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June 14, 2005

San Andreas

I'm not much of a gangbanger, but I'm trying to get better.

The first thing that strikes you about playing Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is that it's hard and you better get with it. The game is an order of magnitude more interesting than its predecessor for several reasons that are apparent within the first hour of gameplay.

Firstly, they're out to get you. In GTA Vice City, you basically walked around as a badass looking for trouble to get into. It required you to have an positive attitude towards mayhem and corruption. It was all about becoming a dangerous bigshot. In San Andreas, the moment you show up on the scene, you need to watch your back. Cops are out to get you, rival gangs are out to get you. You are broke and bony and your mama has been shot dead, you have no respect and people who walk by are constantly reminding you how badly you stink.

Secondly, the music is bomb quality. There are several soundtracks to choose from as you cruise around in stolen cars. The folks at Rockstar have pulled off a licensing coup. These aren't just rehacked samples, there are real songs by real groups you know - Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Rick James, Isley Brothers, Cameo, Roger & Zapp. Even the soft music and country music is real.

Living as CJ puts you into a number of knuckle dragging situations. You beat down busters for fastfood money. Life is cheap. You generally get maybe 15 dollars for braining somebody with the various melee weapons you find in alleys and under underpasses, or on unconscious bodies.

I'm about three hours into the game and I've probably killed 15 civilians 3 cops and 25 rival bangers. I've got a couple cool tatoos and I've stolen every kind of car in the game, including a Bentley, several motorcycles and a police SUV. I've tagged half a dozen buildings, done several drive-bys and dented so many cars and pedestrians that I can't keep count. It's not fun. All I care about is getting respect from my homies. I want to beat the game, and I use the tools that the environment provides.

San Andreas feels very clunky as a shooter and it's much easier to get sent to the hospital in this game than any other violent videogame I've played. I swear I felt a great deal safer commanding commandos in terrorist territory. So there is never a real sense of confidence one gets in the San Andreas mayhem. The easiest thing to do is jack civilians while they're eating at Cluckin' Bell. I've come to resent the busta civilians; they just walk aimlessly through the 'hoods of San Andreas without the need for respect and without a bounty on their head.

How accurate this portayal of gang life is, depends on people like DJ Pooh in the credits, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that it is a lot more compelling as a game than I imagined it could be, although it's hardly the guilty pleasure of True Crime. It's more akin to Silent Hill. You're in something of a horror movie and you have to see how it ends.

Posted by mbowen at June 14, 2005 07:37 AM

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Have you driven the news van or the John Deere?

Posted by: Caltechgirl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 14, 2005 10:00 PM