GTA San Andreas Review

Game: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
Published on Sun Sep 17 2023

I've played every mainline Grand Theft Auto game before, but prior to today I'd never actually beaten one. I always get bored or something else draws my attention away. Not this time, said I, not this time. I finally did it, I beat a GTA game and I believe it was a wise choice to jump straight into San Andreas - the game is excellent. It can feel a bit long in the tooth around the middle bit, but some specific characters like Woozie got me excited to see more of them.

One of the first comments I got from my wife while playing (she could hear me playing from another room) was "Are you playing Grand Theft Auto? I could hear licensed music and driving sounds.". Pretty apt, yeah. The music is notably strong overall, with 3-4 stations I'd listen to personally. Radio X (obviously, cuz I'm cool), CSR, K Rose, and K DST were my jam as I drove all across the land of San Andreas. WCTR is funny to listen to on occasion, but gets repetitive fast as it's all talk radio and hearing the same stories or whatever over and over can get repetitive... repetitive. Repetitive? Repetitive. Ok I'll stop. I mention K Rose above - even the country music which I'm not usually tuning into was nice for a while, some pretty fun songs to sing along to (Louisiana woman, Mississippi maaaaaannnn!).

The controls on PS2 were pretty cumbersome at times. Using R1 to aim and L1 (or Circle) to shoot feels pretty backwards most of the time. It's like they got so close to realizing a good control scheme by providing Circle as an alternative, but fumbled at the last second not realizing that just swapping L1 and R1 on the scheme would have been perfect. By the end of the game it became pretty clear that the optimal (normal) weapon was the M4, a fairly obvious choice going by the chronology of weapon unlocks, but it did so much better than any other gun it became essentially the only choice. The M4 auto-aims directly at peoples' heads, making it a one-shot kill from almost any distance, and the ability to move while ADS once you max proficiency just makes it silly to use any other gun. Shotguns were sadly underwhelming.

Driving. What would a GTA be without the driving? GT? Driving was fun overall. Going super fast down the freeway is incredibly fun right up until you ram into a truck and go flying into a river. That said, I'm laughing the whole way any time that happens. Where it gets really frustrating is when the game suddenly asks you to complete the entirety of the flight training. Uuuugh flight. Helicopters are cool, they work great! It's a shame you never really use them. But regular flight planes can go straight to hell. There was one training mission in which you need to perform a barrel roll, and then go through a corona - super simple! It took me 20+ attempts to finally get it done. And then the game NEVER asks you to barrel roll again. That shit can burn.

Overall it's a really great game. The story is a classic tale of betrayal, revenge, and homies. It felt a bit contrived at times, but there's heart in there. There's some underutilized features like the gang territory thing (having to get to 35% to do the last mission makes story sense, but kinda felt shoe-horned in); I'd have liked to have seen that expanded to the entire map, might have been cool facing down triad gangs in Las Venturas or San Fierro, for instance. Great game, tons to do, lots of fun, would recommend.