Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
July 11th 2005
Introduction:Rockstars premier series finally gets the jump to the Xbox. If haven't experienced a Grand Theft Auto game this is the one to get. San Andreas gives us more of what we love the only way Rockstar Games can do.
The Game:The Grand Theft Auto series is at the pinnacle of providing an epic feeling experience with almost perfect game mechanics and storytelling aspects. San Andreas has everything from the previous games multiplied by 3. Of course if you already have the Ps2 version then you might not be excited, but after the long wait I'm interested to see how the Xbox version is tweaked up.
The backbone of San Andreas is the story of Carl Johnson (CJ) who has come back home to find his mother murdered. Soon he is involved back to the gang life which he had once escaped. Carl gets pushed and pulled in many directions by crooked cops, Grove Street drama and all the trappings of urban gang life. It's all here just like the movies it was inspired from; San Andreas is the gaming version of Boys N' the Hood.
In the beginning Carl's missions mainly revolve around gang warfare and street drama, but Carl quickly finds himself deeper in the crime world then just his street. The story progressively has you all over the city and country meeting a cast of
diversified characters. A few central characters which you'll also encounter early in the game are from CJ's Orange Grove Gang. There is his brother Sean "Sweet" Johnson, Melvin "Big Smoke" Harris and Easy E inspired Lance "Ryder" Wilson. For each member will have do some running around accomplishing missions to progress the story, but in true GTA fashion it's up to you how and when you do these missions. I found Sweet's to be the easiest place to start and giving he is brother you can't go wrong. Later on in the game you'll come across other gangs like the Hispanic gang of Varrios Los Azteca, Da Nang Boys and of course the purple coloured Ballas. The gang orientation is handled better then before and you'll actually feel like you're taking the streets over and this will be reflected in your spawning Grove followers.
Some of the other colourful characters that have a role in CJ's adventure size up as crooked cops (Officer Frank Tenpenny), Wanna-be gangster rappers (Jeffrey Martin aka OG Loc), Blind race car drivers (Wu Zi Mu aka Woozie) and my favorite, the feisty Catalina. There is so much to San Andreas there is no need to spoil it, the game is very well written and will have you hooked with every new sequence. Just keep in mind that it's a mature themed game so you better enjoy spreading a few bullets into anything that moves. This is the violence everyone is so worked up over, but that's why the "M" label is on the box. On top of all that I'd have to say that the "M" is more deserving this time around even more than Vice City , San Andreas foul language and violence is up'd and think it almost had the sex mini game which can be patched to work on the PC version of this game.
A main difference in the game from the PS2 version are the controls. It can be argued back and forth which platform the controls are better on, but in the end it's comes down to the players personal preference. I seemed to go through the Xbox game quicker and easier on the Xbox, but I'm more used to S Controller then the standard PS2 stick. Spinning the camera around is really convient and it helped my performance greatly. For changes from the PS2 and Xbox version you have a the added instant replay feature which grabs 30 seconds of the game. This feature isn't This feature isn't really done well considering the sound is missing from the playback; it's good for bragging rights, but that is it.
Overall Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the game of games and they have only expanded on the great gameplay from Vice City. You should know the gameplay by now, it's GTA; it's bigger and badder then before. The game has plenty of twists that will keep you going for 100+ hours if you're dedicated enough. Strap one on this is gang warfare pimped out. Grand Theft Auto and has done it once again.
Graphics & Sound:Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas does a respectable job on delivering a smooth gameplay experience on a huge scale, but with huge environments with few load screens something has to take a hit. Unfortunately it's always been the graphics in the series, although San Andreas is the best looking out of the Xbox three. At times San Andreas looks great then at others it looks rushed and undeveloped. It something that is excusable as a whole product but if you looked at it alone it wouldn't stack up. The animations seem to have the best of the graphics world, but there is a bit of slowdown in certian areas with the Xbox enhanced lighting and shading. One good point is that the Xbox version supports the 16:9 perspective and progressive scan (480 i/p) which is great, if you own a HD TV.
The audio doesn't take the same hit as the graphics in performance and the audio is at its gaming best with San Andreas. There is so much life pumped into the city and it wouldn't be possible without Rockstar's precise team of sound engineers. Hearing the cars engines, the pedestrians mumbling "Smoking gives me knowledge", or just the tat, tat, tat of the glock makes San Andreas seem like a real place. Of course the voice acting is also on top of its game and there are some fine performances from all the actors, even if they aren't famous stars. Grand Theft Auto as a total package is outstanding; it's just too bad the performance isn't far off from the PS2 version.
Innovation:Grand Theft Auto still proves to be an innovative game even though at the core of the game it's just a mirror of it's previous self. This time around the series has jumped more than it has since it went to 3D by adding more of everything. The first thing you would have to mention is that the world of San Andreas is huge and totally interactive and believable as a real city. The city is always bustling with activity, changing from day to night with all the weather effects Mother Nature has. San Andreas boasts one of the biggest gaming area ever seen, rivaling the expansive Morrowind for size.
GTA: SA has also added more RPG elements this time around which includes your physical shape, girlfriends, controlling gang members and a bunch of meters gauging statistics like sex appeal and skills. I'm not sure if players want a more Barbie type experience, but the grand theft auto world seems to be expanding to blend into more game geres then before. The addition of driving and shooting skills add a nice element of strategy to the game, as well as the physics assets. Become an overweight slob and you'll get nagged and tired when you're running away from the po-po, but become a muscle bound freak and the ladies will be turning their heads and the cops won't be able to match your stamina and power.
You can't stop a game like San Andreas which pumps so much more into the series then expected. The vehicles have been increased to including the much loved bikes from Vice City . The Sanchez is back baby! Some of the new additions come in form of the Bicyclicles, Four wheeled quadbikes, Industrial Construction vehicles, Go Karts, Tractors and even a riding lawnmower appropriately called Mower. San Andreas also starts to conquer the air more then ever with a 22 airborne vehicles including helicopters, jets, model RC's and even a jet pack. Even with the assortment as huge as it is you can also customize your cars giving them all the bling that you've come accustomed to in your Need for Speed games.
Finishing San Andreas off in the innovation are a few other features like robberies, swimming (finally), tattoos, fighting, clothing and hairstyles. It's all sweet and the Xbox version has a replay feature which could be better and the ability to customize a radio station using your soundtrack, thanks again to the Xbox hard drive. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas continues to innovative and no one could ask for more, at least not until the next GTA experience.
Mojo:Rockstar Games are the leader in cool, and the have managed to keep that title since the release of the first GTA adventure in Liberty City . CJ's adventures with the Grove St. gang prove to be one ride that doesn't slow down, doesn't compromise or lack any sense of mojo. From the characters like rambling OG Loc to the locations like Clucking Bell, San Andreas is rocking the mojo like Cube rocks the mic. It's outstanding that Rockstar has done it again giving us a way to experience a fantasy life full of mojo. From start to finish the urban mojo is unloaded. Grand Theft Auto defines Mojo.
Lowdown:Grand Theft Auto is what you come expect from a GTA game and then some! It's truly amazing how those Rockstar is keeps up this great level of story and gaming. Like I mentioned earlier San Andreas is bigger and badder then ever. There is no reason why you shouldn't add this to your gaming library.
Gameplay: 10, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 9, Mojo: 10. Final: 9.5