is pretty easy, donít eat too much junk and work out. The dating is more complicated but still fun, aside from the constant cell phone calls. I wish you could put your own voicemail in thereÖ ďBaby, Iím busy killing some peeps, call me back, kisses CJ.Ē Course, no man can get da ladies if he looks like a bum, so ya gotsta get ur self macked out-G. (Ok no more, I swear). From numerous clothes, hairstyles and even tattoos, CJ can really be customized in many ways.

Overall, well over 60 hours of gameplay is to be had, if you consider the countless side missions and mini-games, not to mention the main story. It's some of the finest gameplay around on ANY system, and thankfully itís on everything now.


Gamers who have played the previous installments should have no problem hopping into this sucker. The controls, weapons, and vehicles are mirrors of the old title, and they are still rock solid. Newcomers will take a bit of time but overall, the console-imbued user friendliness really translates well on the PC. Overall, a very easy game to get into and play, and very forgiving.

Game Mechanics:

Although I have heard recommendations for using a gamepad, I really found the mouse-keyboard combo excellent, and almost better than the pad. You get that fine-tuned aim for combat, and driving doesnít suffer much either. People used to the console controls may have issues at first, but fret not, they grow on you eventually. The cameras are fully customizable on the fly, and cater to many preferences.

GTA: San Andreas, is a stellar addition to this classic series, sure to go down as one of the best franchises in video game history. With gigantic environments, infinitely dynamic gameplay and the best sound around, San Andreas exemplifies what is great about games. You are a "straight up foo" if you donít go out and spend some bling bling on this sucker-NOW!

Peace out.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:

System: 1GHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon or equivalent, RAM: 256 MB RAM, Video Memory: 64 MB VRAM, Hard Drive Space: 3600 MB, DVD-ROM: 8X DVD-ROM

Test System:

Windows XP, 1.83ghz AMD 2500+ 512 MB of RAM, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB

Windows Restricted Area Sony PlayStation 2 Arc the Lad: End of Darkness

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated