| Gameplay 2:|
The game has taken on some interesting twists and turns in the last few hours, and introduced some new and very interesting characters. I've really been enjoying completing the missions, because after the first act of the game the pacing has really picked up. The storyline is progressing along quite quickly, with each mission I complete having a noticeable effect on what happen to my character. And boy are there some memorable missions. I've noticed that even though most of the gameplay fundamentals remain the same throughout them (drive, shoot, drive, shoot some more, drive really really fast, etc) I am not getting bored, because of the variety of style the game is giving me, even if the fundamental substance is the same. Although this is not always the case, the game does feature some unique mini-game style of missions, although these are very outlandish, and feature things like destroying vans with a remote controlled airplane and even engaging in a brief miniature game of strategy with remote controlled combatants. (Part of a strange sub-plot involving a remote controlled model store.) Furthermore, I've found the game's satire in this portion to be much more spot-on and amusing. This is partially because the conflict and story of the game have grown so outlandish at this point that it no longer has the real-world sickening feel that the gang violence in Los Santos had. Still, I do find the lack of player choice unnerving, as I am forced to complete mission after questionable mission. One in particular bothered me, where I had to kill a construction site foreman by rolling him around while he was in a portapotty, and burying him alive in a stinky, concrete grave. Now, while I had killed many other characters in the game up till then, the fact that this man hadn't really done anything wrong but that his construction workers had been making comments about my character's sister's appearance is what bothered me. I had no choice but to complete this mission, or else I wouldn't be able to finish the game, and that bothered me somewhat. However, that aside, this stint of gaming was very enjoyable, and even though it continued to follow the same old, complete missions, complete more missions, do this, do that, mechanic, I never once got bored (although I did sometimes get stuck for awhile.) I also found myself enjoying the sandbox game environment much more, perhaps because I more directly related to the parts of San Andreas (the fictional state the game takes place in, essentially California and Nevada,) primarily because they took place in what is essentially the California countryside, and also San Fierro, a San Francisco clone which features several representations of even lesser known SF landmarks such as City Hall, all of which, being a resident of Northern California, I really related to and enjoyed.
GTA: SA uses a "sandbox" style open-world form of design, whereby the entire game-world is all interconnected, featuring no separate levels or areas, but rather one large area, where the environments shift as you move around. In this case it models a state, San Andreas, based on California and Nevada, with three major cities, and several small towns, and lots of connecting roads. The game's storyline is divided into four main acts, one in each major city, and the final act returning to Los Santos, the setting of the first act. There are several side story strings. The game uses a mission system, whereby certain missions are assigned to the player via cutscenes when they talk to the appropriate character, and are then carried out, in a manner insulated from the open gameworld. Some missions are game critical, and must be carried out to advance the story, others are side missions that unlock minor story strings, and others still are totally optional missions, like competing in races, etc. A unique feature of the game is the ability of the player to move either on foot, or, as the game's name implies, in vehicles which can be either stolen or acquired by some other means...but they're mostly stolen. The player than progresses through the game, stuck on an almost completely linear rail insofar as the story and missions are concerned, but given leeway to explore the (mostly) open gameworld.
The game is fundamentally a third-person shooter and a driving game, but it tries to have other aspects as well, and ultimately tries to do too much, making none of the aspects really shine. Driving, especially with the PC keyboard, is very awkward experience, and its not surprising to end up eating your way through multiple vehicles even on a short trip. Combat is better executed, but ultimately ends up coming up short. Furthermore, the game adds RPG style elements, where you can up your character's stats by going to the gym, practicing shooting, or simply playing the game. This ends up being somewhat awkward and ineffective. Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about the RPG style element is the ability to customize your character's clothing, hairstyle, etc, although this isn't exactly a fundamental part of this game element. Lastly, and perhaps most awkwardly, the game attempts to enhance replayability and encourage exploration of the open game world by scattering items all around the world which serve no purpose other than as meaningless rewards, much like coins in a platformer.
However, for all it's flaws, the game is highly entertaining. It features some unique elements that are well executed, such as the lack of a central soundtrack, relying instead on about a dozen radio stations that can be heard while in a vehicle, which allows the player to choose what soundtrack they like best. Furthermore, the variety of weapons, vehicles, and locations, and situations, is unparalleled. This is truly a game that never plays the same twice, even if its core missions do.
The storyline is long, and filled with satire and humor. The game doesn't take itself seriously, nor does it take anything else seriously, and it doesn't ask the player to suspend disbelief and believe that a world like this could exist, but rather asks them to be ready for the outlandish, but not to believe it. Ultimately, this approach lends itself very well to the fundamental core of the game, and makes it a more enjoyable experience.
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| Please note, I have another gamelog for this game, it is wrong, and has nothing in it, this is the right one. Please note also that this game was on the classics list for PS2 but I played it on PC, which is supposed to be ok.|
I've been playing GTA:SA for several hours now, and have completed the first act of the game. I've played this game to its completion once before, and I've found playing it in the context of doing a gamelog has somewhat altered my perspective on it. The first act of the game takes place in the city of Los Santos (Los Angeles) where your character, CJ, has just returned from Liberty City (New York) in order to take charge of the family gang. This part of the game consists mostly of driving around the city, killing rival gang members, and acquiring new territory for your gang. Like most aspects of GTA, I would find this highly offensive if it wasn't presented in such a satirical manner, however I found the satire in this act to be relatively weak and as a result the whole idea sort of left a bad taste in my mouth. The game is subdivided into various missions, which, when completed, advance the storyline. While some missions almost all (with several exceptions) play out in fundamentally the same way from a gameplay point of view, although with great, and memorable, variations on style. In the first act I experienced everything from a drive-by shooting, to robbing a military base of its weapons, to the now seemingly traditional car-chase through the aquaducts/concrete rivers of Los Angeles. However, all the missions play out in basically the fundamentally same way: drive somewhere, shoot the place up, and drive away. However the game manages to avoid overt repetition by changing up the style of each mission as I previously mentioned, and also allowing them to take place (in some cases) in certain areas that are normally either not accessible or at least not set up in the same way as they usually are in the Sand Box style open world. While I found the game's introductory pacing to be somewhat slow for an experienced player, I recall that it served me well the first time I played several years ago. Furthermore, the designers have scattered weapons, vehicles, and other goodies throughout the vast map, which I noticed allowed me to jump into the game faster since I already knew where they were: for example, I picked up an AK-47 and a Winchester repeating rifle before my character was even supposed to have gotten a 9mm pistol, because I knew where to go to find them. Ultimately the first act of GTA: SA serves as a good introduction to the things you will have to do later in the game, and does feature some dramatic betrayals, as well as plot and character development. I do have some criticisms however. My first is with the way the open world is limited at this stage in the game. While it makes sense to only open up certain areas as the game progresses, the execution of this made no sense to me: when you went too far outside the city limits, the FBI and even the army show up and start shooting at you. This is supposedly because the corrupt Officer Tenpenny (voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson) told you not to leave town. However I found it hard to believe that he carries enough influence to call in all holy federal hell on you when you take a step too far down a street, even in the outlandishly bizzaar world that is GTA. Furthermore I found it annoying that the amount of territories that you take over for your gang has no effect on the outcome of the story, but other than these flaws, as well as a few teeth-gnashingly difficult missions, I found the first act to be quite enjoyable.
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