GTA: San Andreas is the best of the Grand Theft Auto games and one of the best games released in the year 2004. GTA: San Andreas begins in 1992 and takes place on the island of San Andreas which contains a total of three major cities. The first city that your character Carl Johnson, aka. C.J., will visit is his home town Los Santos. C.J. comes home after hearing of his mother’s death to find that his gang is in shambles. He has been away from his home for nearly five years and in that time a lot has changed for the Grove Street Families. C.J.’s brother Sweet is not too happy with him for ditching his gang for all these years and bullies him into helping take back the neighborhood from their rival gang, the Ballas. This is why C.J. left in the first place, to get away from all this trouble.

Unfortunately C.J. has more than just gang problems to deal with, he has legal problems too. Upon entering Los Santos C.J. was accosted by two crooked cops demanding his cooperation or else. Now C.J. is stuck in Los Santos taking orders from his gang and the police; which between the two keep him plenty busy. C.J. has been ordered and threatened not to leave Los Santos until otherwise ordered to do so by officer Tenpenny and his partner. What other choice does he have but to cooperate?

The city of Los Santos is laid out similarly to Los Angeles, California and Grove Street, which is home to C.J. and his gang, represents the slums of the city. Everything in and around Grove Street is sorely run down, as some would say this is the wrong side of the tracks. In areas such as these you can expect to find graffiti covering the buildings, run-down houses, junk cars, and look out for drive-by shootings. One of C.J.’s first missions, which remains through the entire game, is to cover up the rival gang’s graffiti. This is synonymous with the hidden packages that you had to find in GTA: Vice City.

There are three leaders in the Grove Street gang that C.J. will often work with, his brother Sweet, Ryder, and Big Smoke. Together they will paint over graffiti, perform drive-bys, and attack the Ballas. Most importantly they wish to have all of the crack dealing, which is done by the Ballas, out of their neighborhood. So, not surprisingly, they go looking to find the major dealers and work to convince them of the errors in their judgment. Also on their to do list is recruitment of new members for their gang. Safety and power comes in numbers.

You don’t only get the ghetto parts of Los Angeles, you get the rich parts as well. Travel up and down these areas, killing people on the streets and you may soon be rolling in the dough. These people have money. You can use this cash to build up on your wardrobe, real estate, or weaponry. You can also make money by performing fire-fighter missions, vigilante missions, ambulance missions, etc. Not only do you get money for these, but if you complete all of the required levels you get a good reward at the end. For instance, if you complete all of the fire-fighter missions you will become fire proof. There are other mini games to try that don’t give you quite as good rewards, but are still fun like racing, dating, dancing, and low-rider contests. With all of these games and all of the side missions this game can take forever to fully complete.

After a while you will no longer be restricted to Los Santos and the gang will no longer be your primary concern. From Los Santos you will travel to some small towns out in the country where you will carry out some more orders. The countryside is massive; which can be frustrating when you want to get somewhere in a hurry. You can travel off road in the mountains, through ranches, and other unusual areas.

Soon San Fierro will be open for you. San Fierro is based off the real life city of San Francisco. This is by far the most beautiful of the three cities. Once you enter San Fierro there will be some missions for you to carry out just as there will be in all of the other cities and towns located on the island of San Andreas. Everywhere you go its work, work, work.

After San Fierro, Las Venturas opens its doors for you. Las Venturas is the 1990’s version of Los Vegas, Nevada. Home of the gambling maniacs. Enjoy the sights of all the casino’s and while your at it buy one for yourself, or more. There will be missions such as casino heists and killing off the Mafia. Make sure to check out the surrounding desert.

Some of the additions to San Andreas that were not present in the other GTA games are C.J.’s ability to swim (even under water), his ability to ride a bike, he can block, and use combo moves on enemies. The swimming is by far the best improvement because it makes the boating mission much easier. Since C.J. can swim underwater there is a breath meter that must be watched. If he runs out of breath he will die. To increase the breath meter spend a lot of time swimming underwater and resurfacing. Also C.J. needs to eat to stay healthy and in-shape. If he eats too much he will become fat and if he eats too little he will become very thin. C.J.’s looks are important to the game and he must keep himself in-shape by going to the gym. He needs muscle both for respect and for fighting. C.J. also needs to take fighting lessons while he is at the gym.

Respect is important for C.J.’s progress in the game. He can earn respect by the way he dresses, how well in-shape he is, and by completing missions. He needs respect so that he can recruit more members for his gang and so that more missions will become available to him. It’s important that C.J. dresses in his gang colors, this shows pride and dedication.

GTA: San Andreas can last anywhere from 25 to 40 hours depending on how versed the player is in the GTA games and how much time is devoted to the main story. There is a lot more to this game than just the main story. There are arcade games, racing games, etc. that can entertain you for as long as you want to spend on them. Many people don’t even play it for the storyline, they play just to beat people up and steal cars. If this is the case then this game can last a lifetime. One thing that is special about this game that has not been in any of the other GTA games is a two-player mode. You can find this hidden inside the cities, it’s a little icon that you pick up when there are two controllers plugged into the console. Once you pick it up another controllable person will appear on-screen for the second person to use. You will be given some objectives which you can either follow or not. It is really not as exciting as it sounds, but it’s a step in the right direction (a baby step).

The graphics in this game are pretty amazing. The shimmering on the road when its hot, the misty fog, and the rain. The large mountainous areas covered in grass and trees. The skyscrapers, pools, and mansions to name a few. All are very beautifully thought out. The characters look much more natural than in Vice City. Although there are still some problems with the visuals such as buildings disappearing and many have a gritty feel to them.

The soundtrack has a lot of variety just like Vice City’s did. You have your choice from country to rap and anything in-between. There is an abundance of choices in songs and singers to familiarize yourself with. The sound effects make you feel like your right in the action. The blasting of guns, the roar of the engines, and the screeching of metal when there is a crash. The cast did an excellent job and the dialogue was decent. Some of the special actors were Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, and James Woods. The commercials were side splitting funny as usual which is one of the best parts of the game. By the way, the DJ for the classic rock station is none other than Axl Rose.

GTA: San Andreas was a great game to play, but if your looking for something with a different feel than GTA: Vice City don’t look here. Many people look forward to the sequels being dramatically different from their predecessors because what’s the point of making the same game over again. This is a more improved version of Vice City, but it’s basically still Vice City with a change in the story. The missions are similar, the extras are similar, with a few deviations, but not enough to make it feel novel. Maybe the next time they can think of something new.

Even though GTA: San Andreas isn’t as fresh as one would have hoped does not mean that it is lacking in creativity. It’s kind of neat to drive around the towns that you have explored in real life and recognize where you are. Like tracing your path down the strip in Vegas or finding Haden Ashberry in San Francisco. Out of all the GTA games this one is the best.


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