Unbelieveable. Totally unbelievable. I have only been a fan of the Grand Theft Auto games since I got hold of Grand Theft Auto III, and I thought that was just about the best game I’d played. Vice City progressed that and not really by that much, but the level of humour, interaction and sheer playability was rasied that extra notch to make that the best game choice for me.
Then came the news of GTA: San Andreas. This had me captivated from the first words, and I just couldn’t believe what they were suggesting. A game with three cities, not just the one in previous, and those included the outlying areas. That is, still keeping the same level of playability, interaction, immersion and in fact ramping that up five or six notches.
I could hardly believe it, but the anticipation grew with each press release and each screenshot and update of the website. Pretty soon I was waiting for this game and Halo 2 so much that I had booked two weeks off, one for each of their release days. With a preorder in place, everything was in the bag. I even moved the holidays as the release dates moved.
So, it came, and I can pretty much say that apart from a few days playing Halo 2, the rest of the time since release has been locked into San Andreas.
The first thing that really hits you is it’s visually the same as the previous GTA with the settings returning to something a bit more realistic than the setting of Vice City, we’re talking L.A. Gangland. However, as you start to play and get the first few missions over what hits you is the sheer scale, and I’m not just talking about the size of the land, I’m talking the side missions and all the other activities you have to go through in order just to keep your character going. Not only that you have choices, you can make your character do different things and progress differently and even look totally different. It’s vast.
I’ve been playing for well over fourty hours and I’ve just left the first city, and there are three cities in all. That’s not because I’m a bad gamer, it’s because I’ve been taking my time and completing all the side missions I can like taking over the entire gang area, or getting my girlfriend status to full, playing basketball, tagging the city, you get the idea. The richness of the experience of playing is stunning, and it’s all in the little touches.
Taking out drug dealers; going to the gym to keep your body in trim; or eating yourself to fatness; driving the streets in the most amazing array of vehicles all of which have their little quirks; watching the pedestrians and buildings change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood; listening to the well scripted radio stations; watching the pedestrians or other vehicles interact around you, without you, or just plain cycling around. This game is the fullest, widest and deepest game experience I’ve had outside Multi-User Dungeons, and I still cannot get enough.
The whole game is stunning, and the few faults with some pop-ups and the annoying targeting system which can, now and again, decide to totally face the wrong way, are squashed to a pulp when the massive positives are enjoyed.
This game is undoubtedly the best game I have ever played.
Can I point out for the record that I have not shot at or murdered anyone, I have not committed a crime of any sort relating to the experience from GTA. Please note that I have also purchased and played GTA III and GTA: Vice City, as well as a multitude of other violent videogames. I also watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead when I was about twelve. Hate to tell all you scape goat believing idiots out there but you’re wrong, people kill people, full stop.