RETRO – How does a small black kid from the hood become the king of the crime world? That is the question you’ll see an answer to if you finish the newest GTA in the franchise, called San Andreas. Carjacking, crime, and high octane action: in the series’ best entry yet.
As with every GTA game, the world of San Andreas mimics a current era, with locations portrayed in a heavily cynical view. This time around we end up in the 90s California, but through the view of Rockstars’ lenses. We get to explore three big cities: San Fierro, Los Santos, and Las Ventura, which are the parodies in a way of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, but in GTA style. Those who visited these American cities will be in awe as to how well the developers got the feel of the towns.
All three cities have entirely distinct styles, and while none of them were modeled after satellite images, the virtual homes, streets, and landmarks still provide that feeling of authenticity. Los Santos, for example, has run down ghettos, and wealthy neighborhoods, just like in Los Angeles. That is where we will start our character called CJ, the game’s black gangsta, whose career starts off as nobody on the streets when we will only feel safe in our hood called Ganton. Otherwise, rival bands will shoot us to shreds.
San Fierro is just like San Francisco, it is filled with valleys, a bit industrial, bit modern, has a few apartment blocks just like the real-life big city. The city is filled with car type missions, and it is a great feeling to speed up and jump over places when we are chasing down someone or escaping from them. Although the population density of San Fierro is not that big compared to the other two cities, it still reflects a very real city. In this place, you will find the most interesting, funny characters, and probably the most fun missions.
When we thought we have seen it all, tried everything, then we get to the last part of the game, Las Ventura: here we will realize that we still have a lot to do in San Andreas. The city that reminds us of Las Vegas, where the people never sleep, casinos are up all night, and the streets are filled with the neon lights of hotels, and restaurants. We will still feel lost many times, even after we conquered the two previous cities.
If there is a place to spend a lot of time is the different casinos, where will play cards, use the slot machines, and other games to gambit our money (or fate). Of course, you do not have to get poor as a good citizen, as you are a gangsta or what the heck, so go down there and rob the damn place if you wish (and if you survive). What is more impressive is that the areas between the cities are also alive and have their economy, and day to day movements. We would think that nothing happens here, and we can just speed out of these places, but here we will find small cities, „dirty” companies, farms, and a lot of side missions take place in these territories. There is so much to do, and the land is so big that it can be considered as a fourth city.
Up the ladder
Besides the large levels, GTA is famous for its tongue in cheek, and biting criticism of American society, culture, entertainment and life. That can be pretty much felt in this main storyline of the game. The main character Carl Johnson is a Los Santos gangsta that returns from Liberty City. Although he swore he would never return home, when his mother is murdered he cannot run from his past. When he arrives back the hood is in chaos, well at least the crime world, which is the life the gangstas are pretty active.
It’s not enough that his old gang the Orange Grove Families which was in his and his brother’s Sweet led, is now in chaos, not just that, but the rival gangs called the Ballas control territories that were once theirs. To make matters worse, CJ is framed for the murder of a double cop homicide, so the dirty cops start asking CJ to do some work for them.
The story is well written and regularly provides us with twists. At first it seems that we are dealing with a run-of-the-mill gangsta story, but later more shocking, and interesting twists will happen.
The characters are all well written, but the best one is probably the corrupt weed-loving cop Tenpenny, voiced by Samuel Jackson, and the sex maniac Catalina whose also a bit of a sadist. There’s also OG Loc, who thinks he is the king of rappers, which brings a lot of sadness to those who somehow stumble onto his concerts.
Sims 2: Gangsta Life
However, the main difference compared to the previous games is that we get to influence CJ’s development. For example if we visit the Gyms, and do a bunch of exercises, we will be buff in a short time, which allow us to add more stamina to our character, plus lose a bit of fat after eating so many hamburgers. Also, if we swim, we will be able to be underwater longer.
The development has an effect on gameplay. If we get more buff, we will be able to hit harder, and we will be more respected by our gang members. Thanks to our developed stamina we can run more, which is needed in certain situations, such as running from the cops, and rival gangsters.
The bigger lungs will be necessary to keep ourselves underwater for a longer period. In the central mission, we will be only able to progress if this ability is maxed out, which annoyed me, as I had to „bath” CJ for thirty minutes. Luckily none of the other abilities are this vital, and some skills evolve without doing too much side activities. Keeping our self in shape also depends on our diet, and how much we eat, because if we forget to eat our muscles will become weak and the whole process will have to be started from scratch.
The clothing that we wear also matters in the game. If we wear our colors, and with some macho tattoo, our gang members will respect us, but the women won’t be amazed too much. However, if we dress in a suit, and look sharp as Denzel Washington, then the ladies will be barely able to hold themselves back. All three big cities have a lot of clothing stores, hairdressers, and tattoo parlors, so we’ll be able to look and dress right for the events.
Of course, CJ’s look would not be worth a dime if he would not be cruising in the most awesome, or the worst, or the funniest cars. There are an unbelievable amount of cars in San Andreas. From the old wrecks to the most expensive supercars we can have it all: bicycles, tractors, trams, speed boats, 4x4s, Monster Trucks, Buggy, tanks, planes, combine machinery, etc. I could go on until the end of the of the review. It’s interesting that we can use vehicles that are from GTAIII’s Liberty City: No wonder since both games take place in the same.
The vehicles also match the location much more than say in Vice City: the tractor can only be seen in the countryside while the expensive cars only near wealthy neighborhoods. The game’s missions lead you to high places so that you’ll be able to try all of the vehicles.
Command and Conquer à la GTA
Well okay, the title is a bit misleading as there are no RTS parts in the game, but it is true that after the strategic elements of Vice City’s we get another tactical role for San Andreas. At the beginning at Los Santos, the fighting is heavy for the different hoods between the gangs. If we can extend our territories, we will get more money as revenue, plus when traveling in our territories, we will not get shot to hell by the enemy bands.
To be successful in combat, it is not worth going in lone wolf mode, as the rivals will shred us to pieces in a matter of seconds. So we’ll need a commando unit, which will be recruited from our hoods.
The more CJ is respected, and the more NPCs will follow him. It’s best to hijack a vehicle that can transport multiple people. As while CJ is behind the wheels the others can fire from the vehicle, but if we get shot many times, we need to jump out of that thing cause it will explode and everyone int here will burn to death.
Let it rock!
The music blaring from the radio is probably the most awesome part of a GTA game. As usual there are only radios, and not individual tracks alone (there are 11 radios), which provide the most authentic music and talk shows/commercials of that era (in a weird distorted way): funk, hip-hop, soul, lots of rap, reggae, house, and country.
If we want to be a bit of a DJ, we can mix our music between the commercials. The voice acting is great, and pretty much is the best in its genre. Besides Samuel L Jackson, we have James Woods, who plays the mysterious Mike Torreno, but the great Peter Fonda also gives an excellent performance as the always weeding hippy called Truth. My personal favorite though is the sexy hot Mexican beauty, Catalina.
I have been singing high praises of heaven about San Andreas, but it is also worth noting that it has its annoying moments. Some missions are difficult, or frustrating, and it nearly makes me pull my hair out when I have to restart a car chase from the beginning because I hit a lamp post. A „restart mission” option would have been great, as at least we would not have to reload the save state every time.
Especially since who the hell wants to wake up in the hospital as you’ll lose all your hard earned weapons. Indeed, in San Andreas the money does not flow to you so quickly (unlike in the previous two games, – still it seems to be a better solution).
Individual missions are stealth, which try to mimic splinter cell. While the stealth is not bad, but I would not have minded if they were left out of the game due to some reason.
We know what you’ll play this summer
The big question is that even with these frustrating elements, is it enough to ruin the gameplay? Well in my opinion yes. Until you are not through with them, but once done you forget them rather quickly, and the only thing you’ll remember is the adrenaline kick from the action scenes. The problems are that a few of you might get bogged down at these difficult parts. Still I recommend this game to anyone who loves the GTA franchise
+ Large, explorable world
+ Stylish, sarcastic, and a clever story
+ You can do a lot of things in this game
– Some parts are tough
– A few missions can be rather long, and restarting them can be a pain
– The animation is choppy at times
Kiadó: Rockstar Games
Fejlesztő: Rockstar North