Review by Morgoth22

"GTA:SA on PC - Rockstar succeeds again."

OK so here I am in the midst of the "Hot Coffee" saga thinking it's about time I wrote a review of the game I have been playing for the past month or so. So how does San Andreas shape up on the PC? Read on to find out...
For reference, my system has these specs: 3400+ at 2.2Ghz, 1 gig pc3200, X800XT.

Graphics - 7/10

This is probably one of the things that annoys me the most about this game, in that the graphics haven't really changed very much from the last installment. Due to the current state of PC games, some of the detail in San Andreas falls short of the current best looking games out there. The character models are blocky and whilst draw distances are impressive, the textures remain indistinct even on my system.

There are no problems with frame rates for me personally, but others have reported that on lower end systems, some missions become impossible due to the slowdown. After earlier negativity, what San Andreas does well is the cars and other vehicles. Each of these are well detailed and accurate, though mystifyingly they are always dirty.

So whilst they could do with a face lift in some areas including environments, the graphics are solid, just not very ground-breaking. However, considering the fact that it is a PS2 port, it isn't a bad effort.

Gameplay - 9/10

By far the most important part of any game, San Andreas really shines through in this aspect. For any fans of the series, though there have been some changes such as an increased amount of mini-games, the loss of hidden packages and rampages, levelling up and the somewhat suspect camera work at times, most things remain the same. This all in all leads to one of the most fun games out there full stop.

The sheer variety of missions and vehicles as well as the general mayhem to be had on any given day is simply phenomenal. There are missions centered around driving, flying, shooting or indeed a combination of all three. The controls are largely very well implemented. Though some people seem to have issues with flying, I would urge everyone using this to consider that with a little practice, this will in fact not be a problem. Flying is a little twitchy at first, for example, but as soon as you have had a little practice on the mandatory flying school, you'll be well away!

As well as the main story which will allow you to sample many aspects of the game, there are a number of side quests such as valet missions, and races as well as collecting oysters, horseshoes and spraying tags (replacing the packages) to name but a few things. Cars can now be modded which is a nice touch and though some things may be a little drawn out, most side missions and extras are quite satisfying and usually result in some sort of reward.

The guns in the game are nicely varied as usual, from shotguns and silenced pistols through to bazooka's, a flamethrower and a hugely destructive minigun. A slightly disappointing aspect of the gun play is that there is no ragdoll on the enemies, so killing is very similar to previous installments. Yes it works off the same engine, but it would have been nice to see Havok physics as is the norm now in many newer PC games. A levelling up system has also been added for the guns, which will increase accuracy and allow you to dual wielding shotguns and mini SMG's.

The AI in the game is the only things that really needs work and this is what prevents the game from getting the 10. Opponents on foot, especially during gang wars for territory will run straight at you or take very strange paths if they cannot get to you directly. In a similar way, some of the skill of the others drivers around you can be incredibly suspect - if you clip them, expect them to suddenly speed up and ram you. It can be frustrating at times as the behaviour is often so unpredictable.

However, overall I cannot stress how fun this game is. Whenever you pick it up, the sheer openess and number of things to do is mind-boggling and interesting enough to keep you occupied for a good 30-40 hours on the first play through.

Story - 10/10

It's very hard to put into words how good the story is in this game without spoiling it. Suffice it to say that the dialogue is excellent (though there is no lip-synching) and very well acted throughout. Each character forms a really distinct identity and has their part to play in the many cutscenes between missions. They are never drawn out, and provide an excellent backdrop to a game which sees you progress from the gangs of Los Santos through San Fierro to the riches and business of Las Venturas...and back again. The gang mentality is well conveyed and whilst the dialogue is somewhat crude at times, it is very fitting for the situation.

Sound - 6/10

The radio stations are as varied and good as ever in the latest installment. Whilst WCTR talk radio is not quite as good as Chatterbox was, in general there is something for everyone on each station ranging from the classic rock of K-DST to the dance of SF-UR and the rap and hip-hop of Radio Los Santos. If you don't like the music, then that is not a problem as there is now a user track player where you can easily add your own tunes to the game and have adverts play in between, thus forming your own station - a very good touch.

However, there are bugs with the sound, preventing it from getting the good score it would otherwise deserve. Many people have reported issues with the sound and no driver updates have fixed it. They tend to happen across different hardware configurations, but due to the recent controversy, Rockstar may be forced into fixing these errors in an upcoming patch. Bugs have included sound not playing correctly in cut scenes, no engine noise or footsteps, and completely losing the radio when it rains.

Replayability - 10/10

As mentioned previously, this game has a lot to offer, so much in fact that it has a huge replay value. There is less of an order to the missions this time, giving far more freedom to explore and generally have a good laugh in between story missions. The scale of the environments and variety of modes of transport give the game an endless scope for causing chaos, or simply going for a drive in the newly implemented rural sections of the game. The quest to gain 100% completion is a tough one...doing only the story missions would give you around 65-70% total completion, so that gives you an idea of how much this begs to be re-played.

Closing Comments

Despite some flaws in the port of the game that were not present in previous installments, GTA:SA stands as a great addition to any PC gaming collection. What draws everyone to it is the fun that can be had, as well as the variety of activities, most of which I have only very briefly touched on and are well implemented. It almost tries to do too much, but stops just short and ends up as a very satisfying purchase.

8/10 due to the flaws, both bugs and graphics, but otherwise worthy of more.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/25/05

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