Review by ArPharazon412
"Grand Theft My Heart"
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Holster of controversy and consistently changing ratings, San Andreas is Rockstar's latest console addition to the world of Grand Theft Auto. Packed with all new features, character cameos, and a vast environment, San Andreas is the best pick on Xbox and PS2.
Sceptical of purchasing San Andreas at first, after hearing of the controversy behind it, I found myself in a position where I could cheaply acquire all 3 console GTAs for my Xbox for a good price. And, I did not make a wrong decision. San Andreas has occupied all my attention: the others remain barely touched or used, and now, I'll explain why.
SOUNDS/SOUNDTRACK - 9
It isn't that special, but pulled off nicely. Having a variety of stations for a variety of different genres, the SA soundtrack has something for everyone. And, even if none of the radio stations strikes your particular fancy, the Xbox has the added bonus of Custom User Tracks - the game lets you play songs from your Xbox harddrive! For me it was a bonus, being able to cruise along the freeways to the tunes of Godsmack and Disturbed/
The other sounds in this game (i.e explosions, voice actors, gunshots, etc) are great ammunition to firing up the sound. Each gun sounds a little bit different, each voice actor has a unique edge, and the explosions aren't completely overdone like so many other games. Plus, the comments you hear on the street can be quite entertaining and funny, and the main character (Carl "CJ" Johnson) is given the option to respond to anyone's comments with the tap of a button.
STORY - 10
I'll try to keep this short, and spoiler-free to as great an extent as I can. The game presents you with a gangsta situation. You're in the ghetto and your gang has fallen from power, and you, Carl "CJ" Johnson, have recently returned home to bury your dead mother. However, CJ decides to stick around and help get Grove Street Families (Your gang) back on the map.
What follows is a build-up of intensifying fights against rival gang the "Ballas", that leads to a climax in which your brother's very life is in danger... only to then take you to the second chapter of the game.
Using a series of sub-plots, the game builds its way into CJ's life in and out of the ghetto. He runs errands for his brother, fellow gangstas, corrupt cops, and an assortment of other characters (including an undercover agent). The gangsta feel of the game is pretty much lost after chapter one of the game, but the new feel is equally nice, rivalling Vice City's establishment of Tommy Vercetti's empire. And, for those that love the gangsta feel, it returns towards the end of the game where CJ finally returns home.
GRAPHICS - 8
The one major flaw in this game isn't the graphics all around, but particularly the character models. The models themselves are rather tacky, filled with lines, blurry, and quite hideous to look at. However, the other graphics, such as landscapes, roads, and particularly vehicles compensate for the face, and most of the time you won't care if the cop you just killed head was just a blur.
CUSTOMISATION - 10
You customise cars, and CJ himself. CJ can become fat, skinny, muscular, wiry, atheletic - whatever you desire him to be. He can have nice hair cuts, ridiculous hair cuts. CJ can dress in formal clothes, run around in a pimp suit, or a gimp suit, or dress link a common gangsta. The choices are nigh on limitless, and much time can be spent just creating the CJ you want to see.
The cars, on the otherhand, are a bit more restricted. However, with every car, you can take it to a mod garage and give it a hit of NOS, and hydraulics - excellent for lowriders and competing in the lowrider challenges. An exclusive mod garage in the second city lets you create custom street racers, by bringing in some of the fast two-door cars that you can find around San Andreas, giving them unique paint jobs and a great sex appeal.
GAMEPLAY/REPLAYABILITY - 10
If you're used to playing GTA III or Vice City on the Xbox, SA may take a bit of getting used to. Regardless, the controls are easy enough to pick up, and the gameplay is subsequently fluent. The game plays very well, and often gives you indicators when you are near something you can interact with. Most times, you will not even need instructions as it becomes obvious on how to do something. The opening missions of SA give you a guide to the basis of controls.
Replayability is a great factor in SA, and the entire GTA series. Even after finishing EVERY mission in the game, you can continue to play and cause havoc in all areas of San Andreas, try to beat your highest score on an arcade game, see how long you can hold an area for without being overwhelmed by police - the game just goes on and on. And, it's a challenge just to get to 100%, with so many sub-missions and hidden challenges. This game has easily kept me going for several months, and probably many more to come.
OVERALL - 10
This game is one of the best titles available on Xbox, and a must have in any Xbox game collection. Don't let this one slip away, get it before you can!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/27/06
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