GTA San Andreas-First Impressions

Welcome to the first impression for GTA: San Andreas. A review will be up as soon as possible, but a game like this takes time to play and explore so until the review goes up I’ll be updating this site with impressions of the game.

Had the day off of work yesterday (lucky coincedence, though I did take the day off for Vice City) and went down to Target and grabbed my pre-ordered copy. Also looked for GTA: Advance since it’s on sale this week but it wasn’t there (or at Gamecrazy). Went home grabbed some snacks and sat down and played the game for about 5-6 hours.

Game starts off with the main character Carl Johnson aka CJ returning back to the state of San Andreas after he finds out about the murder of his mother. Immediatly some crooked cops led by Officer Tenpenny (who is voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) remind CJ who is in charge of this town and frame him for the murder of a cop and drop him off in rival gang territory. You’ve got to get back to your territory and meet up with your old friends and crew again. When you do you’ll find out that the gang you ran with is now falling apart and they are pissed off at CJ for running out on them 5 years ago. CJ decides to stick around and try to get the gang in shape and find out who murdered his mom. That’s all I’ll say storywise since it’s what you can find out from any other website. I will say that some people might be turned off by the heavy slang, but if you can get over that the voice acting is excellent and the story is interesting.

First off, the graphics aren’t much of an improvement from Vice City, character models look better however and the trails are now gone. Health numbers have been replaced by a health bar. Speeding will blur the screen like some of the newest racing games do. Draw distance has improved and there’s much less noticable pop in as you’re driving around.

Secondly, holy shit is there an amazing amount of stuff in this game. The new stat system is great, the best comparisson I can make is it’s sorta like Morrowinds stat system, the more you do something the stat will raise and you will be better at it. At the same time it’s barely noticable, the game will chime in when a stat gets raised and let you know what that means to you but it’s unobtrussive. There are a couple times where you will need a stat to be at a certain level to do or learn something, such as learning new fight moves requires a certain level of strength, but it doesn’t overshadow the whole game. It’s a great balance for those who love to build their characters up and doesn’t effect people who don’t care too very much. Personally I’m working on my pimp stat. Yes the game has a pimp stat.

Eating and working out are the same. You can only work out so much in one day, but that stat raises pretty quickly and maintaining it is easy. Work out a lot and you’ll get ripped and people will comment on it. They’ll also comment it you let your fat stat raise and your character becomes obese. That’s not the only customizable thing. You can also customize CJ’s appearance, though you’ll want to wear your gang’s colors, and get tattoos and a different hairsyles. Depending on what you choose in these areas will also raise your sex appeal stat and your respect stat. The ladies and your friends will both mock you if you get a bad haircut and/or have bad taste in clothes. Cars are also customizable with paint jobs, nitro, rims, boosting the stereos bass and a ton of other things.

All of that is just dressing though, as great as it is that you can play around with how you want the character to look the meat of the game is the missions. And they are just awesome. Even though I’m up to around 6 hours in the game it still feels like the game is introducing me to new gameplay types. I’ve done DDR type missions with dancing and Lowrider competitions, stealth missions that borrow many elements from Manhunt, drivebys, swimming!, on-rails shooting, chases, spraypaint tagging, etc. It’s not just the new elements that have been added to the game either, the missions are just better. They’re more exciting, better thought out and different enough from each other so far that it never feels like I’m doing the same thing over and over again.

So far the only thing that feels slightly missing is some of the humor of the last games. The game is funny but so far the story is more serious than the other games. That might change as I progress but that’s how it feels now. Other than that it’s flat out amazing what Rockstar is forcing out of the PS2 hardware and so far one of the better if not the best (waiting till I beat to decide) game on the system.