Grand Theft Auto San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas - PS2 Review

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas - PS2 Review

So the time has come, San Andreas has arrived. Possibly one of the most anticipated games to ever be released. Will it live up to the legendary status of GTA III and Vice City ? First is was the mafia underworld, then came the flash and glitz of the 80's set against a sun soaked back drop of Florida and now we have the 90's and the black gang wars of LA. The game encompasses three whole cities including the forestry and greenery lying between them. This time GTA gets a whole lot bigger with a hell of a lot of attitude.

This time the story is set in 1992 in the west coast of America in a make believe state called San Andreas which contains three cities. Los Santos is your LA type city; San Fierro is the hilly San Francisco while Las Venturas is the glitzy Las Vegas replica. The story starts with the home coming of CJ aka Carl Johnson to the city of Los Santos to bury his mother after spending the last five years in Liberty City , GTA III's take on New York . As soon as CJ gets off the plane things start to go

  Grand Theft Auto San Andreas - PS2 Review


down hill when a couple of dirty cops, voices by Samuel L Jackson and Chris Penn, pick up CJ and drop him off in the midst of gang land leaving him to get back to safe turf (The Grove) on a BMX. The first point of business is to get your crew back together again and take back the streets of Los Santos. So along with Big Smoke, Ryder and your brother Sweet you all set off to take the streets from the rival crack dealing gang the Ballas. To start with the take over just starts with spraying the streets with your graffiti to mark the Groves territory, but quickly the stakes get higher and before you know it you will be gunning down and running over any Ballas crew you come across in an effort to take the streets back. Unfortunately this doesn't last for long and you will have to leave Los Santos for the country side. When in the country side everything settles down and the game will revert back to classic GTA gameplay, which I will come to later.

As with the previous GTA games most of the map will be closed off at the beginning of the game and opens up as you progress through the game. Fortunately it doesn't take too long to open up the other two cities. A lot of the missions in San Andreas are also very similar to those of the previous two games where you will have to do jobs for various people and do a lot of driving around. There are other missions which are far more exciting than those in previous games though. The drive-bys are great and you even get to pull off a casino heist to steal a load of weapons.

San Andreas adds an extra dimension to the gameplay that hasn't been seen in previous GTA games. Now you have to look after your character and make sure he eats properly, exercises and trains in the gym to learn new moves. Eating is the new health pack, although health pack are scattered around san Andreas it is far easier and simpler to nip into the local fried chicken joint and fill your face. However you must be careful not to eat too much as this will make your character a bit of a fat waster with no stamina at all. If you do happen to eat to many pies you can go down to the gym and take a work out on the running machine, cycling machine or just lift some iron. Doing all thee various exercises will improve a few of your attributes such as your health depletion, your stamina and your strength to name a few. This may sound like it could get in the may of the game play and some of you might think you will be stuck in the gym for half of the game. Well this is not exactly true, at the beginning of the game you should visit the gym quite often to get yourself into good shape then you can use the gym fairly liberally to keep yourself in good condition. You can also go to the gym and learn new moves to help you kick some asses on the streets of San Andreas.

As I mentioned briefly CJ has lots of attributes, some are health attributes and others rate your competency at driving, riding a bike, respect and handling a gun. At the beginning of the game all your attributes will be zero. To increase your respect attribute you have to complete missions, but it also helps is you get down to the shops and buy some clothes in your gangs colours. Your driving skills will increase as you get better at driving, everytime this attribute is increased you will be notified by a bling noise and a notice in the top left of the screen. It works in the same way for riding bikes and bicycles. Your gun rating seems to increase the more you use it, as there isn't really much skill involved with auto targeting. To translate your attributes to the real world most of the controls will be a little fuzzy and inaccurate to start with and then gradually the controls will become more responsive as your attributes increase.

The actual game play in San Andreas is very similar to the previous GTA games. The two new abilities are swimming and riding BMX bikes. You will ride a bike right at the beginning of the game. This is much the same are riding a motorbike, hold down the X button to go and used the analogue stick to control the bikes movement. If you press the X button fast and repetitively this will cause CJ to ride much faster. This same control works when on foot. Use the analogue stick to move, keep the X button help to run and tap the X button quickly to sprint. Swimming is a handy new feature as it reduces the number of ways in which you can die, as before when you fell into some water you would drown. To control CJ in the water you will just have to use your analogue stick to direct CJ where you are going. You can also swim under water which is done by holding your thumb on the X button. Once you go under the water a gauge will show up on screen, this is basically an air meter and if it runs out you will die, so you have to make sure you keep coming up for air. Other wise it is the missions and their theme which will set San Andreas apart from the other GTA titles. Drive-bys and gun battles are both fairly frequent. There are some great surprise missions such as the casino heist that offers some really exciting, mad and memorable moments.

As you progress through the plot of San Andreas you will come across some very challenging, annoying and temper breaking moments. Even the most hardend GTA fan will probably be seen stomping up and down on his/her controller in complete frustration. If an inexperienced or novice gamer comes across one of these particularly infuriating missions he or she could well give up. The problem is most of these particularly difficult missions are compulsory. Then one redeeming feature is the trip skip system. When you get wasted or arrested in the middle of a missions you will not have to replay the whole mission. Once the mission has started for the second time for example you can use the trip skip feature to skip the boring parts of the missions out and get down and dirty with the action. It's a great time saver and can console you when you get stuck of the more difficult missions.

The voice acting is incredibly convincing and real. You will hear the voices of the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Chris Penn, Peter Fonda, Ice T and James Woods which in itself is a great cast for a movie, never mind a video game. It doesn't end there Chuck D from Public Enemy, Axle Rose from Guns and Roses and George Clinton all feature as DJ's on some of the San Andreas radio stations. It's astonishing to see, well hear all these Hollywood and Music superstars in one video game. British players will also recognise the voice of Shaun Rider the front man of Happy Mondays and Black Grape playing the voice of Macca. As you can probably tell from the comprehensive list, voice acting just doesn't get any better than this, especially in video games.

Graphically San Andreas has improved on the previous GTA games, this isn't down to Rockstar it is a simple fact that the PS2 is getting old now. The only real problem I found with the graphics was some pop up, which doesn't affect the playability unless you are travelling flat out on a motor bike. Cars can occasionally pop up fairly close in front of you and can either cause you to make a drastic manoeuvre and crash into the scenery or crash into the car. I must say that this doesn't happen very often but it can happen. There are some nice finishing touches such as sunshine effects and reflections in the shop windows. If you have played either of the first two GTA games can pretty much expect more of the same with some extra lighting and reflection effects.

There is no doubt about it Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is the most accomplished video game ever made. The production quality is second to none. In fact Rockstar have made San Andreas feel like a movie, everything from the opening credit when starting the game to the top class actors providing the best voice over work ever heard. The radio stations are fantastic, the DJ's do an awesome job and the range of music on offer is staggering in both the quantity of tracks and the variation of genres. Weather you prefer San Andreas to the previous GTA games will mostly depend on which subject matter you prefer, and in my opinion you can't beat the feeling of power and style playing out the game as the Italian Mafia. So apart from the few difficult levels that end in frustration; San Andreas is the most polished, varied and complete game ever made.


9.5 out of 10

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