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Grand Theft Auto | San Andreas | review | game | Lollipop

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

(Rockstar for the PS2)
by Eric Chon

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has all the aspects of a boring, hackneyed sequel. It's the same old shit with the same uninspired graphics at its core. If you read the new additions to the game, they seem like last-minute attempts to tack on originality. By all accounts it should be bad.

Leave it to Rockstar to take tired concepts and make them as addictive as heroin. Seriously, the first few moments of the game may give you that "been there, done that" sensation, but once you start to grasp the depth and scope of San Andreas, you realize how wrong you were. It's true that it's essentially the same game once again, but GTA:SA offers so much more. And never mind that jacking cars and wreaking bloody havoc guarantees a good time.

I caught onto this game once I decided to just drive in a direction and see how far I could get. I swear, it was a full five minutes before I began hitting boundaries. San Andreas is huge! You can just go without waiting to unlock all the extra areas like before. And despite their adherence to an incredibly worn and tired-looking engine, Rockstar has added character and detail to each neighborhood within San Andreas, making them living, breathing communities to plunder and destroy.

Once again, the limits to your debauchery know no bounds. Jacking cars and random beatings are now augmented with home invasions, hold-ups, pimping, and gang warfare! The role-playing elements are cleverly integrated into the game – you don't ever"level up." If you exercise, you get buffer and you can beat people to a pulp much faster. Use the handgun more and you get better. And the more you waste other gangs (and progress in the story), the more respect you earn, which you can then use to command other members of your gang. You can even try and get yourself a girlfriend.

All of these features are delivered in a hard-hitting and emotional story starring C.J., a San Andreas ex-patriot who's been off in Liberty City for the past few years. Upon hearing news that his beloved mother has been murdered, he flies back in search of answers and revenge. It's only a matter of time before he starts living the life of a hardcore gangsta once again.

Rockstar has given us the most interesting and compelling story in the series yet. My wild desire to go off on my own would always be checked by my interest in how the plot unfolds. But the sacrifice is the tongue-in-cheek humor that's always been present, giving the game a bit of absurdity to lighten its incredibly bloody environs. Some may find that a bit of a turn-off, but I doubt any of them read Lollipop. It all plays out like a 3D-version of Boyz in the Hood, and depending on what you're looking for, it's either a complete success or a bit of a disappointment.

No review would be complete without mentioning the soundtrack. From Helmet to N.W.A. to fucking Doug E. Fresh, it's all here. Radio chatter remains a highlight of the game, and sometimes you'll be tempted to just sit in your car and listen. GN'R's "Welcome to the Jungle" has never been more appropriate. This is good stuff, people.

In the end, San Andreas is awesome. It's the best one of the bunch, and you'll no doubt scream with delight as you mow pedestrians down with a chainsaw or light 'em up with a few Molotov cocktails. Better yet, you can forego all that lame-o exercise and be the fattest, nastiest pimp wielding two MAC-10s ever seen in a video game. And that, my friends, is what it's really all about.

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