Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

GrandTheftAutoSanAndreasGrand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) has something for everyone. Violent crime still represents the main focus and the graphics aren’t the best, but there are many enhanced, role-playing elements that deepen the player’s involvement.

Set in 1992, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has three large metro areas (Los Santos, Las Venturas and San Fierro) containing just about every rural (hitchhikers, tractors) and urban (gangs, graffiti tags, gambling) scenario imaginable.

The main story line centers on Carl Johnson (a.k.a. CJ), voiced by rapper Young Malay, who comes home to bury his mom and seek revenge on the perpetrators. Samuel L. Jackson, James Woods, Chris Penn, Ice-T and Peter Fonda also lend their voice talents to the game.

The game gives many tips and hints along your journey. You can even check the brief menu if you miss any information.

There’s still a lot of clipping/blocking issues and some other unrealistic elements (e.g. motorcycle knocking down a large street lamp), but the endless choice of activity and adventure overshadows these glitches.

Some glitches work toward your advantage. For example, my car was on fire after a drive-by, then I pulled into the spray paint shop which quickly doused the blaze before it blew up.

Remember how Tony died when you went in water? This time your character can swim, dive underwater and hold his breath. The only problem is CJ looks like a boat when he moves in the water instead of a person.

You also get some great new weapons like bomb packs set off by remote, which are great unless you run out, then you won’t be able to set them off with your remote. As your weapon skills grow, your proficiency will surprise you (e.g. you can handle an automatic gun in each hand).

Controls will lock on biggest threat in front of you instead of cycling through every threat, including the dead ones.

You can also gamble plus buy property, food, clothes and tattoos. You can also get your haircut; climb obstructions; work out at the gym; take some memorable pictures with your camera; get helpful advice on your cell phone and/or reply to comments negatively or positively. You can even use a camera to take pictures of your exploits and save them on a memory card.

In later missions, you’re allowed to upgrade your car with bumpers, hydraulics and other items.

The two player mini-games, marked by a two-skull icon, work well without splitting the screen, but there’s a distance limit so don’t stray too far from your partner.

DJs spin songs from eleven radio stations; talk about the weather and gave players useful tips. The women are still objectified but now give feedback on fashion and compel the male characters to do something more with their lives.

This game satisfies experienced gamers with challenging missions and advancement opportunities while newcomers can enjoy stress-free roaming opportunities with lots of hidden items, Easter eggs, mini-games, unlockables and surprises. A highly satisfying game (***1/2) with a colossal scope that will keep any player busy for a long time. Originally available on PlayStation 2, PC, and Xbox.

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