Review by pie_man00

"An absolutely astonishing game. Get it without any regrets."

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a legendary game. Having featured in the media so often and sold so many copies, I think it's fair to see that it's pretty outstanding. But why, do you ask? Wondering what all this fuss about? I'll do my best to tell you.

Compared to the other games in the GTA series, this clearly isn't as good. That being said, in a game where a story isn't even needed, it does pretty damn well. You play as Carl ‘CJ' Johnson, a young black fellow with a special love for the n-word. The game starts off in the fictional Francis International Airport, Liberty City. The year is 1992. CJ has been living rough in Liberty City for the past 5 years, after leaving his family behind him back in Los Santos, San Andreas after his brother Brain died due to gang violence. Carl gets a call off his brother Sweet, informing him his mother has died. CJ immediately gets on a plane and heads back to San Andreas to visit his remaining family, his brother Sweet and sister Kendl. Upon arriving in Los Santos, three curropt cops, Officers Tenpenny, Pulaski and Hernandez, capture Carl and take him for a ride, in the process framing him for the murder of Tenpenny and Pulaski's fellow officer Pendelbury. Carl is then ditched and is forced to find his own way home. From there, he's swept up in current situations his native street gang, Grove Street Families, are involved in. Eventually he's forced to travel across San Andreas, meeting new people and some old faces (for us, at least) along the way. That's basically it. I've heard many people bash the game's story before, but personally, I think it's good. Nothing to rave about, but it's not the worst.

How on earth can Rockstar top themselves after Vice City's amazing soundtrack? Sadly, they haven't, but they came pretty close. The wonderful radio system featured in GTAIII and GTA: Vice City makes an inevitable return here, more varied than before and it's not even the same old looping soundtrack on each station anymore! The radio is specific to the game's time period, meaning only the hits from back in 1992 are featured here. Each radio station specialises in a certain music genre, e.g. Radio X plays rock songs, SF-UR plays dance, Radio Los Santos plays hip-hop. There's even a chat-show station, but it's nowhere near on par with the legendary ‘VCPR'. Each station has it's own DJ, too. They'll announce the day's upcoming weather, greet you at sunrise and sometimes even comment on current goings-on in San Andreas. There are many, many radio stations, so you'll probably never get bored of all the songs. However, if you do, the PC version offers a ‘User track Player', where you can play your very own MP3/WMA files! Moving on from the radio, everything else is solid. Voice-acting is great, even featuring Samuel L.-mother****ing-Jackson. Good stuff. Sound effects are a bit weak, sadly. Firing off a gun doesn't have that sense of realism it once did. Overall, however, this is great stuff.

These are...a bit iffy at times. Sometimes, they're great, but not always. A definite improvement over past games, but still not perfect. Water looks a bit more realistic now, explosions are meatier, the landscape is diverse, buildings are unique. I could go on about every single improvement, but you get the idea. The character models, however, are hugely disappointing. You can play ‘count the polygons' on some of the pedestrians, and the textures look like they belong on the N64. It's also a tad annoying to see 5 of the same pedestrian on one street corner. Vehicle models look stunning, though. They all sport specular lighting effects and look a bit too realistic when stuck in a scene with disappointingly textured buildings and pedestrians. Still don't like the look of them? Mod them, that's what the PC version is for! Almost anything in the game is mod-able, so if you don't like the look of something, you can customize it. It's harder than it sounds, but some of the mods already out there are very good.

How can you fault this? It's absolutely amazing, in every way. See some hills in the distance? Go there. See a flash sports car outside a casino? Take it. Want to speed of the top of a mountain on a dirtbike? Go for it, but remember to use a parachute. San Andreas is much like past GTA's, but it's been perfected to the point where your hard pushed to find anything wrong with it. You can now swim, have fully customisable clothes, get a range of tattoos, become fat, thin or toned, mod your car, fly planes and so much more. It goes a bit over the top in places (the ‘Black Project' especially), but it's everything you could ever want in a game. The flying is a huge improvement from previous games, too. Gone are the days of the amazingly frustrating Dodo, you can fly 747's, Leer jets, Police choppers, military jets and loads more. And the weapons! So much more variety, weapon types and all that jazz. It's quite amazing to see so many things to do on one small disc. Sadly though, not everything in this world is perfect, so onto the flaws. The controls for the PC version are infuriating. Flying a plane is so damn difficult at first it's a surprise so many people still like this game after the horror of ‘Circle the Airstrip and Land' *shudders*. I found this easily fixable by simply using a 3rd party gamepad, but some purists may not want to take themselves away from good old keyboard and mouse. Your choice, but I found most of the game much easier with a gamepad. If you want to finish this game 100%, you're in for a challenge as not only are there 100 ‘collectables' in each city, oysters are to be found in the ocean. And that's not even touching on the numerous side-missions and other minor achievements. In short, if you buy this game, you've got a lot of play time ahead of you.

Final Verdict:
One of the best franchises of recent times just got loads better. If you have a lot of spare time on your hands coming up, get this game immediately, as I guarantee you won't regret it for a second. I certainly haven't.


Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/28/06

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