If you are looking for some wholesome family entertainment, look no further than the X-Box edition of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Well, maybe that is only true if you are a member of the Manson family. This is by far the best version of Grand Theft Auto that I have ever seen. From the moment you start out, to second you finish, you will be blown away by how well this game plays. With a plethora of things to do, you could easily spend 200 hours in game and still have fun afterwards. Everything you know and love about this groundbreaking series has been improved upon and strengthened in so many ways. Rockstar has added huge game-changing additions, as well as subtle adjustments to the gameplay. Without a doubt, GTA: San Andreas will eclipse all previous versions of this series, leaving you to fall in love with the game the way you did when the original Grand Theft Auto was initially released.
You begin the game as a scrawny, retired gang banger named CJ, who has come back to his old hood because of his mother?s recent gang related death. You are welcomed home by your old posse who almost shoot you.. They then proceed to rag on your wimpy physique, complain about your tattered wife beater shirt, and your utter lack of an adequate haircut suitable to ?represent? your hood. If you plan on ?keeping it real? you will need to get all of these things fixed. This is one of the first things you?ll immediately find that makes this game stand out from past GTAs. You are in control of how your character turns out, including clothes, tattoos, and physique. Eat too much without exercise and you might turn into Fat Albert, don?t eat enough, or choose not to work out, and you?ll be the laughing stock of the streets. Your actions in game will be the deciding factor in how you are treated in the hood as well as how you progress through the game.
That is just the beginning, though, in regards to what this game has in store for you. You can invest a solid 10 hours into San Andreas and you will have barely scratched the surface. This is one of the largest video games out there, not just for the X-Box, but for any system. It is your mission to save your hood from being over run by the dreaded ?Ballers? gang, and then eventually working your way up to becoming a superstar of the streets. You?ll be buying mansions, calling the shots, and hopefully owning the city. All the vehicles are available to you, including new additions like the BMX bike, low riders with hydraulic systems, forklifts, and even tractors. It?s safe to say that the tractor is not the best choice for ?representing? you hood. You can also fly airplanes, helicopters, and drive boats. There are plenty of vehicles readily available for you to steal and destroy at any time.
The X-Box version of San Andreas has a slightly better look to it. It?s not much, but you will be able to see the little differences in player models and especially the art work scattered around the huge cities you will explore. In the PS2 version, most of the background art was so blurry that you could hardly see any of the funny easter eggs that the developers at Rockstar had placed all over the city in order to get a few laughs. This is not a problem with the X-Box version. Although better than the PS2 version, the character models and cut scenes are still pretty rough and low on detail. It is so easy to look past this, though, thanks to the sheer size of this game. Once you hit the streets and start exploring the city, the graphics are fine. Although good, they just don?t meet the high standard that Xbox owners are used to.
One of the biggest features of the GTA series is the massive amount of quality music the games include for people of all tastes to enjoy. This game has one of the best collections of music I have ever seen in a game, hands down. Representing the best of the 90s, GTA: San Andreas nails it by including such a huge list of popular songs that you?ll be surfing the stations for hours just to hear what is available. The X-Box version even lets you rip your own music onto a personalized station. This is a great feature, but with the vast amount of great music already in game, it is not even necessary. Depending on your mood, just flip the channel and you can hear music from James Brown, Hank Williams, and Ice Cube, to name just a few. If you really like the music, you can order an 8 disc collection of music including Country, Rock, Rap, Reggae, and Tejano music. Hands down, this game blows away any other game out there that incorporates real music from popular artists. There is no reason that someone could not find at least one radio station in this game that they like. It?s perfect! The acting in game is something that impressed me immediately, as well. Voice acting has come a long way, and you will see just how great it has become in San Andreas. There are hours of dialogue in this game and everything is so well acted that it plays like a movie. There are no cheesy moments, and that even includes the passers by. This is a living, breathing world, and almost everyone has something to say to you.
Rockstar also finally included the one thing that I have always had a beef with the franchise over. Swimming! Yes, finally you can be the toughest, roughest player in town and someone who actually knows how to swim! This has always aggravated me with the past games and they finally fixed it. It adds so much depth to the game that it makes you wonder why it has taken them this long to incorporate it. You can now launch cars straight into the ocean and bail out with ease! While swimming, you can explore the deep sea and find all kinds of goodies. This is just one of those things that should have been in the game from the get go, but for one reason or another it was left out. It?s here now, though, and was well worth the wait.
The game?s controls are pretty solid. Aside from some close range targeting problems and the difficult drive by shootings, everything is pretty smooth. The drive by mode is probably more of an issue with the odd button placement for the Xbox controller, though. The PS2 version was a little easier to handle when it came to driving and shooting. Moving around and jumping fences is easy and feels good. The targeting system is not the best out there, but it is an improvement over past versions. As for combat, you can switch between the automatic targeting system and the in-game reticule that gives you full control of your shots. You can even nail a one shot car kill if you pinpoint the gas tank. This adds a little bit more strategy and planning if you know you?re in for a big fight. A well placed shot can turn the tide of a fight when you are heavily outnumbered.
You?ll find that when you start the game it may be a little bit more difficult to drive around than what you are used to. This is not a control issue. This is a well planned addition to the game that lets you build upon your driving skills. The more talent you show as you drive around, the faster your driving skill meter will fill up. Other skill meters include fighting abilities, stamina, and your street rep. The more you work on the different skill meters, the better you will become at all of them. Learn new fighting combos and get a solid rep on the streets, and you?ll be able to ask random gang members to follow you and give some additional support on the tougher missions.
If you are new to the franchise and are interested in this game, get it. You are not missing out on any important story elements if you haven?t played the previous versions of the game. This is its own game with so much to offer that anyone will be able to enjoy it for hours on end. If you are familiar with the past games, you need to pick it up ASAP. This is the best version of Grand Theft Auto by far. With three of the biggest cities the franchise has ever had, countless hours of missions, and well acted voiceovers, you simply can not go wrong with this game. Be forwarded though. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas earns its ?M? rating. It gives you free reign on how you want to gain respect, which can get very violent. Bad language runs rampant throughout the game, so be cautious if you have kids running around.
There is so much to see and explore in this game that it is a must buy for any X-Box owner. Unless you have the monthly game pass at your local Blockbuster, don?t bother renting for the weekend. It will take you a month just to see a good portion of this game. It?s bigger than anything I have ever seen. This is the game that this writer will be playing for the rest of the summer, and I?m sure you?ll feel the same once you try it out and witness first hand the enormous size of the game. The only thing even remotely missing is a multiplayer feature, although that is probably right around the corner as well. Other than an improvement on the graphics, San Andreas has hit such a high mark that multiplayer may be the only new direction this series can go. Represent!!