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Playstation 2



Action / Adventure






Rockstar North



M (Mature)



October 2004


- Huge, detailed world to explore

- Compelling and varied missions

- Top-notch presentation and voice acting



- Some slowdown and draw-in issues

- Once again forcing players to play missions to “open” parts of the state detracts from realism



Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Playstation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (Playstation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (PC)



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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Score: 9.7 / 10


RockStar's third foray into “next-generation” Grand Theft Auto territory, GTA: San Andreas, gives the formula from the first two games a serious tweaking while more than doubling the amount of territory available to play around in.  The added RPG-lite elements increase the depth of game play considerably while the added territory gives players who view GTA as more of a toy than a game more places to explore and practice their criminal craft.  I'm unsure that there is anything in the game that would convince people who didn't like the originals to change their mind, but for fans of the series, GTA: San Andreas should come across as one of the best games of the year.


gta san andreas ps2 review           gta san andreas ps2 review


Like the change between GTA3 and GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas moves to a different era and a new ethnic group for its setting.  San Andreas takes place during the early 90's in the state of San Andreas, which is clearly modeled after California (with some Las Vegas spice thrown in for good measure).  This new GTA tells an inner city story straight out of the works of John Singleton and the Hughes Bros.  I'm sure this change will open the game up for the same charges of prejudice leveled by Italian and Cuban-Americans at the first two games, and there is certainly a good deal of stereotypical gangster-rap style behavior going on here, but, to be fair, the whole game is painted with a pretty broad brush and no ethnic group has gone unpunished in the series.  Add to that the fact that RockStar was able to round up a Who's Who of A-list African-American talent and I certainly don't feel particularly offended by the characters or events in the game.





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Potential to offend aside, GTA:SA's plot is the most compelling of the series.  While playing through the missions, I was more interested in the story and the outcome of each little adventure than I had been in even Vice City, my favorite game of the series.  Like Vice City, the voice acting really contributes to the cinematic quality of the game.  Every actor does an excellent job creating a believable character.  The cut scenes well “shot” and the whole story has a big-budget Hollywood film feel to it.



The game play of the first two games has been deepened greatly for San Andreas.  New to the engine are a plethora of tracked stats, everything from weapon proficiency to lung capacity.  Players can pause the game at any time and get a full update on their entire stats package, or a push of a button can give them a real time update on the critical stats.  Throughout the game, it is important to “level up” stats in order to complete certain missions.  Also, players are forced to work out to stay in shape and eat to maintain energy.  At first, the micro-management was disorienting, but as the game developed I appreciated the ability to focus on certain skills to increase my chances of completing difficult missions.


gta san andreas ps2 review          gta san andreas ps2 review


There are a whole group of players (myself included when I don't have to review one of the games) that enjoy the GTA games not for their plots or mission structure but instead for the opportunity they offer to freely explore a detailed world and see what kind of trouble they can cause.  RockStar has hidden a ton of little details for those players and I'm not going to ruin any of them here.  San Andreas has the biggest, most varied setting of the series and it is a blast just to run around it doing various side missions or just committing crimes and trying to escape the authorities.  The package collecting is gone, replaced by something that makes more sense thematically, but players will find plenty of other things to discover while running, climbing, driving, and flying around the state.


So, whether a player is the type to focus on the missions or the type who likes to play around with the game, San Andreas has plenty to offer.  Only the graphical bugs, slow-down and other nit picks associated with the fact that the game is pushing the aging PS2 to its limits keeps this from being the first perfect entry into the series.  As it is, GTA: San Andreas is very, very good — a game I fully expect to still be playing when the inevitable PC version appears and takes care of the games dated looks.


- Tolen Dante

(December 1, 2004)

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