Thursday, October 17, 2013

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Playstation 2, 2004)

With GTA5 hot off the presses, I figured this would be a good time to finally get around to San Andreas. This is the next game in the venerable series for me, as I played GTA3 and Vice City previously. San Andreas has a whirlwind of hype surrounding it, and I'm not sure if it can measure up.

Come on in. Punch and pie.

The game begins with stylish opening credits while an instrumental hip-hop beat plays.

It's ridiculously hip, and already this game has a different feel than the Scarface-and-Miami Vice spoofing Vice City.

As is tradition, the loading screens show us some of the various personalities. This game takes place in California, circa 1991 or so. The main town is Los Santos, but it's unmistakably Los Angeles.

The game is brimming with the attitude of the early 90's LA, as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube frequently blare from the ingame radio.

It's funny to me that we have yet to have a GTA game with a female protagonist. Are women regarded as not up to the task of being criminals by our media? Because that'd be a mistake.

The game begins with our hero, CJ, getting beaten up by the LAPD. At first I figured this was a race-motivated event, but...

...this might be the most multicultural trio of cops ever. I don't even think any of them are white, and the main cop is black. So they're just beating up CJ because they don't like him.

To quote Dave Chappelle, "Uh oh! Black guy on the loose!"

Seems that CJ used to be a gang member before he moved to New York... er... Liberty City for five years. The cops are going to be watching him. ...though not too closely, I guess, given the orgy of crime that he's about to get away with.

And yeah, the entire game is very yellow/orange, just like the real LA.

The cops leave CJ in an alleyway, and he has to bike home. Weird choice to start this game off with you bicycling around, but it sets it apart from the others.

One of the reasons this game gets so much hype? The huge world. While it starts in LA, it encompasses not one, but three cities. North is Las Venturas (Las Vegas) and west is San Fierro (San Francisco).

Here we see the huge foldout map that is included with the game (if you're lucky). This helps a LOT in getting from one area to another. From what I've seen so far of Los Santos - which is very downscaled compared to GTA5 - the cities themselves are smaller than the cities of the other GTA games. However, the fact that there are three of them (with large swaths of land in-between) means that this game may well have the biggest overworld of any GTA. It's like a Bethesda game in scope.

This game also comes with one of the greatest instruction booklets I've ever seen. Much like the Earthbound player's guide back in the day, it really fills in the blanks of this world. It contains ads for various locales in the game, and it's brimming with comedy gold.

Also: Playlists for the radio stations. Perhaps the most fun thing to do in these games is drive around listening to the radio. The amount of audio in this game is staggering. Lots of stations, and each one has a playlist consisting of a multitude of songs from the 80's and early 90's. Not sure if any other GTA games top this one in soundtrack quantity.

The people of Los Santos love their guns. It's just like the real America! USA! USA!

Funny how these two ads are placed next to each other. Misogyny runs rampant in the land of Grand Theft Auto.

The ingame map fills in as you explore. As you can see, I've barely scratched the surface. Looking forward to finding out what kinds of wonders lurk out in the wilderness. Mainly because this is the first game in the series to even -have- a wilderness.

Back at CJ's pad, we see a save point... and it's a floppy disk! Hell yeah, this is so early 90's. Save your game, CJ, because it's time for some missions.

But first... this is new. You have a range of stats in this game. Aside from Stamina, they aren't your garden-variety stats. Sex Appeal is particularly curious. Wonder what effect it has on the game.

I suspect that Muscle and Fat change your appearance. If so, the character customization in this game could get very interesting.

The missions begin. Here's some of CJ's crew. The guy on the right is Big Smoke, because in the 'hood all beefy guys have the prefix of "Big" while everyone else has either "Young" or "Lil".

The crew is dressed in green because that's their gang color... despite his lack of green, CJ seems to be rejoining them already. Huh.

Time for a moonlit night cruise in the wrong lane. A lot of the vehicles in this game have weird planks of wood laying on top of them for some reason. Not sure why, and it uggs things up a bit.

CJ has a choice of several hair and facial hair styles at the barber. So THIS is where World of Warcraft got that idea! It works exactly the same way here, in any case.

Our hero stops at Los Pollos Hermanos to get some food. It appears that CJ needs to eat or else his energy will ebb. However, eat too much, and CJ gains weight. Between this and the stats, it seems like they were going for as much realism as possible. The only other game I've played where you need to eat and drink to keep your energy up is Fallout: New Vegas. In that game it's a bit more streamlined, as you can find food as you go rather than needing to take detours to get it.

While CJ enjoys the Colonel's special Meth Wings, his friends get tired of waiting in the car and decide to rob the place. What the hell?

While Los Pollos Hermanos is a family-friendly establishment, they don't take kindly to being ripped off.

"Twelve gauge, bitch!" says the cashier as he whips out a shotgun and opens fire, sending our heroes running for their lives.

Meanwhile, down the street, CJ repeatedly kicks a hit-and-run victim in the crotch. I included this footage for the benefit of people who think video games have destroyed society.

One of the early missions involves CJ - rambunctious scamp that he is - running around spray-painting his gang's signature all over the place.

Here I thought CJ would be reformed and benevolent for the most part in this game, but it looks like instead you're playing the role of gang member (and later gang kingpin, if the other games are anything to go by).

I take a moment to spray-paint passing bicyclists in the face. However, the game didn't account for this level of depravity, and nothing happens.

Here we see a depiction of an apocalyptically hot woman. There's such a thing as "too hot", and I believe we've found it.

Los Pollos Hermanos has competition, in the form of Cluckin' Bell. They aren't armed with shotguns, but the employees of this fine establishment ARE armed with funny quips like "the food here is made of 100% chicken ass!"

No, seriously, the guy said that. This game... it's something else already.

Armed with baseball bats, CJ and friends cross the railroad tracks to beat people up.

I wish this game had difficulty levels like 50 Cent: Bulletproof. I'd play it on Gangsta, because CJ is a gang-bangin' hooligan who isn't afraid to cap homies when they be trippin'.

CJ and homies storm the crack den, assaulting people left and right with their bats. NOT IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, JESSE PINKMAN!

Passing a mission sounds like it's a kidney stone or something. In any case, completing a mission nets you points to your Respect stat... but oddly enough, no money. Considering that the vast majority of my money in past GTA games was earned from completed missions, this doesn't bode well for my play-style. Does this mean you only earn money in this game from doing side-jobs and whatnot? ...actually, that'd fit in perfectly with the realism aspect. Not sure if I'm crazy about getting zero funds from the normal flow of the story, though.

I'll need to look into this next time I play, because running out of money over and over isn't fun, nor is having a couple hundred max at any given time. I'm guessing you can find a job and do that to boost your funds. Who wants to have a job in a game, though? Unless it's something fun within the context of the game, like launching papers at houses.

As with all GTA games, it can rain in this one - and it does, frequently. It's a nice break from all of the yellow and orange.

CJ and his homies roll through the drive-through of the Cluckin' Bell. Time to get some grub.

Speaking of homies... this game is so self-aware that I wouldn't be surprised if Homies Sharps are actually an item in the game.

Hey, I recognize that building. Pretty sure it gets knocked down in the original War of the Worlds movie.

Here's downtown Los Santos itself. This is the best view I could get of the skyline, and it's abysmal. The draw distance in this game is awful, especially when compared to GTA5's renditions of the same skyline.

Basically, you can't see the towers of Los Santos from a distance, and if you get close enough for them to fade in, you're too close to get a particularly good vista of them.

There's Not-Hollywood in the distance. Well, at least the draw distance is working well here.

So far, I get the feeling that this game is insanely deep and that there are all kinds of places to discover and things to do. However, for the most part, I'm finding a whole lot of empty space. Almost no interior areas, either.

In Los Santos, the XXX shop is open 24 hours!

Wow. Here in Boston, we can't even get our pizzerias to stay open for 24 hours.

CJ returns to the 'hood in a battered car. The missions have been difficult and redundant so far, which is why I haven't gotten too many shots of them. However, the core gameplay is still awesome, and jumping from one stolen car to another is timeless fun.

Our hero takes a moment to stop and toot his bicycle horn at passing ladies in plaid red microskirts.

Plaid red microskirts? Hot.

One time I bought my girlfriend a plaid red microskirt. She put it on, and we didn't stop having sex until like eight hours later.

Also fun? Driving incredibly poorly. Here we see an intersection in ruins thanks to my terrible driving. That said, the driving controls are really good in this game. Better than most racing games. They seem to be improved over Vice City, even. I hear they got worse for IV, then better again for V. We'll see whenever I play those.

CJ and his homies take some time out of their busy schedule of drive-bys (and stick-ups, public property defacing, and crackhead beat-downs) to shoot some bottles in an alleyway. This is the game teaching you about combat. Unfortunately, like all GTA games (up to this point, anyway, not sure about the later games) the combat controls are really bad. You constantly auto-target random bystanders when trying to aim at the person who is currently riddling you full of bullets with impunity.

CJ heads over to the clothing shop. Time to suit up in some new duds.

CJ emerges from the clothing store decked out in green. Finally, he's reppin' Grove Street.

He's also sporting the world's biggest cell phone. 1991 up in here!

That concludes my look at Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Seems like a good game, but it does seem a little bit overrated. As of right now, I think I prefer Vice City by a substantial margin.


  1. The hood looks almost exactly the same in GTA5.

  2. Dated graphics, but San Andreas is the best game in the series; keep at it.

  3. Thanks for the snapshot. I heard someone stopped playing this game because it was too much like his real life. In terms of dead space, not his occupation, that is.

  4. There definitely seems to be a lot of dead space in this game. I got to around halfway through (the point where the game really opens up) and I just can't seem to get into it at all.

  5. You're trying way too hard with this shit review....just stop...

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