San Andreas
Sun Oct 31st 2004, 12:30am
San Andreas has been a blast so far. Quite simply, it lives up to the hype. As much as or more so than its predecessors, the game and the missions within it have rich, engaging stories and demand a combination of creativity, problem solving skills, masterful arcade prowess, and no small amount of persistence to see them to completion.

One of the chief things I've loved about the GTAs is the latitude you're given in completing a mission. A typical mission (stripped of the back-story) would be: someone or something must be obtained and taken from point A to B. Auxiliary person or property C must not be killed or destroyed in the process. You're provided with vehicle D (often evoking groans of complaint as you realize you must cross town, dodge cops, evade gunfire, and make it in one piece--all in a '76 Pinto). Sometimes there's a time limit E. But after these rules are laid out, how you choose to complete the task is left to you--in a realistic world full of vehicles, weapons, cops, rival gangs, vantage points, hidden shortcuts, and so on. Sometimes the "best" solution is obvious. Sometimes it takes a couple rounds of failure before the creative juices really kick in--and then often even the minor difference between the technique that worked and the technique that didn't is like the proverbial difference between lightning and the lightning bug. No matter what, completing a GTA mission always leaves you wanting to take on just one more.

I must say, these guys have a sadistic penchant for missions where you have to operate some tricky machinery in a limited amount of time. Recently I finished "Robbing Uncle Sam", the mission on the Army Reserve base where you have to use the forklift to put 6 crates in your truck, while your buddy Ryder covers for you. Of course, he's completely inept and gets iced if you take too long, which instantly causes the mission to fail. And with that threat looming over your head, you quickly find that operating the forklift requires the dexterity of a puppeteer to simultaneously manipulate the controls for forward/reverse, left/right, lift up/down, and panning the camera around as you shuttle back and forth between the stacks and the truck. In this case, instead of leaving him out there to take gunfire by himself, it's worth getting off the forklift every time you hear gunshots to go bail him out. Again, if you were master with the controls, maybe you could move the crates faster than I could. For the rest of us, all it takes is realizing this to get through it.

Of course, no discussion of San Andreas can go without at least mentioning how the developers certainly let loose on the language this round, easily earning the ESRB's "Mature" rating. If you have any open windows in your house, close them out of consideration for your neighbors before firing up this game. My ears are hardly what you'd call squeamish but even I found it a bit over the top after I heard Carl and his brothers drop about 100 f--- and s--- bombs within a single conversation. Perhaps it's authentic. Perhaps it's just a bit obnoxious.

And as a followup to my previous posting's whinings about playing GTA on the PS2 and how it's so inferior to playing it on the PC, I must say SA definitely shows improvement over III and Vice City. They've made L1 an alternate button for weapon fire, eliminating the "second right thumb" problem. Another thing I noticed, not sure if it was there before, is the pressure sensitive X button, allowing you to accelerate or simply maintain speed, depending on how hard you press. And the absolute best and most necessary enhancement is the right thumb stick's camera panning, which now behaves like you'd expect it to (like it does in Fable or Halo), unlike the completely weird, first-person mode it would put you into in III and GTA (and break any kind of aiming you were attempting). As far as graphics quality, yes, it still sucks in comparison to the PC, but it's the best I've seen on a console game. Maybe there's something I'm missing, as the screenshots from Rockstar (like the one I borrowed at the top of this article) look like they're at MUCH higher resolution than what I see. I did recently purchase and install a PS2 S-Video cable and realize a noticeable quality improvement, but hardly anything to break open champagne over. Still, I'd recommend any PS2/Xbox user get this cable and use S-Video (or even better, Component), if you've got it. Well, they can be sure, next year when the PC port comes out, I'm sure I'll buy it :-).

Visitor comments
On Fri Aug 26th 2005, 4:33am, Visitor posted:

On Fri Oct 5th 2007, 7:28pm, Steven posted:

On Fri Oct 5th 2007, 7:29pm, Elijah posted:
i like this game

On Sat Oct 6th 2007, 10:06am, Oscar posted:
Crap... the spam at top makes your page scroll sideways! :)

Anyway... I Can't wait for GTAIV! w00t

On Sun Oct 7th 2007, 1:15pm, Steve Kehlet posted:
Same here. Can't wait. I hope they don't push out the release date again.

I found Wikipedia has a really informative site on GTA 4:

Among other things, I found this interesting:

Stealing a parked car can no longer be done simply by opening the door and driving off. Now it involves Niko approaching the car unnoticed, breaking the glass with his elbow, before hot-wiring it - only then can he use it. ... Additionally, pedestrians can now report crimes such as car-jacking.

A new twist on the GTA trademark of "just steal it and go".

Also some future episodic content will be released through XBox Live. I guess that pretty much decides which console I'll buy to play this.

Also I'll remove that stupid comment making the page scroll sideways.