| E3 2005: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas|
First hands-on impressions of the Xbox version. Plus first trailer.
by Douglass C. Perry
May 17, 2005 - This may sound a little nonsensical coming from a guy who beat both previous Grand Theft Auto games. But last fall when Rockstar's seminal Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas rocked the PlayStation 2, I was busy playing Halo 2, MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf, and whatever other Xbox game that was thrown my way. That's what happens when you run a site, you really on have time for the games you have to play. And I had to play a lot of Halo 2.
I did in fact play GTA: SA, but no more than, say, four to five hours. I knew I was missing out, knew I should have played more. But that's pretty much the story of my life with games, I could always have played more even though I spend most of my waking hours playing them. So, when I sat down with the latest Xbox build, I was blown away all over again by how much fun the series is. If this game is about anything, it's about the little things. Hundreds of thousands of little things.
How much trouble can you get in right away? Heck, shoot a few people, attract the cops, and then shoot them. Right quick, you'll have a two to three star warning, and like bees to honey the cops will be after you. When you're being chased, remember you can shoot while driving, and what's more you can bail from the car at any time, so if it lights on fire and is ready to blow, you can jump and tumble, get up and keep shooting.
But like all the GTAs, you must follow your own moral compass. The rules don't force you to kill every policeman fireman or old lady on the streets. And you never have to pick up a hooker. Those options are there if you feel compelled to exercise them. Most politicians don't really get that. They just react. Or more accurately, overreact. There are tons of things in GTA:SA that have nothing to do with shooting some punk ass driver or some overzealous cop.
Riding a bike has a simple charm to it; it's simple, fun, and it feels real and right for the situations in the story. Gaining or losing weight is a trip, as is exercising and building muscle. Who really knew the act of lifting weights would be such a basic joy. Heck, lifting weights in the real world isn't that fun. And as always, cruising around the first city is a blast. The amazing fact about GTA: SA is that you have thousands of different things you could do, if only have you the imagination to go do it.
The new, open landscape is a superb addition to the series. I mean, it's not like the game wasn't huge already. It was easily the biggest game series I've ever played. But Rockstar felt the need to make GTA: SA five times as big. FIVE TIMES. You feel a sense of openness and wide open possibilities that's different than previous GTA titles. When I hopped on a 2-strike motorcycle and cruised to the top of a mountain, the bike felt light and wiley, like a bike should. When I reached the top and found a parachute just sitting there, I didn't say, "What the hell is a parachute doing on the top of a mountain?" Sure, it's a logical question, but the answer is easy. Wouldn't it be fun if? If...there was a parachute at the top of the freakin' mountain. HELL YES. Lining up that motorcycle, ramping off the top of the mountain, and pulling that chute? That's a great videogame moment. The only other time I remember feeling like that was in PilotWings 64 and No One Lives Forever. So, not only was I able to reach a countryside mountain in the middle of nowhere, I was able to leap of the top of it with a parachute and glide down manually directing myself in the wind. Freakin' simple genius, that's all.
The experiences add up. Some of the little things might seem simple or perhaps repetitive. True, some of them are. But you can simply go out and do something entirely different. From the most granular detail and the simplest of things to the most hardcore, non-stop action mission that takes 10 minutes, GTA: SA has you covered. In this manner, from the littlest thing to the biggest, GTA: SA is a game of pure gaming genius.
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