Review by Menji

""The Best" in the sense that there's more to do, but not as great as the others"

One of the most anticipated PS2 games of all time. It was advertised to take the meaning of “Grand Theft Auto” to a whole new level. Building off the success of Vice City and III, you're given the ability to shoot, steal, drive and kill all while being pursued by the cops. San Andreas improved on just about every aspect that stopped Vice City from being a perfect game. Except for the mediocre story, you're given improvements on all the little things too. You remember how big Vice City was right? Well San Andreas is three times as big! You remember it took you a month to know where everything is in Vice City? Well we're talking almost an entire year to know where everything is in San Andreas. It's that humongous!

The game flows much nicer than the other Grand Theft Autos – but not for everything. The hand-to-hand combat system has been vastly improved, you can now learn new moves by going to the gyms and fighting the boxers. Using the new features you can eat, gain weight, workout, swim, and change your appearances. If you don't eat, you're not going to have any energy – but eat too much and you'll be a slow runner and will never escape from the cops. If it turns out your punches aren't strong enough, go ahead and workout and you'll quickly find it takes less punches to take someone out. And they aren't annoying at all, if you've ever played The Sims you'll quickly remember how often you'd have to go to the bathroom and eat. In San Andreas, you can play for a lone while without having to go back and eat. And it's not that big of a problem either, there are plenty of stores around that you can go into and pick up a quick meal that'll satisfy your character for a few hours. Rockstar also threw in some new modes of transports like the BMX bike, it looks cool and you can even go to a skate park and bust out some tricks. You do start the game using it so you have to quickly adapt to it - much like running, you're going to get tired from riding a bike which causes you to pedal very slowly. Which makes the first mission a real pain to do because you're given a long ways to bike when you haven't built up any of your stats.

If this is your first time playing a GTA game here's a quick rundown on what you can do. But be warned the possibilities are almost endless; there's a storyline that you can follow by completing available missions that pop up from friends or local gangs. Completing these missions grants you respect at first but eventually leads to gaining money. There are countless weapons to pick up throughout the world for use on just about anything thing. Yes, you are able to just run up to any pedestrian capping them. Although if there are any policemen around you'll get a quick wanted star and they'll chase you and possibly shoot you. There are also numerous other things that can get you in trouble with the law but you can avoid it. As the name implies, you have the ability to steal any vehicle in the game. There are cars, bikes, motorcycles, planes, helicopters, and boats. And there are countless different types of each so you're not stuck with the same looking car all the time.

Vehicles all control slightly better than the previous titles and the selection of cars to obtain has dramatically increased. I'm also glad to say that they've improved the entire targeting system. You can finally target while you're unarmed, this makes fighting anyone much easier and then you can even target them while they're on the ground to drop some kicks in. If you're using a gun, you can target their body from far away but then it switches to a head shot once you get closer. This also helps out a lot when you're doing some stealth missions and have to take them out quickly with a knife.

It's truly amazing when you look at everything there is to do in San Andreas. There are three main cities that are all connected by freeways and backroads. You never feel like you've run out of space because there are just millions of places to go. Don't feel like driving on the roads? Fine, just cut up the side of the mountain with your dirt bike and launch of the top with using a well-timed parachute to fall to safety. Which is one my favorite parts of the game, going skydiving. You can have tremendous fun flying a plane to the maximum height and then just jumping out and doing some skydiving tricks. Then simply use your parachute to land safely back on the ground. Simply put, there are just too many cool and exciting things to do that you'll just have to experience the joy by playing!

When I first popped this game in, I was in complete shock. After remembering the two previous game's awful facial visuals I didn't know what to expect them to look like now. Boy was I surprised, they may not be on the level of Final Fantasy but they sure as hell look great for the type of game it's suppose to be. You can finally make out what their faces are trying to express. There is a sort of cartoonish look to everything but it's just how its always been. In GTA3, the area always seemed really dark. In GTA: VC, everything was sunny and you could make out everything except for the numerous neon lights. Rockstar decided for some unknown reason, to put up this orange lighting in just about every shot of the game. And while this doesn't block out what you can see it does get annoying in certain areas of the game. Aside from that flaw, the buildings look amazing, and the cars are absolutely fantastic.

The previous titles had you dealing with the mob and drug lords but San Andreas takes you in a different direction. Enter CJ who has flown out to San Andreas because his mother was murdered. He runs into two crooked cops who obviously don't like him very much and are keeping a close eye on CJ. You'll be running into these two guys a lot along the way and one is even voiced by the legendary Samuel L. Jackson! You're always reacquainted with your old “gansta” friends and family. It turns out your once legendary Grove Street Families has diminished into a crack consuming second rate gang to your cross town rivals, “The Ballas” who you compete with for turf. It's now up to CJ to bring the families together and regain the once mighty rep they once had.

Following suite from the other games, the voice acting is great. You got voices that sound like they're from the hood as well as two dirty cops that really fit the role. The game is set in the 90's so most of the music is straight from that era, including all the top rap, rock, and country songs. One of the biggest changes you'll quickly learn and have to get accustomed to is the newly used “F-bomb” which is said no less than 10 times in the opening mission. Yes, I do realize this is a mature game but you're getting more cussing than a season of The Sopranos. If I had rank the music in the three main games, it would go VC > III > SA. There aren't too many good and memorable songs around so you don't always have something to jam too. It also lacks a good comedic show to laugh at.

If you tried to just go through the game without doing any side-quests or mini-games, you could probably finish in about 30-40 hours. But going back and trying out each and every thing to do will easily clock you over 100 hours. These activities can range from flying jets, skydiving, racing, running a marathon, swimming, owning a business, collecting cars, bike/driving/flying school, gaining turf and just having fun wreaking havoc! You can easily play this game for an extremely long time and still be finding new ways to have fun. Oh and did I mention that you can do two player? It's not as well made as single player but you can still have fun driving with a buddy in your car.

Definitely, it's a great game that's worth the now $20 it sells for. You'll have a great time playing it yourself or with a friend. It's not too hard to find so you aren't going to have much trouble there. You're given all types of genres in this game so it should have something that everyone can enjoy. Go out and pick up this must-have game which is easily among the top games this gen!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/27/04, Updated 04/23/09

Game Release: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (US, 10/26/04)

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