I'm not going to beat around the bush. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
is the single best PlayStation 2 title I have ever played. It's larger than the biggest RPG, has more story than the heftiest adventure game, and has almost as many mini-games as Nintendo's Mario Party
. Additionally, it has a production value that's second to none, boasts a faithfulness to '90s source material with an eerie accuracy, and provides more hours of entertainment than all the previous Grand Theft Autos
combined. In short, it's a terrific unending masterpiece of a game -- and one that will never fall victim to an over-exaggeration of its lofty status. It's the
defining piece of software for Sony's successful sophomore system, and it's almost impossible to imagine a PlayStation 2 library without it.
Now I realize that with a statement like that, I leave a lot of expectations on the table. Immediate questions from longtime GTA
players (and haters) will no doubt surface regarding what kind of problems San Andreas
must have. Does the framerate still stutter? Is pop-in and draw distance still an issue? Are there any collision quandaries or other graphics-related bugs? Are the sound effects still tame by other action game standards? Does the AI ever have stupid moments or not perform the way you'd want it to? And is it true that there's absolutely no form of online play whatsoever? To be honest, the answer to all those questions is a definite yes. But an even better question to ask (and one that has a lot more direct impact) is, "Do any of the issues explored above really detract from the overall experience?" In a word: No.
But how is that possible? Isn't that a significant number of concerns for one game to handle? Sure it may sound like the case when clumped together like that, but in practice it's almost completely unnoticeable. For starters, the frequencies at which the graphical hitches mentioned above appear in comparison to when they don't is so lopsided, that I'm left unaffected. Additionally, there's literally so much to experience in the single player game that the lack of online play isn't missed in the least, while the minor sound effect kinks and other presentational issues get completely dwarfed by everything else that the game manages to do right.
The big curiosity, of course, is just what is it that San Andreas
does so right in the first place? After all, IGN and every other videogame publication on the planet have been sworn to secrecy since first getting our hands on the game late last week. And while it's true that we've told you all about the different kinds of features that Rockstar had plans to implement by release day, nobody's talked about how those features actually felt. Even more importantly, though, no one has mentioned the number one reason that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
is so amazing to begin with: it's the first game I can ever remember that asks its players to wonder "What can't you do" as opposed to "What can you?"Johnson N The Hood
The storyline of San Andreas
should feel somewhat familiar to fans of 1990s cinema. Borrowing rather heavily from John Singleton, Spike Lee, and Ernest Dickerson pictures, this iteration of Grand Theft Auto
is all about the thug life when it was still in its infancy. Following the exploits of young Carl Johnson, the game begins as CJ returns from exile in Liberty City after learning that his mother's been killed via unknown circumstances. CJ feels pretty torn about coming back too, as he originally left Los Santos five years ago when his younger brother Brian was mercilessly gunned down. Nevertheless, family's family and Carl returns home to San Andreas
to pay his respects