Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Review by Angelblade
"If a perfect game existed..."
...Then it would be a big if wouldn't it.
I am not going to be as bold as to say that this is a perfect game. As everyone's opinion of perfection is different. And yes even this game has minor issues. But this to date is easily one of the best games I have had a chances to lay my hands on. Let's break it down:
Graphics - 8
Grand Theft Auto has never been about cutting edge top of the line graphics. And San Andreas in fact surprise surprise doesn't have cutting edge top of the line graphics. But for a game this big and this in depth I will say that it certainly is incredible that they look as good as they do on a PS2. It is about a couple of step up from the previous 3D GTAs.
Perhaps it's me but the weather has much improved. The rain looks more real. The fog looks more active and alive. Motion blur when high speed in a car. It's all very very good.
Sound, Music, Dialogue - 9.5
One of the biggest fears ( and also pretty early dispelled fears) was that the music for this game would be only Rap and R&B. Of course that is not the case. The music variety on the radio stations is the biggest it's ever been. From Rap and R&B to for the first time Country. It's a great eclectic mix with lots of well known songs from well known artists.
The voice actor this time around aren't as big name as the one's found in Vice City. Sorry no stars like Ray Liotta or Dennis Hopper this time. In fact I didn't recognize a single name on the list of main voice actors. But despite that I think that the voice acting and dialogue in this game is superb. It's not painful to listen to, there isn't unintentional cheese. When it means to be funny the dialogue is hilarious, and when it gets serious the dialogue is down right intense. It's one of the best jobs I've heard from a video game.
At times because of the slang and gansta speak that is just the nature of the game I found it hard to understand every single word that was said, but that's what subtitles are for. And no punches are pulled in terms of vocabulary. Every single expletive is used, with gleeful delight I might add. These are ganstas man, you gotta make it look real.
Ambient sounds are a kick to notice as well. Roll down hill on a bike and you'll here the unmistakable sound of bicycles tires spinning too fast to be safe. If there was any knit picking complaint I could have in the sound department it would be that the confirmation "beep" in the menus sound very annoying. But seriously for me, that's it.
Control - 9
Super intuitive controls. They are of course almost exactly the same as the previous 3D GTAs with tweaks to make the for the controlling of new things you can do in the game. But everything is where it should be, there are no real awkward use of buttons. CJ is responsive, everything is gravy.
There is a new weapons aiming system that I'm sure everyone knows about and I won't get into details here. But basically there is auto-targeting for like in previous GTAs, but through the use of the R3 buttons you can also manually target things. This is a HUGE improvement over the previous games where precise targeting required the use of scoped weapons.
You can now also target with your melee weapons just like you can with guns and stuff. This mean you can lock onto a specific person for a beat down. Unfortunately even with this lock one you can still hit innocent bystanders when swinging you bat or knife. This mean you can still harm your homies or accidentally knock a cop. But it is a big improvement over swinging and hoping you hit something like before.
New actions like swimming and riding a bike (almost exact same control) are also well implemented. All in all a very good show.
Everything Else - Resounding 10
This is the place where a normal breakdown for Gameplay, Replay ability and many other review points for most game can be broken into. For this game, I seriously think it defies such categories. Yes the gameplay is excellent. Yes this probably has the single highest replay value of any game ever produced. But beyond that, beyond the dialogue, beyond the graphics, beyond everything else is the total immersion of this game. In other words this is where I rant about how good the game is and talk about anything that comes to my mind.
The previous 2 3D GTAs were wonderfully delicious games with impressive gameplay and a genre defining free roaming world. And San Andreas provides the exact same thing, but with so much more. I really can't describe it in words, but everything, EVERYTHING have been improved. And the sum of the improvements are much more than their individual parts.
I'll just take cutscenes. In most games they usually informative, perhaps it progresses the story (GTA3 and GTA:VC included). San Andreas uses them for this and more with very good effect. The cut scene when CJ first enters his house. There wasn't a word of dialogue. Just him returning home and his reaction and emotion. It said with no words everything that needed to be said about the situation and totally set the mood from which he was coming. What does this have to do with the rest of the game. It goes to the immersiveness of it. It truly does play like a movie, you're sucked in and you're the main character. It doesn't present at story, it tells a story, there's a difference.
The upkeep and customization of CJ. It strikes the perfect balance between actually enjoying the customization and becoming annoyed at having to worry about every little detail. Intuitive menus for when you change clothes and hairstyles. Friendly reminders of CJ status. Note not reminders to feed him or work him out, but just telling you how he's doing so you can decide if you want him to hit the gym or the Cluckin' Bell or whatever.
The Map. The map, the map the map. It's freaking huge. I headed in one direction when I first started out and many many real life minutes later I realized that I hadn't even crossed half of the map. City to rural transitions are very gradual and natural. No skyscrapers and then suddenly pine trees here. And the landmarks included are all over the place. Everyone knows about the Transamerica Building and the Vinewood sign. But I'm going to expound on the Garver Bridge. Everyone took it to be the Oakland-Bay Bridge in San Francisco. ANd it really does look like it. But there's also a train trestle next to it. It looks just like the Firth of Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland. And in Scotland next to that bridge is the Firth of Forth Road Bridge. That is a modern suspension bridge, which lo and behold looks a lot like the Garver Bridge. It's little things like that that make this game such a trip.
So much more to talk about, like training and car customization. How immersive some of the mission are. Instead of too many "Go here and do this because I told you to" type missions I've noticed many here now have motivation and back story. To me that make the mission just that much more fun.
If this review has come across ad vague and general it's only because there's SOOO much stuff to talk about and I wanted to touch at least lightly upon those that I thought were relevant. And I really didn't want to give out too much by giving details. (Though I do suspect that most reading this will already no the game in intimate detail.)
The graphics didn't get a 10. The sound didn't get a 10. The controls didn't get a 10. But the game as a whole for it's total immersion. It looks like previous GTAs it plays like previous GTAs, but it feels different. It doesn't feel like just a game any more, it feels like I've got more invested. I have brought up the word movie several times. And it does, it feels like a very well made movie. As if John Singleton related the story to us. The player feels for CJ, the player is CJ. And world is alive and real for you and your homies.
Just it's sheer audacity for attempting such a world means-
Overall - 10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/27/04
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