| After playing the game a little more, a few things have started to bother me. In cutscenes, the simplicity of character designs really stands out. Characters don't move their mouths when they talk, and choppy animations or splicing together of voices really detracts from the experience. What's more, mapping the mouse to the second thumbstick is OK all the time except when shooting. Unfortunately, shooting is the only time when it's really important to be as accurate as possible.|
As many times as I'm sure it's been said, Rockstar just nails the soundtrack. The radiostations have realistic playlists and the DJ's and fake commercials are very funny. I would say that the music is probably overall not quite as good as Vice City, which had hilarious 80's style commercials and music. However, since San Andreas is set in the early 90's, hip-hop was well on its way. The Rockstar DJ's are smart and put in a lot of remixes and rare versions of songs that are now considered classics. Including full radio stations is now not a very new idea, but it's really been changed up in a good way in each recent GTA.
Another thing that is really well done in San Andreas is the way the environment is slowly opened up more and more. I still haven't gotten to travel all around California of visit San Fierro, but usually things that prevent the player from progressing further before fulfilling some mission objectives really get on my nerves, but San Andreas puts you in such a big city even at the very beginning of the game that this isn't a problem. However, I did sometimes get frustrated when I saw something that I was pretty sure was a secret area, but jumped into an invisible wall over and over becasue I hadn't progressed far enough in the game to be finding secrets.
While I do have some reservations about this game, they are mostly due to the fact that the game is already 3 or 4 years old and not being played on a PS2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is set in an amazing and fun world to explore in. Beyond updated hi-res visuals, I have no idea what Rockstar has planned for GTA4. I am very excited.
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| This week, I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I have played Grand Theft Auto 3 and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City quite a bit at friends houses and was a really big fan, so I expected to like San Andreas. However, I mostly had played the previous two GTA games on PS2. I don't have a PS2, so I'm playing San Andreas for PC. I don't really like how the game feels being controlled by a mouse and keyboard, so I decided to play with my USB XBox 360 controller. This is now supposed to be the "standard" PC controller, with automatic, built-in support in all Windows games. However, San Andreas was ported to the PC before Microsoft was pushing XBox 360 controllers for Windows, so the automatic support on "gamepad" mode is extremely minimal. The left joystick controls movement, but the right joystick is impossible to assign to anything, as are the triggers and D-Pad. I spent quite a long time on the internet trying to find a patch or some way to let my gamepad be the main controller. I ended up finding a program called ControlMK which let me map a keyboard button or mouseclick to each controller button and control the mouse with the right joystick. It took quite a while to get everything set up properly, but the game really feels a lot better played with a controller like it's meant to be.|
For all of its depiction as a mindless killing game, the GTA series, now in at least its 10th installment, has a surprisingly complicated plot. San Andreas starts out with the main character flying from Liberty City (New York) back home to San Andreas (LA) after hearing that his mom has died. A cop, played by Samuel Jackson picks him up immediately and drops him in the territory of a rival gang. The next big section of the plot shows him getting his old neighborhood gang back together. The plot isn't the most interesting story in the world, but its clear that they put some time into it, and its nice to have missions that aren't totally random assignments from my cell phone like in some of the earlier GTA games.
I remember being stunned the first time I saw GTA 3, and being really impressed by the improvements in Vice City, but that was a few years ago. I understand that San Andreas is improved from Vice City, but the engine is looking really tired in 2007. I'm not sure if the graphics were ported to PC poorly, but I'm really just barely there even with everything turned up to maximum. Still, the point of GTA isn't detailed textures and individually rendered fingers, but rather the scope of the world the player is set in. In that respect, San Andreas is fantastic, a shot out of the park. In GTA 3, you could tell the city was supposed to be New York. In Vice City, Rockstar really nailed the 80's Miami feel. San Andreas, though, looks exactly like LA. The game isn't just set in LA, but rather lets you explore most of California. I am from San Francisco, so for me the real test is how they depict "San Fierro," but as far as I've gotten into the game I am really blown away.
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