November 03, 2004

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Got this on Friday, but waited until now to write about it, just to remind myself that no game is perfect – not because I've been playing non-stop, but because I would have have only written good things about it, and that didn't quite seem fair.

Not that I can find much bad to write about it – it's a very polished product, fun to play, and fun to watch being played, if you've never played or seen GTA3 or GTA: Vice City you're missing out on great examples of open-ended gameplay, while some might argue it's rather pointless – just messing around and finding out what it's possible to do has always been a big factor in the popularity of the series.

What's different?

  • In-game it's now the 90s, so the style, the clothes, the vehicles and the suberb music are all updated. There are a few anachronisms – it's not as perfect a recreation of the past as Shenmue – but touches like your character's breezeblock of a cellphone are good touches.
  • Bicycles – BMXs and Choppers to be truthful aren't that useful but rather good fun and at least two side missions or mini-games are based around them. There are a lot of other new modes of transport too, like jet planes and (finally!) the ability to swim and to jump over fences and walls.
  • Mini-games – Basketball and Pool plus loads of arcade games with even two-player versions of some – the pool game is actually a pretty slick game in it's own right. Spray-painting graffitti and diving for oysters replaces the hidden packages from the previous two games.
  • Skill increases – you can go to the gym to improve muscle and stamina as well as practice you driving skills in all the different modes of transport, this is probably my favourite addition as it gives a purpose to even my most meaningless personal "missions".
  • New weapons – a pool cue after playing pool, a spray can for graffitti, a spade in a dug-up garden, fire extinguishers in fast-food kitchens and a rather curious item in the showers of the police station.
  • Gambling – not such a hot idea this one, as it's rather easy to win a lot of money (I turned about $2500 into $8.3 million in about five visits)
  • Shopping – far greater selection of clothes, tatoos and car upgrades to spend all your winnings on – although I've bought everything there is (including houses) and still have $8.1 million left.
  • The city of course is all new too, and like GTA3, Burnout3 and the first Driver game borrows heavily from action scenes in films, especially Bullitt. The map is huge, although a lot of the countryside areas are mostly empty – I haven't open it all up yet, but have yet to encounter the "loading…" new area screen present in the last two games. There is a lot more height variation as well, with some very steep hills making it very reminiscent of Mafia – the control system has been modified to help, and I have doubts over how easy a possible PC version will be to play – drive-by were very hard to perform with mouse+keyboard, and now the view flies around all over the place if not controlled with the analogue sticks.
  • "Courier" missions – two new ones, a bicycle supermarket delivery one replaces the pizza boy one, and pimping one which is a bit more varied involving beating up uncooperative customers and frequent visits to the car wash. Both earn you lots of cash and have big rewards for completion.
  • Some of the missions (and resulting mini-games) require you press buttons in the correct order to dance beat, much like Dance Dance Revolution or Amplitude – they are annoying as hell.

What's the same?

  • The humour's still there – all the horses have rude names, it's sometimes rather English and often quite subtle, but there all the same.
  • The thundering soundtrack, like Vice City features real music of the period, and the same outrageous DJs and talk shows and comments from people in the street that have been a trademark of the series since GTA1.
  • The rather boring taxi, ambulance, fire truck and vigilante missions are still there, but the skill increasing system means they aren't as must-do as they were.

What's missing?

  • I've yet to find a docks mission where you can take cars for sale, which was in all the previous five games.
  • I competed in a road race, but not found a race series to compete in.
  • Some of things that were undertandably taken out after GTA1 and GTA:London such as bonuses for running over cops and multiple pedestrains. A modern London version wouldn't go amiss either – I know there's Getaway, but not only is it impossibly hard but there nothing to it apart from the missions that drive the main story.

Anyway, I'm a bit stuck at the moment – I've gone everywhere I'm allowed to go, bought everything in sight, maxed out all my stats. I can just mess around, but I did enough of that in the previous games. The unique jumps and graffitti spray locations are pretty hard to find, as the new climbing controls mean they can put them on top of places not easily visible from the street. The only two missions available are a really annoying dance one which you seem to have to complete almost perfectly and a very lengthy shooting one where I inexplicably exploded near the end last time I attempted it – it's one mission that would be a lot easier with a mouse. The previous mission took me about twenty attempts where you steer a motorcycle down the train tracks while your inept passenger consistently missed the people he was supposed to be shooting.

I expect I'll try again, though.

- 43 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Steven Carpenter

    I've been playing all weekend too – the hype will see it fly off the shelves, but largely it lives up to my expectations. The sheer size of the thing is amazing. Some of the new elements maybe don't work as well as they might, but that's not to understate the quality of this release; the immersion and feeling that you are part of the story has been enhanced even further. The voice acting is perfect, the soundtrack works just as it should and the best elements of the other titles have been subtly reworked and enhanced. It's an epic, but then what else could we expect?

    I wonder though where else Rockstar can take this – with 18 months until PS3 we're not likely to see another GTA before then, but what should they do with the next release? Make it bigger still, or risk changing the winning formula? Either way San Andreas is fantastic. Excuse me now – I have to turn on my PS2 and get a new tattoo, and change my afro to a high fade :-)

    03 Nov 2004, 22:05

  2. I too have been playing it as much as I can in between a seeming mount chiliad of work. I've still yet to unlock the second "island" simply because I enjoy where I'm not allowed to go so much.

    Just grab a Shamar (learjet) from the airport and see how long you can fly around before getting shot down by military aircraft! Managed to climb up 90% of the mountain in a tank before it finally succumbed to 50+ police cars exploding under it.

    I've too haven't really found anything worth complaining about yet, and you can be sure you won't find a "loading" screen as you move from place to place, its why the draw distance is sometimes a bit dodgy, it only loads what is around you. If you fly in a plane really fast across the land you can hear the disk whirring like crazy trying to keep up.

    Phil, I remember doing a mission that involved driving along a train track on a motorbike, and the guy on the back certainly was incompetant, but it only took one attempt thankfully. I also remember a mission where I seemed to keep blowing up at the end inexplicably. But I just wasn't looking after the bike well enough (you are the guy on the back shooting all the other bikes and trucks), and did it on about the 10th try!

    As soon as i've polished off the work for tonight you can be sure i'll back on there trying to open up my first new piece of the level, this game is gonna take ages to finish!

    03 Nov 2004, 22:12

  3. Steven Carpenter

    I wonder if you can steal and fly the military jets? I love this game!!

    03 Nov 2004, 22:17

  4. I love GTA3 and GTA: Vice City!
    My favourite thing was the random comments the people used to say as they walked in the street.
    "You drive like a pussy!" And "My mother's my sister" are two of the best.

    03 Nov 2004, 22:18

  5. Steven Carpenter

    "I'm so frickin lost it ain't even funny" was for some reason my favourite in Vice City. In San Andreas you can even respond to those comments.

    03 Nov 2004, 22:22

  6. "I had three kids but I gave them away

    03 Nov 2004, 22:23

  7. Steven Carpenter

    Phil: good point too about it being one of those rare games that almost as fun to watch someone else playing; I quite enjoy sitting watching my partner play it although she is far more methodical than I am when it comes to finding those tags. I prefer to get through missions as quickly as possible.

    03 Nov 2004, 22:30

  8. Greg

    My housemate has been playing this rather a lot, and he was quite stuck on the beach-dancing thing- but I did it first time and found it quite fun. GTA doesn't appeal to me really, the whole point of the game (as I see it) is to be varied and open, but it looks too repetitive for me :(

    03 Nov 2004, 22:41

  9. Well this is clearly the best game I have ever played and I have had it since it came out.
    One unfortunate side effect has been me and my flat mates sitting around the television while one of us is playing and the others are shouting assortments of things like 'use the knofe. take his money',
    'you can spray paint peole to death!' and 'stop hitting that old lady' —> 'but she might have just got here pension.'

    06 Nov 2004, 22:20

  10. Heh, I unlocked the second island last night and went up Mount Chiliad. When I got to the top I strapped on the armour, parachute and threw myself off the vertical face at the top. Freefalled for a while, opened my parachute and got a great view of the surroundings, pity the view/draw distance isn't a bit longer.

    Unfortunately, while trying to figure any controls the parachute might have, I pressed a wrong button and he ejected his parachute and fell to his death, oh well. Back to my newly bought $20k property at the foot of the mountain to go back up again :D.

    07 Nov 2004, 00:20

  11. Greg has the rhythm of the kings. I like the driving in this GTA, the long country roads with music blasting on the stereo….. it takes me back.

    Anyway, its an awesome game and is awesomely distracting me from work that I should be doing. Maxing out your skill levels with the smaller weapons lets you carry two at once :D

    07 Nov 2004, 02:14

  12. I got past the 'Just Buisiness' mission on the back of the 'cycle, but now the ONLY mission open to me is the stupid dancing one on the beach. I pressed every single button correctly and only scored 3500, so I am really hating it right now.

    08 Nov 2004, 17:05

  13. I got past it eventually with 4400 and missed a load of buttons, I think the key is to hit them on time and not rush. I'm partly feigning annoyance, as has always been the case with the series you complete one lot of missions only to be presented with a new bunch seemingly impossibly harder then the last.

    While I may have scads of cash, Ammunation isn't unlocked yet so what I really need is to find some decent gun caches around – so far I've found knuckledusters, spade, molotovs, pistol (not sure which it is), flowers and the stuff in the police station and cars – gang members obviously drop guns, too. I just need to work out a little route to get tooled up before a mission.

    09 Nov 2004, 23:53

  14. bob

    i can't find all the tags to tag up i got all wepons to hitman though

    19 Nov 2004, 09:35

  15. bob

    i got 5100 points on the lifes a beach one it is easy

    19 Nov 2004, 09:37

  16. tom wilson

    i love sky diving of that giant building and off planes in to the water!!!!!!!!

    20 Nov 2004, 18:26

  17. MaxP_2

    is there a parachute in los santos?

    23 Nov 2004, 21:07

  18. Raziel191

    yeah…the really tall round one in downtown…theres a yellow marker thingy off the highway…

    02 Dec 2004, 01:51

  19. Raziel191

    *building that is…

    02 Dec 2004, 01:51

  20. lee

    im stuck on th mission lifes a beach has any one got any tips

    04 Dec 2004, 20:56

  21. I got past it by doing three things:

    1- I had a bit of a practice in the Alhambra night club (it's south of the skateboard park in the middle of the map, more noticable at night as it's lit up pink) while I got rubbish scores I could sort of see where I was going wrong

    2- I slowed down – while before I was getting every button right, I was off on the timing – I concentrated on making sure I only pressed the buttons when the symbol hit the middle, I missed at least three and got a wrong one once, but still got a good score

    3- Bit silly this one, but I kind of "got into it"- tried to enjoy it so even if I failed it didn't seem such a chore to do it again. Jigging around in time to the music, and basically staying calm and relaxed. Not much in this game from about this point on is easy, and if you get annoyed rather than enjoy the missions you should probably take a break for a few days – it's supposed to be fun after all!

    As it goes I've had about 3 weeks break from it now as there are too many other games to play – I had quick goes at a burning house mission and one where you have to steal and park a car undamaged, but found them both a little frustrating. Rather than get angry I like to just play other games for a bit, or maybe just cruise around and find tags/do sub-missions if there's no other games to play. I will come back to it later, but I'll probably lend it to my brother-in-law over Christmas – I haven't bought it yet, but if I do buy Footbal Manager 2005, I know nothing else will get played for weeks!

    05 Dec 2004, 00:28

  22. LEE

    im stuck on wrong side of the tracks i keep trying but i cant do it has anyone got any tips

    14 Dec 2004, 18:08

  23. Overkast

    For the wrong side of the tracks mission, the only way i finally beat it is by hopping my motorbike on top of the engine while the train was moving. This way Big Smoke was able to just keep shooting the guys with out any obstacles.

    I was able to finally land on the engine at the point in the countryside, just after the 1st tunnel when you get to the "high road" section and you cross over the tracks on the high road part. I was able to jump on the engine from the left just after the crossover, from the top of that hill.

    Be careful, it's easy to fall off the engine. You need to tap forward and reverse when the engine goes around corners to keep your bike from falling off it.

    Hope this helps.

    29 Dec 2004, 16:58

  24. If you can manage to get (and stay!) on the train, you can use the drive-by button and shoot them yourself, rather than relying on Big Fool – on a motorbike the drive shoots out the front, rather than the side, as in a car.

    I wasn't able to do it this way, but did it by maintaining a steady distance from the train, as near to the right wall as possible and slightly in front of the train, at about a 45° angle – that means you should get to the cars blocking the tracks before the train hits them, which is a good start.

    30 Dec 2004, 23:11

  25. Hollywood24

    I am on Life is a beach mission after I talk to the DJ nothing happens I have read there should be a mini game but there isn't do I need to do something else first?

    30 Jan 2005, 01:31

  26. Talk to them again and answer in the positive and the dancing game will start.

    30 Jan 2005, 20:47

  27. Hollywood24

    I did answer positive and nothing happens I know a mini game should pop up but it dosen't anyone else have that problem I think it the game maybe

    31 Jan 2005, 01:15

  28. This is from the FAQ:
    Q: How do I start dancing? The DJ talks but I can't do anything.
    A: Hit right on the D-Pad to give a positive response. Keep hitting this

    until she finally lets you dance.

    31 Jan 2005, 09:45

  29. hani

    win gta san andreas realese for pc in all over the world


    29 May 2005, 11:22

  30. hani

    win they come to pc in israel please

    29 May 2005, 11:24

  31. I expect they will release in as many countries as they can simultaneously – it would be foolish to miss any out and risk pirate copies being sold instead.

    31 May 2005, 10:10

  32. Tom Sharp

    You stink so bad, even your shadow's holding its nose!

    Classic banter from the streets of San Andreas….

    10 Jun 2005, 15:18

  33. mohammed

    i really want to find out what happens at the end

    16 Jun 2005, 16:29

  34. mohammed24

    i like san andreas,specialy the cars ,the speciefic grafiix and the urban cothes and all the good hair cuts but the main thing is that i really want to find out what hapens at the end so please tell me asap

    16 Jun 2005, 16:35

  35. justin

    at the end u end up freeing sweet from the jail. then u do a couple of missions with him. then u end up killing smoke. then since oficer tenpenny is wanted for the crimes he did he rushes in the building where smoke and u are. he steals the money that smoke(drug dealer now)has. so u get in a car and go after him. u get a crappy car… and chase him in his fire truck. while going sweet comes out of nowhere and shows up and jumps on the fire trucks ladder at the back. he is losing his grip because a couple oftenpennys friends go to the back of the ladder and tries to kill him. so while sweet is losing his grip u end up saving him by going close to the truck and him falling into ur car. then sweet changes places with u so u can shoot at the police cars and gangmembers that shoot at u. kill all of them. after u do tenpennys tires somehow get flat so he falls of a bridge. he gets out of the firetruck and makes a couple of boasts. then he dies slowly. then cj and the rest walks up to him with a gun. but sweet says no because he says u dont need to waste a bullet on him. then the game ends with the credits.after u finish it go to achievements and it wont say 100percent finished. why? u havent done any of the sideline missions yet or trucking, import/export cars, valet parking, and getting ur dates up to 100. if u kill ur girfriends u can never get 100percent.

    12 Feb 2006, 23:11

  36. natasha

    hiya i am new here and i need help. now i am on importing cars at easter basin docks and i have 4 more cars to find but i cannot find them anywhere.


    *blista compact


    if anyone knows where these cars are can you please e-mail me and tell me at
    thanks very much

    10 Mar 2006, 14:06

  37. michael303

    im stuck on the wrong side of the tracks mission, ive tried most things and even chased the train down with a jetpack, but when you are goin under the pathways over the track, your head hits the top, even when you are at the front of the train AND crouched down, any ideas?

    29 May 2006, 21:14

  38. di khead

    wrong side of the tracks is the most annoying level in the history of video games. really. what is more annoying?

    07 Sep 2006, 01:48

  39. lil g

    what happens at the end of san andreas cuz i think i beat it already i killed tenpenny and smoke now what happens?

    10 Jan 2007, 13:54

  40. aaron

    how do u fly the hydra?

    10 Feb 2007, 19:34

  41. Amanda

    I need help. Is there any way to cheat or pass the wrong side of the tracks mission? I’ve triend like a hundred times, and I still can’t get it. Please, someone help me!

    13 May 2007, 23:10

  42. callum

    hi amanda,

    that should help…. that mission took me one go and i didnt even get on the train…

    01 Jun 2007, 14:01

  43. Jess

    You’re probably staying too close to the train. Try giving yourself more room between yourself and the train…that will create a better angle.

    14 Jul 2007, 22:00

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