Review Štefan Šmihla | translated by: Kajlin & Alix | 25.08.2007
You are probably wondering why I wrote a review for a game that has been out for more than a year. The reason is simple. There are still a lot of people who haven't played GTA: San Andreas yet. And this may be an interesting source of information for them and, I hope, for others, as well.
So at first I am going to start with what's lacking and the weaker parts of GTA: SA.
An unenviable situation
The biggest drawback of the game is probably how unreal the highways are. When you don't move, nothing special happens. Or it may seem so. But when you do move, you can see the other cars go three times faster than is permitted, they don't follow traffic laws and they bump into other cars. And even if you go as fast as you can, sometimes another car will crash into you. Even though it is impossible! Sometimes you can see two crashed cars stuck together. Or a car that is half stuck in the ground. The camera in the car turns quite slowly. And this can be dangerous during racing and hunting in the game.
The graphics are a bit older and has barely changed since GTA3. Textures aren't the best. People from the countryside and hamlets look terrible. I mistook one person for a zombie and killed them. I hope I didn't spoil your desire to play. But read the following and you'll learn that GTA: San Andreas deserves the title of "The Game of the Year".
City / plot / main characters
San Andreas takes place in Los Santos (Los Angeles), California in 1992. But you'll be playing throughout the whole San Andreas area this time. You´ll be visiting Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco), and Las Venturras (Las Vegas). If you don´t like big cities, you can visit extensive countryside or the Nevada desert, where the secret military base, Area 69, is (it was designed to look like the real Area 51). You can climb to the top of Mount Chiliand, where extreme cycling races take place. The main character is black. And you can't avoid gang-wars and vulgar slang terms. The two main gangs in this game are your (CJ's) Grove Street Families and Ballas - your main rival. Expect, aside from these two gangs, the other gangs, for instance Varrios, Los Aztecs, or Mexican gang Los Santo Vagos.
When CJ returns home, he isn´t in the easiest situation.
The story begins when the main character Carl "CJ" Johnson returns from Liberty City for his mother's funeral, who had been killed by Ballas - the main rival of Carl Johnson's gang. Carl isn't in a good spot. His gang, Grove Street Families, falls, he has an argument with his allies, and all of his friends (except Big Smoke) and his brother aren't nice to see him. This is because he let his younger brother Brian die 5 years ago, and after that CJ ran away to Liberty City. And on the top of that, three corrupt policemen will kidnap CJ and kick him out of the area that is controlled by Ballas. Your quest begins there and you can get down to your job.
There are lots of interesting characters in missions and almost all the people are dubbed by celebrities. For example, Carl Johnson is dubbed by a lesser known rapper, Young Maylay. Kendl - CJ's sister - is dubbed by the famous hip-hopper Yo Yo. Truth - the great Peter Fonda. Of course, you can find other characters in SA, for example - CJ's older bro Sean "Sweet" Johnson, chums Ryder and Big Smoke. The trio of corrupt policemen, Frank Tempenny, Eddie Pulasky and Timmy Hermandez, pester CJ for the whole game. At the head of Triad's gang is the blind Wu Zi Mu. You might meet lots of characters from previous parts of GTA, such as Kent Paula and Ken Rosenberga from GTA Vice City, Catalin, Claude Speed, Salvador Leone, and Maria Latorre from GTA 3.
Ordinary jump with parachute
It's possible to choose how CJ looks. CJ can have a different tattoo, a new haircut, fashionable clothes, or change his physical characteristics. Carl also has to eat. So from time to time he has to go to a restaurant (fast food), otherwise he starts to lose weight, both fat and muscle. But on the other hand, overeating and obesity can limit his possibilities. It can cause slow running and shorter sprints. You can exercise in the gym and improve your body. It helps increase your reputation and stronger punches, which is always good against an enemy. It's possible to teach CJ martial arts, like Boxing, Kung-Fu, and Kick Boxing. There is always one gym in each town and in each is one, a master of martial arts. You can gain different skills too. When you use, for example, only one weapon for a long time, you can improve and hold two weapons at once. It's possible to improve at driving (but the driving skill increases pretty slowly), as well as in cycling, flying, and motor biking.
Fat, muscles, and reputation are all important. Gaining them, you get authority over your gang and you can hire more gangsters. Your health can be increased by jogging or using machines in the gym. Swimming and diving is a new choice for that as well. The more diving, the longer breath you can hold under water. And have you already heard about Sex Appeal? Yeah, it's true, you can pick up girls in GTA: SA. Tuning up your car is a bonus that no one expected. Your can add hydraulics, wings or nitro to your car. When you are interested in tuning up your car, you can join a tuning race. And the next new stuff deserves its own paragraph
... and after
Mini-games/ gaming machines
Stay calm, that's just assault
What seemed to be a mere dream is now real! You can play on 8-bit machine in GTA: SA. These games are bit old but it is good enough fun. One of the game platforms is in CJ's house. There you can play a game. Then you can bet on a horserace (there you might earn quite a lot of money). And you can also visit casinos. In Caligula's Casino and Four Dragons Casino it is possible to play roulette, pontoon, poker or wheel of fortune. At the beginning the maximum deposit is $100. But the more you play the more gambling skill you can get. So as time goes on, CJ risks more and more money. At last, he can bet $1,000,000. There are also interesting mini-games in jumping cars with hydraulic. You have to manage the right jump (press key) at the right moment, and dancing (another mini-game) is based on the same principle. And when someone forgets a basketball ball on the ground, you are able to play basketball.
Weapons + items
Compared to the previous games, there are lots of new and improved weapons and each of them is good for something different. Finally, you have a Silenced 9mm that is good at low work, compared to a slow, noisy but effective Desert Eagle. The knife is suitable for low work. And you can jugulate someone without being noticed. You can use the classic shotgun known as a "Sicilian trick." For the first time, you can have an automatic shotgun (either a special rocket gun or an air-fighter). New in SA is the Jetpack. You can use it for shooting and flying. The problem of falling from great heights has been solved. You might just use a parachute. It is in most skyscrapers and on Mount Chilliade. When you jump off a plane, you get the parachute automatically so you can land safely. You can put on infrared glasses to see other people better. Night vision comes in handy, mostly at night :o). Another new weapon is the fire extinguisher; hopefully I don't have to mention what to do with it. Another good item is the camera; you can take a photo of whatever you want. Pictures are saved on your HDD. Great gifts for your girlfriend are dildos, flowers, or vibrators. It must work! New also is the health shower. A healthy person has a green triangle that can turn yellow and red and when the triangle gets black you're dead. The sight on weapons appears after pressing the key (normally right mouse button).
To the experienced player, who wants to finish San Andreas fast at 100%, it takes playing about 50 hours. But when you want to enjoy this game, it probably takes far more. There are lots of special missions, bonuses, mini-games, that can add to your playing. You can try to play as a camion or a train driver and smuggle legal or illegal goods. If it gets boring, you can catch gangsters in a police car, put out a fire, rescue people by ambulance, and you can now smuggle prostitutes, earning a little extra by housebreaking and so on. In last GTA, you could find hidden drug packets, but there are more things to find in San Andreas. You can spray tags, take photos of cities, and search for horseshoes and shells. You can improve your skills in a driving school, a boat school, a motorcycle school and a flight school. If you want, you can work as a valet in a hotel and take cars into the garage. Delivering hamburgers or drug packets to businesses is also quite funny. Or would you prefer illegal races in the city or rather races in a stadium? And what about cycling races down the slope of Mount Chiliand?
Weather and climate
The weather changes quite often in San Andreas and in several places is completely different. When you are in Los Santos and in the desert or Las Venturras, sometimes you might see heat fumes. It often rains in Los Santos, San Fierro, and in the forests and the road gets slippery as hell! Sometimes there are pretty strong storms, and during them, the sky is a strange blood-red. Meanwhile in the desert, from time to time, there are sandstorms that can really complicate flying a plane, driving in countryside, forests and in San Fierro, it's such a pea-souper that you can almost not see a foot in front of your face.
today is such a beautiful purple night
You can see that the colour of sky changes depending on the place where you are and what time you are there. In Los Santos, you can see yellow-orange sky, but from time to time, it is blue. It can be from dark-orange to black at night. There is dark blue and hazy sky in the forests, countryside and San Fiero, but sometimes it is sky-blue. There is a mainly yellow and orange sky in the desert. Every now and then sky is pink on the desert, mainly in the morning. In Las Venturras, it is the same as the desert. During rain, the sky is ash-grey and sometimes blood-red. During a desert storm, it is dark-orange and neon-yellow. The sky changes every minute in San Andreas.
Mysterious San Andreas
San Andreas is a mysterious place. During play, you look into many mysteries. Bloody cottages, atypical carved trees, a mass grave and dug graves, that all prove existence of a mass psychopathic murder with a chainsaw who hasn't been found by anybody yet. Also a half severed canyon, a mysterious UFO pub with photos and a map of UFO places proves existence of UFOs in San Andreas. During play you can find a secret lab of zombies, where zombies are envisaged. You can see the secret military base, Area 69, in the desert. You can be a bit surprised by "Big Ear", a satellite that receives signals from space, a polluted lake or a radioactive well. In some places it is possible to find pieces of hacked Glendale car, or destroyed huts etc. While getting to know the city you can find several burned villages, an open crypt, a wheelchair without an owner and so on. So you can run about San Andreas with your camera and look at mysteries and play an explorer. Because SA is full of mysteries that wait to be solved
I hope you liked my review. San Andreas is one of the best games in history of the game industry. But on the other side, it is an eyesore for people that still complain about the violence in the games.
Total rating: 94%
Verdict - San Andreas is a game that can't be defeated in playability by any other. It is a little dated in graphically, but it offers an incredible amount of freedom, that has never been possible in other games.