Review: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

October 15, 2006

Welcome to the jungle
Rockstar North / Playstation 2, Xbox, PC / Mature

When Rockstar first announced San Andreas earlier this year, they promised their most ambitious game yet with hundreds of hours of gameplay and, as improbable as it sounds, they delivered in grand style.

SA is the 6th Grand Theft Auto (GTA) game and the 3rd in a trilogy on the Playstation 2. The series is no stranger to controversy and SA is no different. With violence, drug references, and swearing this certainly isn’t for kids or for those who dislike such inappropriateness.

Gamers play Carl Johnson (C.J.) who returns home to Los Santos (Los Angeles) from Liberty City to find his mother dead and his gang, the Grove Street Families, in disarray. He then embarks upon a quest to avenge his mother which takes him through all of San Andreas where he meets many people both new and familiar. Controls will be familiar to anyone who has played the last two games in the series.

The main theme is not so much better but bigger and this is where the game shines: the game world is huge. It contains the entire fictional state of San Andreas with three major cities and large rural areas in between the cities for a game area that totals about six times that of Vice City and takes nearly twenty minutes of play to drive across.

To get across this area Rockstar has added an amazing amount of vehicles with planes, trains, cars, motorcycles, helicopters, boats, 18-wheelers, dune buggies, and even a combine harvester and more. Also well varied are the weapons, which now include sawn off shotguns, silenced pistols, knives, and one unusual weapon that can be found in the police stations.

The customization options that let the player create unique cars and change C.J. with new clothing, hairstyles, and RPG style stats for fitness, skills, and the ever-important respect. With fitness C.J. must now eat every so often. If he doesn’t, he loses muscle mass and if he eats too much he gets fatter and slower, but don’t train too hard because a muscle bound C.J. is no good either. These changes are visible and fun as they create a uniquely customized character for gamer.

Other new changes are C.J.’s ability to swim where Tommy Vercetti, main character of the last game, couldn’t. Also the three cities reflect the style of a real city: Los Santos as L.A. with a Hollywood sign and aqueducts for Grease style street racing, San Fierro as San Francisco complete with sloping streets the Golden Gate Bridge and base-jumping off the Big Pointy Building (Transamerica Pyramid), The third is Las Venturas as Las Vegas with a Vegas strip containing the Visage (Mirage), Caligula’s Palace (Caesar’s palace), and many other famous casinos.

The game is accented by real music from Guns n’ Roses to Snoop Dog, an engrossing story, and great voice acting, featuring Samuel L Jackson, Ice-T, Peter Fonda, Charlie Murphy, and more.

The game has occasionally uneven pacing but this does not diminish the fun. Overall, San Andreas is Rockstar’s masterpiece and a tough performance to top for GTA 4. This is by far this year’s must have PS2 game.

10/10
By Zack Rovinsky

San Andreas

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