Review by Ofisil

"Freeeeeedom!!! (Third time's a charm?)"

Grand Theft Auto is an Action\Adventure game developed by Rockstar North. At first I didn't welcome the game with great expectations. I knew that it would be good but I also knew that it would be exactly like Vice City just with a few minor additions, like Vice City compared to GTA3. Was I right? To an extent yes. The game was still a typical GTA without any real innovations. However it's quite a good game far better than GTA3 or VC even without anything really new… the problem is that the flaws of past games are still here and some of them are even worse.

Story: 6.4/10
Presentation: 6.8/10

We follow the adventures of African-American Carl “CJ” Johnson, who returns to the ghetto he's calling home only to find that things are completely messed up with crime, poverty and gang wars getting worse with each passing day and besides that on his way back he is bullied by some police officers who take his money and force him to become their errand boy. CJ will have to struggle to survive and protect his hood and family from enemy gang members. The plot of San Andreas can be good, bad and unremarkable at the same time. The overall presentation of the game is much better than GTA3 & Vice City, with a main character that you can actually sympathize and bad guys that you will actually hate. The dialogues are well written and the characters that you'll meet are quite interesting and funny. Speaking of funny a thing you must understand about the GTA series, (at least so far), is that you don't really have to take them seriously. There are some parts that are really emotional but most of it is just plain fun, with secret agents that are a parody of X-Files, a guy that gets naughty with everything possible, crazy women and so on. The game connects Vice City with GTA3 since the whole thing takes place between them, so you'll meet some characters of these games. One of the bad things about the plot is that it takes a backseat after the initial missions, especially after the end of the first city. Also most missions don't even have to do anything with the main plot and once again force you to become nothing more than an errand boy, which is a shame because the main plot is well presented when it DOES move on.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Replay Value: 7.5/10

For those new to the franchise, what you do in this game is basically stealing cars, roaming the city in search for fun and completing various missions. GTA is very open ended. You go where you want, when you want and you do what you want when you want. For the GTA veterans: The game doesn't really offers something groundbreaking to the series… like Vice City was a tad better than GTA3, GTA:SA is just a tad better than Vice City. Now lets get into more detail.

Route 66:
One thing that you'll soon realize is that the world is much, much bigger than any other GTA game. I'm sure it's two times larger than GTA3 and VC combined!!! There 8 large separate regions in this game. We've got San Andreas, which is basically Los Angeles, San Fierro, (San Francisco), Las Venturas, (Las Vegas), Bone County, (Nevada), and Tierra Robada, Red County, Flint County and Whetstone all resembling the open plains, deserts and mountain regions of the USA. So we have a veeeeeery large world to explore… however we have 2 problems. First of all while making all these long travels from region to region is part of the fun in this game its also a think that will bore you to death or annoy you when a mission is boring or when you get yourself killed and have to go all the way back to the starting pint of the mission, then travel to the other side of the map to kill a guy and lose again because a police officer has gone bonkers and threw you out of a cliff! Finally while the world is very large… its emty!!! Yap, you've heard that right, empty. Apart from the three main cities of San Andreas the rest of the world is a big empty field of cliffs, rivers, trees and so on, with little to do over there apart from collecting some secret stuff, (which are way more abundant in the urban areas).

Missions:
One thing in GTA that has varied quality is the Missions, main or not. There are a lot of them, but while some are very good, others are average and some are simply bad for more than one reason. We've got the boring kind: Missions that are “Drive to point A and then to point B”, we've got great missions where you have to infiltrate an army base, or shoot enemies in a well designed “rail-road” missions where someone else drives and you shoot, and we have the simply bad and annoying ones, like driving a very large vehicle through the countryside, a vehicle that is veeery easy to lose control off. Races where the car that you have to drive wasn't even made for the area you'll have to race, boring robbing missions and so on. What's new in the game? We have many new mini-missions like the one where you enter a house as a burglar, which is very easy and unrewarding, pimping, (which is very similar to the typical taxi missions), we have dating missions, which are possibly the most boring missions in the game and finally we have a LOT of secret items to find. The most important side-mission is Gang Wars. After some missions the map will be divided in differently colored regions. These regions are enemy gang missions and in order to make them yours, (thus expanding your hoods' power and money income), you just have to fight with enemy gang members, but these missions tend to get too boring way too soon since they are pretty much the same all 40+ of them! A small RPG aspect of the game is that you can get stronger, more accurate with guns, run and swim faster, raise skill with driving vehicles and so on. Most stats are pretty useless but some are good, like the gun skills that make you better with weapons.

Final word:
The controls are once again great with the only difference that when on foot you have to aim first and then shoot, when in GTA3 and VC you would just point the crosshair at something and shoot. This maybe a tad annoying at first but it makes it more realistic and forces you to play a bit smarter. A thing that cripples my nerves though is when you have to fly. I absolutely HATE the air controls… they aren't broken, but they are extremely unnatural at least for me. In fact one thing that keeps me from replaying the game is the fact that flying missions take almost 1/4 of the game! GTA:SA has a slightly problematic AI. You'll see people doing all sorts of crazy stuff, some just funny and some plain annoying. Sometimes when you “touch” another car with your car the other guy will go bonkers and start driving like crazy, or sometimes when HE bumps at you he will try to kill you as if this was your fault. The NPCs that you will “hire” as mercenaries are even worse, either ignoring your commands or just being plain dumb! Generally the game while fun, doesn't reinvent the wheel and actually have some very boring and annoying missions that lower the replay value a lot, so buy only if you've found the previous games enjoying.

Graphics: 9/10
Design: 9.5/10

Technically GTA: SA offers little improvement since it's still a PS2 title, (despite this review being about the PC version), however it looks surprisingly better! First of all the city is much larger than the one in Vice City, much more detailed and with more variety than any other GTA game I've played so far. The game world is probably my favorite thing in GTA:SA when it comes to looks because its quite vast with many regions all distinct from one another. We've got LA-like ghettos, suburbs and downtowns, full of graffiti, half broken homes, mansions in the hills and so on. We've got a San Francisco-like city, a Casino Town, (beautiful at night), and the open plains, deserts and mountain regions that will make you feel you are actually out in the wilds in USA. Also since a lot of the action takes place in the air, you'll get to see the world from above and fly over the clouds! Moreover we have a nice variety in cars and pedestrians, which have better animation than before and have a good variety… way to many hookers though :) A great aspect of the game is that you can customize the look of your character, with dozens of different clothes, haircuts and tattoos available, not to mention that he can get fat, thin or buffed! The game is also full of great effects like a blur when you drive at full speed, better fire\smoke, weather effects, day\night cycle and so on, all contributing into making GTA:SA the best looking GTA game so far.

Sound: 10/10
Music: 8.5/10

Its hard to believe it but the sound quality of SA is 10 times better than the already perfect sound quality of past GTA games. Apart from some weapons that sound like BB guns everything else is wonderful, with over 4000 lines of dialogue ranging from the well written & voiced cutscene conversations to the hundreds of sounds that the pedestrians make and many, many more. The famous radio feature of past GTA games is still here of course but was bit of a disappointment. When we talk about music its all about taste but while I didn't like all music tunes in GTA3 and VC I liked the diversity and choice of songs. San Andreas lacks in the variety section with too many rap stations, a very weak rock station, boring country\reggae\dance stations and a chat station that isn't as funny as the hilarious Chatbox in GTA3. Of course all this is just nitpicking since nothing is actually bad, just not as good as GTA3 and VC, furthermore you can still use your own MP3s!

[+]:
-Better plot than the previous GTA games
-Great open-ended, fast paced action
-Many missions, side quests and mini games
-A VERY large game world
-Great graphics & perfect sound effects quality

[-]:
-The plot takes a backseat throughout the game
-Very bad air controls
-The world is large but a bit empty…
-A bit problematic AI
-Radio stations aren't so good as before. Too much Rap!

Also Play:
Grand Theft Auto 4, (PC, PS3, X360)
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP)

Overall: 8.3/10

GTA:SA isn't perfect… far from it. Those willing to buy it, bear in mind that it doesn't really do anything new, the additions are only a few, (and not very entertaining), and many missions are so bad that will annoy you to the point of stop playing. However it's not a bad game either. San Andreas has a larger world than before, the same fast paced, crazy action of GTA games, lots of stuff to do and is one of the best sandbox style games out there… but as I've said, not perfect.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/22/11

Game Release: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (US, 06/07/05)


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