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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Score: 98%
ESRB: Adult Only
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Third Person Shooter/ Action


Graphics & Sound:

Ah, the life of a gang-banger. Once again, itís time for a life of debauchery with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Make drug deals, steal things, recoup your health with prostitutes, shoot anybody and everybody... all with top notch graphics. Much like the other recent GTA titles, San Andreas features a third-person shooter format which allows you to run, drive, fly, or swim throughout the made-up state of San Andreas. Graphically speaking, almost all of the visuals are stunning. Things arenít perfect however, since I noticed some collision detection flaws. Also, voices donít always match up with moving mouths. However, the cut-scenes have a cinema quality to them, so thatís a big plus in my book.

There are some missions that feature your character in a first-person shooter format, which basically offers the same visual style of that in the third-person view. I only mention this to foreshadow the different modes of play (which Iíll get to in a little bit).

GTA: San Andreas also offers some big Hollywood names for the voiceovers. Actors like Samuel L. Jackson, James Woods, and Ice T give the game an added realism, as do many other voices. Other elements that keep things entertaining are all of the weapon sounds and explosions. All are pretty standard, but theyíre also a necessary component to the GTA series. But what would San Andreas be without the radio stations? Since the game takes place in the 90s, the music has a nice variety of all those classic songs from a decade ago. Songs from Ice Cube, NWA, and Public Enemy (to name a few) take you back to a day of old-school rap.


Gameplay:

If you havenít played a version of Grand Theft Auto before, San Andreas is as good a title as any to start with. Live a life as gang member Carl Johnson (CJ for short), trying to make things right back home for his friends and family. Meanwhile along the way, earn some extra cash and respect by doing things like killing people on the street and stealing cars. However, you donít just do that in the third-person shooter format. Some of your missions consist of different types of games like bouncing your low-rider to the beat of the music (ala PaRappa the Rapper), flying around a toy plane (Flight Simulator), or a FPS (The House of the Dead). Regardless, thereís plenty of replayability to the game because you can either go from mission to mission or just live a life of crime on your own.

San Andreas is almost like an RPG because you can upgrade your skills. Respect is a big one to work on, but you have plenty of different qualities to improve on as well. Skills like Driving, Weaponry, Muscle, and Stamina are just a few of the characteristics you can develop to help you out throughout the game. If you improve your Stamina at the gym, you can run fast for a farther distance (like when youíre running from the cops). Want to go take on some rival gang members? You can build up the respect of your homies and bring them along for the fight so itís not one-on-five. Also, donít eat too much fast food. Otherwise youíre liable to gain a few extra pounds and lose some of your Sex Appeal. These added qualities make your mission that much more unique, since CJ can have a completely different look and feel to him during your game compared to your buddyís game.


Difficulty:

There isnít any difficulty level that you can change in San Andreas. Things start off easy in the beginning just to get you acclimated to the game, and then take off from there. Some missions are a walk in the park while others may take you a few tries. The best advice I can give to cut down on the difficulty is to save often. Establish some safe houses throughout the map to make it easier to save your progress.

Rockstar also does a nice job of explaining how to do certain things during the game. You either have a brief explainer before you start a task or an information box appears in the upper left corner explaining what buttons to use for the coming situation. These two mini-tutorials keep things from becoming too confusing in the heat of the action.


Game Mechanics:

With everything GTA: San Andreas has to offer in terms of graphics, audio, and overall gameplay, the loading time is surprisingly good. The biggest one youíll deal with comes at the beginning of the game. After that, you only have a few seconds between cut-scenes and missions. The one notable thing that got to me with the controller configuration was the ability to do a drive-by to the left. Iíve got an original Xbox controller, which means the white and black buttons are directly above the Y and B buttons. But when youíre driving, the Y button is the one to exit the car. So any time I tried shooting to the left, I ended up jumping out of my ride. Despite that, everything else on the controller is tight.

Speaking of controllers, you have an option to have a friend join you in your debauchery. CJís girlfriend is someone who joins in the fight (although I admit I had no friends who were around to play her character). Therefore, Iím not sure how well the two-player combination works, but it is an option for you and a buddy.

Thereís no question that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a Mature (recentlly changed to Adult Only) game for its violence, language, and sexual behavior. However, for those of you who are ďof age,Ē I completely recommend getting your hands on a copy of GTA: San Andreas... just donít steal it.


-Red Dawg, GameVortex Communications
AKA Alex Redmann

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