After the tremendous fun of Vice City came Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2004, with an expanded map featuring Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas) and set during the year of 1992.
The game followed Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson, who returns to his home on Grove Street, Los Santos, after the murder of his mother. Reuniting with his crew, his brother Sweetm and friends Ryder and Big Smoke, CJ sets out to ‘reclaim the streets’ and discover who was responsible for his mother’s death.
This game brought a substantial amount of of additions to the table. Not only did the game feature a bigger gameplay area, it also had varied landscapes to explore, from the hilly San Fierro streets, reminscent of the city that inspired it, to the dusty deserts of Nevada inspired Las Venturas. You could drive through the urban sprawl, then take a bicycle ride out in the sticks, and if you fancied it, you could go diving. Yes, San Andreas was the first of the GTA games to enable a player to swim and dive to discover what exactly is lurking beneath the water, as well as the ability to climb, which came in very handy with the neighbourhood setting of the game.
One of the other differences of San Andreas compared to the previous titles in the series were experience points, where the more your character CJ would do a certain task, be it diving underwater or riding a BMX around the hood, the more you used it, the better you’d become in the form of holding your breath underwater or faster on the pedals.
With San Andreas focussed on the gang aspect more than any other GTA’s of the series, the player as CJ was able to recruit gang members who would then patrol the streets with CJ and ‘have his back’ if they encountered a rival gang. This meant more firepower when needed and the less chance of CJ being hit when in a difficult shootout with an enemy gang. Having a gang of your own meant you could acquire turf within the ‘hood, taking out rival gang members to claim it, however claimed turf could also be challenged for so players had to constantly attend an area under threat in order to retain control.
San Andreas also became the first GTA where the player could customize their character, to an extent. Whilst CJ would always be male and black, players could alter his appearance, from his clothes to tattoos, haircuts to physical build. CJ would always remain the same height, but players could take CJ to the gym where he could attain a muscular physique, gaining compliments from passers by in the street. As the the game also required CJ to consume food to regain health, keeping a toned physique needed constant attention. On the flip side, eat too much without training and CJ would pile on the pounds, also getting feedback from passers by, albeit negative ones.
Gameplay within San Andreas had been blow apart, inserting so many new toys for gamers to play with, it was virtually impossible to get bored. Introducing aeroplanes and the infamous jetpack allowed players to get from A to B faster than before, and mini-games such as pool in the local bar and the mass of slot machines and blackjack tables in Las Venturas meant that the main storyline mission wasn’t the only thing to play the game for.
Vehicle licenses became part of the main storyline, with players having to complete their pilot license in order to fly planes and continue the story, whilst players could also take part in the driving and motorcycling school too.
Demolition derbys, dirtbike racing, lowrider challenges, robbing people’s houses, parachuting, basketball, dating, dancing – the list of things to do in San Andreas was endless (we mustn’t forget the notorious ‘hot coffee’ mod!)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas kickstarted almost endless, open-world theme that has been taken and improved for the release of GTA V, and we will all be looking forward to returning to the indelible landscapes of Los Santos
Juan says “GTA San Andreas had the tough job of following an all time classic. It’s a good job it turned out to be the best game of it’s kind ever (remember this is written before GTA V’s release). It was like Rockstar took Liberty City and Vice City, stuck a massive peninsula in the middle and added a shed load more on top. The scale of San Andreas is immense. GTA enthusiasts know that the standard is to unlock various parts of the city as missions progress, but the fact that the first section of this game is as big as the city in the first game was something else. The bar was raised in terms of content and style. There’s cities, suburbs, countryside, deserts and mountains, not to mention the sprawling highways (the amount of time wasted just cycling up the mountains just to parachute off the top was ridiculous). The amount of vehicles added to the game was amazing, particularly the addition of bicycles, jet planes and jet packs. Extra character elements were added, which I thought were great, including being able to beef up your character in the gym, improved vehicular handling skills, and the ability to upgrade your combat expertise. There was also one key extra that the series had been crying out for since day one, and that is the ability to swim. Finally these criminal masterminds were able to brave the briny depths and not die as soon as they fell in a river. San Andreas was obviously based on LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas, and this so far is where the series peaked. There is so much variety and so much do, you can get more enjoyment out of this game than anything else out there. I’m pretty sure I’ve put over 100 hours of my life into this game, and a good 50% of that is probably fannying around.”
Bat say: “GTA: San Andreas was by far the easiest game of the series, and whilst it’s not my favourite of the bunch (that honour would go to Vice City), it is the most fun-filled. I loved to ride the BMX bikes and get pumped at the gym, as well as trying out the latest haircuts. As someone who dreams of visiting Vegas, Las Venturas was amazing to play in and I won mega bucks in the casino. Flying around the desert with a jet pack and trying to enter Area 69 (a spoof of Area 51) were one on my favourite memories, as well as the missions with Millie the casino croupier, Catalina out in the woodlands and The Truth! Which reminds me, how many other games can you play where you can run over and grind up humans with a combine harvester?”