Thursday 21 February, 2008
(GameLog 4, Part II, for CMPS 80K)
As I become better acquainted with San Andreas, I am glad to find that some of the tedium I encountered during my first session has worn off. Having by now become used to the gameworld city of Los Santos and its surroundings, I am more confident navigating the vast urban areas and undertaking missions. In this, my second gaming session, I once again took control of Carl and helped him to become reacquainted with his home turf.
As with the rest of the GTA series, the missions that the player is asked to undertake begin as small, petty crimes – in this case, spray-painting walls with gang tags – but quickly escalate into more serious offenses such as the mass murder of an entire house of rival gang members. While killing on this scale is somewhat justified in the narrative (the victims consist largely of prostitutes and drug-pushers who are destroying the reputation of Grove Street), it is plain to see why a game like San Andreas might so radically increase public awareness of videogame violence in recent years.
While not necessarily innovative in its use of visuals or content, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas makes rather effective use of the PS2's capacity for interactive and immersive gameplay. The graphics, while not groundbreaking, are fairly well rendered, and do their job of conveying the gritty, urban streets of San Andreas to the viewer. The game also features some fairly decent voice-acting, and even through the characters are often stereotypical, they each add their own level of color and intrigue without deviating from the established, quasi-realistic tone for which the GTA series is known.
What the game accomplishes well, as with previous installments in the series, is the freedom and ease with which the player can navigate the surrounding city, an event that is made particularly more entertaining when coupled with the player's ability to steal cars, bikes, and other assorted vehicles. The maps featured in both the lower left-hand corner of the screen and on the options menu make navigation even simpler, and when combined with the realistic style in which the streets are mapped and laid out, make for truly effective gameplay.
Other fine details, such the ability to listen to a variety of radio stations while driving, collect a vast number of different weapons and vehicles, complete hidden stunts for bonus points, and engage in varying social interactions (most of which are threatening or deviant in some way) add further dimension and replay value.
However, while San Andreas is undoubtedly entertaining, I would not consider it a personal favourite. Although the game's liberating escapist elements make for both fun and immersive gameplay, its violent (and in one, infamous scene, sexually explicit) content means that it is suited toward a limited audience of young adult males. Also, while its characters are obviously intended to be social stereotypes, the gender roles that are presented are unbalanced and often distasteful. While I think that perhaps critics of the Grand Theft Auto series assume that audiences will take the game more seriously than intended, it is easy to see where the basis for their argument stems from.