“Barefoot and pregnant, again?? just like my daddy”
Just one of the many strange and completely random things said by a radio host on the K-Rose radio station, after which Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man or Bed of Roses would come on, to make your trek across the countryside sound as good as it looked, and felt. This is the game that defined my childhood, and this is likely the same for many others. A gigantic open world (which still stands true if you ignore the two Just Cause games), the best soundtrack on a game ever, a hilarious, ridiculous, riveting storyline that manages to keep it going for its extensive length. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this the best video game of all time. Before I pump everything I have to say into one gigantic paragraph, lets give this some structure.
That picture should be enough to either bring back the memories, or at least show the sheer scope of the map to you people who are too young to have played this when it released. Just to clarify, this is a PS2 GAME. I can remember the first time I opened the map within the pause menu. It showed Los Santos, and I was kind of ‘meh’ about its size. But then I saw the button prompt for zooming. At this point my jaw dropped, and even though the rest of the map was blocked off, I was beyond excited to get far enough to explore every square inch of it. When I’d got to the point where I could go where I wanted, it was more than what I wanted. The amount of times I got lost in the beautiful countryside area while listening to K-Rose was huge, and on purpose. Nowadays I know the entire map like the back of my hand, and this map is the reason why I couldn’t help being disappointed by GTA V. This game was, and is, the pinnacle of game design.
The Story and Characters
Some of these characters have become icons for the GTA series, be it CJ and his gangsta tendencies, Catalina and her mad outbursts, or Smoke and the infamous ‘all you had to do was follow the damn train’. We even had Samuel L Jackson voicing Officer Tenpenny. To say Rockstar went all out to say goodbye to that generation of gaming would be an understatement. Woozie, Zero and The Truth were the strange trio who between them brought some of the biggest missions, some of the nerdiest encounters, and the most estranged drug-fuelled side stories that include the capture of a jetpack and alien goo. The characters themselves reflected this oddness, and none of them were boring in any way. To choose a favourite out of this lot would be like asking a movie buff what their favourite film is. Pointless and unanswerable. These characters will remain with me to my grave.
Music, Atmosphere and Driving
I’m going to be brutally honest. I only ever listened to K Rose and K-DST. Why? Those who have played this (should be pretty much everyone on the planet) will understand completely. People who didn’t like country music before San Andreas were almost definitely turned by it. From its estranged hosts who were able to play the harmonica with their genitals and talk about their inbred families to its catchy music that would have you sitting in your car while you wait for the song to finish, before starting the next mission. We all did it, don’t deny it. But it wasn’t just the music by itself. It’s what was going on visually that really completed the greatness. Driving down the country roads in deep forest, with closing fog and a small town up ahead, while nice without music, was made vastly better by the music in the background. The slower songs making it seem brooding or relaxing, while the more upbeat songs inspired me to double in speed and drive up Mount Chiliad, then proceed to drive off the top of it (something else which was a staple of this game, everybody did it). While this probably sounds quite sad and nerdy, it felt so completely and utterly perfect. But I do have some love left for the varying atmospheres in San Fierro, Los Santos, and Las Venturas. Los Santos had a divide of the super rich and the gangsters, while San Fierro and Las Venturas had more of an organised crime and mafioso feel to them. The desert and the dam being another place to enjoy. But my love was always for the wooded area and the proper American feel that I have always craved. For example:
While it doesn’t look graphically pleasing, during gameplay this kind of place was great to go to when you wanted to be away from traffic and those strange things pedestrians say when you walk near them. A nice, calm, beautiful place to relax and listen to some tunes. Even better during the night and in heavy fog.
Finally, the driving. I’ve mostly covered it throughout already so I’ll just say a bit about the physics and realism. It’s far from realistic and the physics aren’t great. Does this matter? Nope. I never, ever, cared about the physics. Until GTA IV it was never really an issue for me in any game. And even when I got used to IV’s driving, I loved it more than every other game. There are no faults from me in regards of this.
The Missions and Features
The biggest part of this game is probably the missions and the things you can do. For starters:
That really doesn’t need any more words.
Anyway, as for the rest of the missions. Quite possibly the largest range out of all the GTA games, San Andreas knew how to keep it fresh. This is the game where you covertly sneak into Area 51, bury a man in a portaloo underneath fresh concrete, raid a Casino, and break into the house of GTA’s version of Snoop Dogg and steal his rhyme book. Not many games can boast such a strange mix of things to do that still adds up to a stellar game that couldn’t be any better in any way possible. Nothing is held back for DLC, and any bug you can think of (apart from issues with saving on the PC version) is great to play with. And as well as the main string of story missions, there are side missions. Driving a toy plane loaded with a machine gun to destroy vans and kill people from an opposing business? That’s a thing. Stock car racing in a purpose built stadium, and pleasing a girlfriend whose house contains sexual torture instruments by wearing a gimp suit? That too. This game covers almost every base that is possible, and unlike other games, manages to make it work perfectly. I am honestly trying to remember or find a bad point about this game, but I genuinely can’t find any. You can probably tell by the length of this review that I bloody love this game, and I could write double, triple, or even quadruple the amount of what I have written here, but I’m going to end it here. The 10/10 I have for this game is a given, but these numbers do not reflect the hundreds of hours I have put into this game over the past decade and a bit. I will see you again tomorrow for GTA IV. Meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying heists. I’m yet to play one but I look forward to it greatly.