Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Remastered Edition)
- Street Date:
- October 26th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Levi van Tine
- Review Date:1
- October 29th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Rockstar Games
- Rockstar North
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
Xbox 360 version reviewed. This is the October 2014 Remastered Edition.
'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' was first released On October 26th, 2004 for the PlayStation 2. It has been re-released several times since then on various platforms, including on the 360 as an Xbox Original in 2008. This version, released ten years to the day after its first version, has been given a graphical upgrade, mission checkpoints, and achievement support. Note that this version of 'San Andreas' is not compatible with saves from the Xbox Originals version.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
The first thing that hit me after turning on 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' was how tremendously far video games have come in the last ten years. It's mind-boggling. I felt like a gaming elder or hipster, and felt an intense desire to chastise a whippersnapper for being spoiled and not having to play driving games without a GPS on the minimap. 'San Andreas' was released to rave reviews and is probably the best-selling PS2 game of all time. Playing it now, a scant year after its successor ('Grand Theft Auto V') broke all kinds of records itself, is a dramatically different experience.
'San Andreas' is a third-person action shooter that plays much like any other 'GTA'. The lead character is Carl Jones (CJ), a young man who is returning to the city of Los Santos after five years in Liberty City (pastiches of Los Angeles and New York City, respectively). CJ has returned home to attend his mother's funeral, but quickly gets involved with the Grove Street Families, a street gang he ran with in his youth. The core gameplays consists of driving (or flying or bicycling) and committing various crimes, including but not limited to vandalism, assault, home invasion, murder, varying degrees of criminal mischief, and most commonly, grand theft auto itself. I certainly can't be expected to walk all over Los Santos, after all. 'San Andreas' was notable for being one of the few GTAs with an element of character development. Not only can CJ change his appearance and clothing, he also has a list of skills and attributes that the player can directly influence. The more I drove around, bicycled around, and shot at things, the better my CJ became.
The first few hours of the game amount to a slow-burning tutorial that gradually introduces the player to the controls and personalities of 'San Andreas'. Driving is not a particularly painful experience, but the same cannot be said for the shooting. Especially at the beginning of the game, when CJ's skills are low, trying to shoot anything is a lesson in frustration. Even after leveling up his skills with different weapon types, manual aiming is not very fun. There is a lock-on feature that can be used at close range, however.
The open world of 'San Andreas' is pretty large, with lots of activities to keep CJ busy. The player can compete in races, go to flight school, work out at the gym, become a vigilante, pimp, play pool, and a host of other things. Of note is how bare Los Santos is. Especially when compared to the Los Santos of 'GTA V', there are hardly any people or vehicles. While this is clearly a limitation of 2004 technology, it does give it a kind of small-town feel. The world is still alive, despite its small population. One time when I logged in, I noticed a police chopper overhead even though I had no wanted level. The cops were looking for someone else, and I was able to watch as a casual observer while they hunted down the criminal.
The only real new feature added to 'San Andreas' with this edition, besides the visuals which I'll talk about later, is the checkpoint restart. This has been around for a while in the series, but in the old days if CJ failed a mission, that was that and he had to start over from the beginning. Now the game will ask the player if they'd like to start at the last checkpoint, and then promptly drop them off at the beginning of the mission, regardless of how much progress was made in said mission. Except for a few missions, the checkpoint restart does not work as advertised.
There are other bugs and glitches, but most of them are forgivable in the grand scheme of things, considering the game's age. They generally do not slow down mission progress or cause a restart, being mostly cosmetic.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
This edition of 'San Andreas' comes with a 720p resolution, sharper edges and textures, and an increased draw distance. While all of this is true, there's only so much polish that can go into a 2004 title without completely overhauling the engine. It is certainly better than it was ten years ago, but still looks ancient. Gone is the yellowish, washy saturation from the original, and the fuzziness has been cleared up as well. Graphical bugs are far less common than they are with the audio.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Like any 'GTA,' Rockstar spared no expense with 'San Andreas' in-game radio stations. The soundtrack is a brilliant representation of early 90s culture. The centerpiece is gangsta rap, which is fitting given CJ's profession as a gangbanger. The stations are rife with the likes of N.W.A., Dre, Eazy-E, and 2pac. Other stations include classic rock, dance, soul, and even country. Many artists recording during that timeframe were hired to voice DJs, such as Axl Rose, Michael Bivins of Bell Biv DeVoe, Chuck D, and reggae pioneers Sly and Robbie. Also included is a talk radio station that serves as a caricature of 1992 and frequently spoofs political pundits, Hollywood celebrities, TV, and video games.
The voice acting is similarly good, with my personal favorite being Samuel Jackson as the voice of incredibly corrupt LSPD officer Tenpenny. David Cross and Peter Fonda have hilarious turns as the nerdy Zero and conspiracy theorist The Truth respectively. Many other celebrities contribute their voices, such as Charlie Murphy, The Game, William Fichtner, and James Woods.
Despite the production value, the game's bugs seem to plague the audio more than any other area. Pausing the game at any time while the radio is on will completely disorient it, leading to skips and starts and replayed segments. The voice acting is poorly synced, and occasionally during cutscenes the audio will drop out completely.
Being an open world with a more or less linear storyline, almost no multiplayer, and only one main character to choose from, 'San Andreas' has little capacity for replays. There is no new game plus mode or anything cool to unlock. Play it once and then file it away until nostalgia creeps back in.
'San Andreas' is a pleasant walk down memory lane for true fans of the 'Grand Theft Auto' franchise, but may not sit well for those without the patience for its clunky mechanics and myriad bugs. Achievement hunters will likely be pleased by the addition of achievements to CJ's world, but the new checkpoint system is more trouble than its worth. The storyline, characters, and soundtrack are enjoyable, and through the retro visuals and dated shooting there is something awesome here.
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