Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Review

As you can notice by my reviews in the past I liked Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City quite a bit. I could easily look past the graphics and the glitches and see the greatness that the gameplay represented.

When Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was announced I was pretty excited considering I liked the other two games so much. Then information on the game started to come out. You’d play a young black man named C.J. and tool around an area even larger than the one in Vice City. You’d be hearing racial epitaph’s thrown about and a lot more swear words than in either of the previous games. C.J. would also need to be taken care of or he’d get fat, lose sex appeal and lose respect. Made it sound very New Jack City like.

When it came out on the PS2, I passed on buying it and rented it. I could not find myself easily connecting with C.J. simply because I didn’t grow up on the mean streets like he did and I really didn’t enjoy all the “N” words being thrown about by his friends. It just really turned me off, so I brought my rental back and didn’t think of the game again until the PC version came out.

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas recently with the re-rating of it from an M to an AO because of the “hot coffee” mod. I’ll talk more about that later on, but I just want to say I agree about the re-rating and that it was stupid for Rockstar to leave the assets in there even though they still seem to stand by the “plausible deniability” defense. Let’s get to the scores.

Obviously with the PC version you get quite a visual upgrade if you have the power. I have a P4 3.2GHz with 1GB RAM and a Radeon X800 XL card and the game works quite well even at 1600×1200 with everything up to high. I’m sure people’s mileage will vary on this though. The farther you put the view length the more the graphics are crunching than if you keep it at a respectable level. Putting anti-aliasing on will also put a chore on the graphics card, but this is one of the biggest advantages to the PC version over the Xbox or PS2 version.

The graphics themselves are still rudimentary when put up against the lush world of many PC games out there and even action games like Half-Life 2, Doom 3 or even Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. For what this game is though the graphics are very good and the world is huge. Since the install is over 4GB big you don’t have a whole lot of loading during the game and it is especially nice to go all the way from Los Santos to San Fiero without a load happening. If you take the graphics as a comparison against the console counterparts this is definitely the version to get. Everything is much clearer and more detailed than in the PS2 game I originally played.

I’m not a big fan of the sound and music presented in .San Andreas as I was with Grand Theft Auto III or Vice City. This time around there are more 90s era songs and even though I went through my early adulthood in the 90s I just didn’t find the music as great as the 80s selections in Vice City. Much like that game though you do have the option of having your own songs in the soundtrack.

The sound is as good as it ever was, although I still can’t take all the ghetto talk. I’m not a big fan of the “N” word and the MFers are a little overused. Much of this falls upon that I don’t find it as enjoyable playing C.J. as I did playing a basic crook or mafia guy in the other two Grand Theft Auto games. It’s cool to hear Samuel L. Jackson as a crooked cop though, that was a pretty big score.

Control is well done simply because you have so many options. You can do the keyboard/mouse route or you can use your gamepad and make it feel much like the PS2 version. The keyboard/mouse combo gives you more aiming control than the gamepad, but you will find driving isn’t the easiest with the keyboard. A nice combination of both controls helps a lot in this game.

I just didn’t like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas a whole lot. I realize that is pretty easy to say considering how long the PS2 game has been out, but I felt like this when I first played the PS2 version. I got the PC version figuring it might be better, but with the same storyline and the necessity to keep C.J. in shape and build his sex drive and respect (along with other things) I was just turned off by the game. I’d rather just blow everything up and go through the storyline instead of worrying about what C.J. looks like or the respect he has.

The key ideas behind San Andreas are much like Vice City. You go through the main storyline and you try to control areas in the cities (in Vice City you were trying to own property) and build your gang into a force to be reckoned with. Along with finishing missions you also have to keep C.J.’s stats up as stated above. You have to go to a gym in order to build up your strength and lose weight. You have to go eat at a restaurant or fast food place in order to keep your stamina up. You have to find ladies and date them in order for your sex appeal to go up and so on. There’s too many things to fall back on to do in this game for my tastes. I can understand Rockstar’s need to spice things up a bit, but I think they went the wrong way this time around.

I did try out the “Hot Coffee” mod and it is quite interesting. Basically after a date you go to your girlfriend’s house and she invites you in for some “hot coffee”. In the regular game you’d just see what happens after exiting the residence. With the mod in place you actually go in and get a blowjob from the girl, who is now naked. After that you go into a mini-game where you use the arrow keys to thrust in and out of the girl and the left shift key to change sexual positions. There is a bar on-screen that goes up as you increase her pleasure. Should you get it to the top she will climax, but should you not have enough sex appeal and hit the bottom you’ll get shoved right off of her. C.J. is of course dressed during these things simply because you can buy him different clothes, but the girls are full frontal naked.

I agree with the ESRB about the re-rating of this game to Adults Only (AO). I don’t have a problem with kids under 17 getting a game if their parents know what is in it, but this added sexual mini-game just goes beyond the M rating in my mind. Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude had an AO version sold where all the girls were naked, in the regular game they had clothes on (but there was a patch to make them nude) so there is precedence to make the change from M to AO. Rockstar will probably think twice before adding something like that into a game again.

If you can stand the subject matter there are tons of hours of gameplay to be had in this game. It is easily longer than Vice City simply because the area you work in is much larger. There are tons of side quests outside of the main mission storyline so there’s plenty to do outside of the usual.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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