Here it is, the big one! This is the classic 3D era GTA that the people love the most - even looking at the comments of my last two reviews proves it. Well, it's about time we visit the crime infested state of San Andreas, so strap in everyone because this is going to be a long review.
Carl Johnson escaped from his former life as a member of the Groove Street gang in Los Santos, San Andreas five years ago to Liberty City but after he heard the news that his mother died, he returns to the city. Upon arriving he is threathened by Officer Tenpenny - a corrupt cop who is using his powers to force gangs into surrendering some of their money to him and his C.R.A.S.H. unit - that he'll frame Carl for homocide if he doesn't cooperate. Having no choice, Carl agrees and is temporarily left alone by C.R.A.S.H.
Carl finally arrives at his old home and is greeted by his old friend Big Smoke. The two of them drive to the cemetary where they meet Ryder, a fellow gang member as well as Carls brother and sister, Sweet and Kendl. While Kendl is happy to see Carl again, Sweet gets annoyed at him for running away from another funeral. After an argument, Kendl leaves to see his boyfriend, who's part of another gang.
Carl and the others leave the cemetary and they get attacked by members of the Ballas, the biggest rivals of Groove Street. They manage to escape back to Groove Street on stolen bikes and Carl tells Sweet that he plans to stay around. His 'quest' to restore the gang to it's former glory and to make a better life for his family ultimately takes him all across the state of San Andreas.
While the two games before only took place in one city, this game takes place in a state with three cities, a countryside and a desert.
Let's be honest; the map is huge. It may not be that big compared to modern games but at the time, it was mind-blowingly big. While this is a strong point of the game, it can be a weak point too. You see, while the cities have all kinds of stuff in them, the countryside doesn't have too much going for it. Sure, you'll occasionally find a house in the woods, but it's completely empty and there's not even a vehicle nearby.
The graphics have been improved significantly. NPC's actually resemble humans now, and the animations look more smooth and realistic too (for the time of course).
I'm gonna be honest; I don't like the soundtrack of this game exept for the main theme and some tracks here and there. I'm just not into hip-hop or country. The rock radio stations had some good tracks, but they got old quickly. The reggae station is pretty good though.
There are a ton of new gameplay elements too. To start, there are new weapons, new cars, actually working planes, new bikes, new collectibles... the list just goes on.
Schools: There are different schools where you can learn the basics and the tricks of driving, flying, driving a boat and riding a bike. Out of the four schools the flying school has to be completed in order to finish the game.
Skills and stats: Skills and stats are new completely new. Skills determine how well you can do a certain thing (driving, flying, using different weapons, etc.), while stats are statistics of Carl (his respect, muscle, fat, etc.). You can evolve your skills by using them (driving around a lot will make your driving skill better, using a weapon will enable you to 'master' it etc.) and stats are determined by what you do (how much you eat, how much you work out, what you wear, etc.).
Ledge grabbing: A much needed feature that allows you to climb up to rooftops and walls.
Stealth: You can actually be stealthy now, which some missions are based around. A silenced pistol won't get the attention of guards and a knife can be used to kill someone from behind.
Girlfriends: You can get girlfriends and go on dates with them. There are 6 in total, 2 of which you'll meet as the story progresses. The other 4 give you special 'perks' when you start dating them; one of them lets you keep your weapons when you get wasted, the other has the same effect when youre busted, the third can fix your car for free and the las one has a shed with some useful weapons.
Collectibles: Whlie the prior games had collectibles too in the form of hidden packages, this game doubled down on collectibles. There are 50 oysters located all around the map that will give you full lung capacity upon collecting all of them, and dating will be easier. There are 50 horseshoes scattered around Las Venturas that will increase your luck stat. Lastly, there are 100 tags located in Los Santos that can be sprayed over and you'll get some weapons spawning in the Johnson House, as well as Groove Street members carrying better weapons.
Flying: Flying has been improved significantly and there are a variety of aircrafts available.
Swimming: You're finally able to swim now, so falling in the water is not an instant death anymore.
Gang Wars: Probably the most fun thing in the game. You can recruit members of your gang to follow you and you can start gang wars with rival gangs. If you win, you'll get more territory. Your territory will be attacked by other members too, and if that happens, you have to defend it (or just get in a taxi and start a side mission, so they magically stop the attack and you'll keep the territory...).
This game is huge. It took me about an hour and a half to write this review and there's still a ton of stuff I haven't even mentioned. It's easy to see why people love this game so much, and honestly, I love it too. While the soundtrack wasn't nearly as good as Vice City's (at least in my opinion), the game is just plain fun from the beginning to the end. If you haven't yet, go and play it. It's only 10 bucks on Steam.
Oh, I almost forgot... I'll have two number 9s, a number 9 large, a number 6 with extra dip, a number 7, two number 45s, one with cheese, and a large soda.