By Sam Coles:
It’s hard to believe that we got three Grand Theft Auto games in a short space of time on the PlayStation 2, with each instalment rising in quality. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was first released on the PS2 back in 2004 and was the last game in the series to be released on the sixth generation of consoles, as four years later we got Grand Theft Auto IV a game completely different in tone. Rockstar once again took inspiration from popular film as San Andreas is basically Boys in the Hood.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas takes place in the early 90’s, where you start off in Los Santos which is a small recreation of Los Angles. You play as Carl Johnson who has come home from Liberty City as he finds out that his mother has died and has come back for her funeral. It’s not long until he is stopped by Officer Tenpenny who is a corrupt police officer who blackmails Carl. Carl sees how much of a mess his former street gang Grove St is and he ends up staying to help his brother out by settling the war between them and two other gangs. However after you leave the first island the whole gang element gets swiftly bushed under the carpet, which makes me think what the point was introducing it. Unlike other GTA games, San Andreas does not take place in one city but instead it is set across several cities in one state and this blew my mind when it first came out as it pushed the PS2 to its limits.
Gameplay was tweaked compared to Vice City, controls for driving and on foot have weight to them compared to the floaty nature of the last two games. Cars feel great to control and have a sense of realism to them; it’s not completely realistic like GTA IV as you can still throw a car around the corner while flooring it with no regard to human safety. Carl feels great to control when running, however the shooting is still clunky as at this point there was still no dedicated cover system as you have to awkwardly hide behind a wall and try and shoot your target. They added stealth mechanics in certain missions but these are an afterthought as all you do is crouch with enemies with a questionable field of view.
Visually the game doesn’t look great, character models look extremely dated where there hands look like frozen sausages that are stuck together. There are some nice touches with the environments, such as the heat waves when you’re in the heart of Los Santos during a hot sunny day. Mostly though the game has not aged gracefully in the graphics department, which is to be expected as most PS2 games have not aged well with very few exceptions.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is a great game! Is it the best game in the series as some like to proclaim? No, it’s not as that title goes to Vice City, but it is a highly ambitious game for the PS2 as it really pushed the hardware to its limits with the sheer scale and size of the game. You can get it for fairly cheap on the PS2 or you can pick up the PS3/360 remaster or you can get the PS4 HD port on PSN. You have lots of choices when it comes to playing the game.