Grand Theft Auto V (PS3) Review

Developer: Rockstar North | Publisher: Rockstar Games || Overall: 9.5/10

For me, a Grand Theft Auto game is like one of those mini-milestones in my life; I get to experience something fantastic, funny, and overall extremely entertaining.  I’ve bought each of the mainline GTA games during the first week of release, and have thoroughly enjoyed each of them.  I still have yet to complete any of the games on PlayStation 2, and I still need to buy Vice City Stories, but I can pretty much say that GTA is a big part of what makes gaming so enjoyable to me.

So, does Grand Theft Auto V continue to be the torchbearer that has been such a motivator for me to stick with gaming as a whole?  The answer is yes, but the answer is also no, in some regards.  Grand Theft Auto is a lot of things to a lot of people — a social scapegoat, a cool game to fuck around endlessly in, and most of all an offensive and satirical look at America and what it means to be an American.

Grand Theft Auto V breaks the mold of its predecessors by allowing you to play as three different characters.  Each character has their own individual stories and some missions that overlap with each other.  The missions culminate at certain points of the story where you will do “Heists.”  Heists can essentially be looked at as the major challenge or “boss” of that point of the game. Heists themselves are very dynamic story missions that allow you to switch characters based on what sort of preference you have.  At times you’ll also be forced to change characters to progress the mission.  There are several occasions where a character has to drive 5 miles to a certain location, but during “their drive” you can switch to another character who is currently in the middle of another objective that is occurring.  After completing the Heist, all three characters have their own missions opened up again.

Each of the three characters draw parallels to previous characters in the series, with the character Trevor, who is a drug dealing crime entrepreneur being the most unique as far as the series-as-a-whole goes.  All three characters, and their motion capture/voice work actors, do an amazing job in conveying the story and making it enjoyable.  First and foremost, the story of Grand Theft Auto V is a character story.  There is very little strength in an overall arcing story, as it never really comes to a head, but the real joy of the story is the interactions between the characters and the way they live their lives and the things that go on around them.  The main storyline revolves around the government and government corruption, but is never fully realized in its potential.  My feeling is that there will be expansions, a la GTA IV’s expansions, where each character may be the sole focus to fully flesh out the remaining questions that each individual’s story sort of left open ended even as the credits rolled and after.

As a result, the story sort of just drops off at the end and you’re left with questions for each of the individual character’s stories without any real indication that they will be answered or even if the inevitable expansions are even going to focus on the main protagonists of the GTA V.  A lot of the plot points of in the characters’ personal stories make you question why they bothered having them when there was no real pay off.  A wait-and-see approach for the expansion plans is sort of unnerving, but if it pans out the way I hope it does then it may not be that bad.

The game play has been universally improved from GTA IV.  Combat is a lot more fun and refined.  The addition of the weapon wheel allows for switching guns in a more efficient manner.  Many of the same features you expect in a GTA game are present, and have been refined as well.  Being able to customize cars permanently is a welcome addition for the single player mode.  Speaking on cars, your characters all have their own “personal vehicles” that you will undoubtedly drive more often than not.  This is a vast change from previous games where you would always just steal a car to get around the city.  Now that you have your “own” personal vehicle you can always rely on using that car.  I actually preferred to use the personal cars to give the feeling of consistency for the story.  The cars are also unique, so you can tell when another character is driving it or is parked somewhere waiting for you to start a mission.

During a lot of the missions there are opportunities to catch references to action movies in a way that is an homage to Hollywood and Los Angeles.  There are plenty of hilarious scenes and subtleties that make this Grand Theft Auto leagues ahead of any before it, while still harkening back to them.  Most notably is GTA: San Andreas, as you encounter gangs that existed in that game as well as visiting CJ’s home neighborhood — you will instantly recognize it and there is even a mission where you will have a shootout through the whole neighborhood.  You will also be able to walk into a lot of different buildings during your missions — one such being the LifeInvader offices where there are a lot of Facebook-related jokes and scenes to be had.

Missions are split out into separate categories — “Missions” and “Strangers and Freaks.”   During the series there has always been those “off-storyline” missions that came around that didn’t have much to do with anything.  In Grand Theft Auto IV, they added “strangers” that you could meet on the street and talk to them for a little while or even do a mission for them.  The Strangers and Freaks missions in Grand Theft Auto V allowed Rockstar to combine both of those aspects and let themselves go really crazy with designing missions.  Shooting aliens after smoking weed, kidnapping a movie star for two old British tourists, and skydiving out of a helicopter into the city are only some of the things that you can do in tandem with the main storyline.  Another welcomed feature is the ability to replay all of the missions you find and refine your score on them so you can earn trophies.

With Grand Theft Auto V, you can tell that even though the game is goofy at times, they have made it a point to make the game act much more “realistic.”  The way people walk and run, physics that are toned down, and the serious storyline are all honed in on this goal of becoming a “realistic” game.  A major casualty of this appears to be the loss of many of the more “traditional game” elements that we have seen in the Grand Theft Auto series, namely Vigilante, Ambulance, and Firetruck side missions.  Vigilante has been seemingly replaced with “random events” that you will stumble upon as you are driving through the city.  During these random events, people will get their property stolen or police will be in a shootout with the criminals and you can either step in or let them go.  While they are nice as an addition, I think I would have gotten at least a couple of more hours of enjoyment from being able to hunt down a list of bounties or have the game generate a group of criminals for me to take down, like in GTA IV.  It is unfortunate because GTA V’s combat system is A LOT OF FUN, and I wish I could just have more combat outside of missions.  Being able to access the internet on your phone is also very convenient, but it seems like there are a lot less web sites to find this time around.  Watching TV is also not as convenient because there is no “full screen” mode and the volume never seems to be able to be turned up loud enough where I can comfortably hear what is going on.

The graphics in the game are very impressive.  Really awe-inspiring, however, is how big the game’s map is and how accurate it is to Los Angeles and the surrounding area in California recreated as Los Santos, Sandy Shores, and Blaine County.  Being from the LA area, I felt right “at home,” and the lighting in the game makes it that much more authentic.  The wilderness and desert areas are much more fleshed out compared to how they looked like in GTA: San Andreas.  You can even hunt in the wilderness.  While GTA V is a “revisiting” of San Andreas, the lack of San Fierro and Las Venturas can sort of irk you if you are a stickler for the “lore” of Grand Theft Auto.  As a result of having the game be more focused on Los Santos itself, we got a much more detailed and expansive city.  The radio stations are also pretty good and varied.  There are some great tracks, but since nothing can ever live up to GTA: Vice City, we’ll just have to say it’s about as good as it can be.

A part of the experience to note is that ever since the Hot Coffee controversy became a big deal with GTA: San Andreas, Rockstar started becoming more and more daring with what actual sex content they choose to depict.  While GTA IV poked fun at themselves by saying “hey wanna have some HOT COFFEE” and then had a lot of groaning noises saying how good the coffee is, in GTA V they literally have people having sex in plain view as part of missions — not something that is really optional like dating.  And I don’t think anyone even gave a fuck (pun!) about it this time around!  I was laughing my ass off when I saw one of the “movie stars” getting pounded doggie style as you take pictures of her, which resulted in her chasing after you in her convertible trying to kill you.  GTA V can just be a lot of fun.  You can also call random characters up to “hang out” with them and play mini-games, but as opposed to GTA IV, you aren’t forced to maintain any relationships and as a result there doesn’t seem to be any benefits from them now.

Playing the game for about 50 hours, I can say that GTA V is the best game of the series.  Growing and changing as a gamer since playing GTA III, I find myself less and less inclined to just “fuck around” for an endless amount of time.  I just got through the missions, played a couple of the repeatable side missions, and called it.  Ostensibly, it was worth my $60 regardless, but the point of mentioning it is that sandbox games have become a more focused experience and can be less about “go do anything you want” and more about “here’s the things we want you to do, go do it the way you want to do it.”  This is the way gaming has evolved and I do enjoy a more focused experience for sandbox games since they can get very distracting at times.  Not to say that you CAN’T just go do anything you want to do for hours on end, but it pushes you towards what it wants you to do much more than other GTA games.

GTA V also comes with GTA: Online, which is basically just a fleshed out version of the multiplayer from GTA IV.  GTA: Online is structured more like a free-to-play MMO game with progression of your character, and also gets back to the more “gamey” aspects of the Grand Theft Auto series than the single player experience offers.  There’s definitely more people playing it than GTA IV’s online mode, but since GTA: Online is almost its own game entirely, I will just review it later if I get around to it.  It is constantly changing as well since they will be adding patches and re-balancing as time goes on.

GTA V is good, and I hope to see more for the game soon.

 

Max Payne (PC) Review

Developer: Remedy Entertainment / Publisher: Rockstar Games

Overview:

Max Payne is a third person shooter that progresses its story through a graphic novel, split into 3 parts, along with narration. The main thing about this game is bullet-time. The story really complimented the experience of the gameplay, and almost inspired you to keep going on to find out what happens, and how its going to end. This isn’t a very long game though (if you go through it once, only). You’ll probably get a good 5 or 6 hours out of it on the easy setting, but when you go for the other difficulties, good luck. Its hard enough as it is on easy, because the difficulty actually changes to adjust to how well you’re doing. The replay value of the game is pretty good, as well. There ARE some annoying levels, through the game every now and then.

Graphics:

The graphics are very good, and you can’t see much better than it right now.

Sound:

The sound is awesome. There is so much action going on, and so much gun figting that you’ll feel like you’re actually in the middle of it. The gangster’s normal speech gets a little repetitive, as they keep saying “what the hell,” “its PAYNE!,” “Kill the bastard!” and a few more other ones I can’t think of off the top of my head. Once you go through the first 2 chapters of Part I, you’ll just about have heard them all. Once in a while, there are 2 enemies that talk about completely off topic subjects. Later in the game, you’ll hear 2 of them talking about bullet-time itself, saying how it would be “so cool” if you could be able to use it yourself.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is kind of hard to get a hang of at first, but when you learn everything, its smooth, and you always know what to press. As I said before, the difficulty level of the game changes to fit how well you’re doing during the game. If you’re doing really good, the difficulty goes up. If you’re doing really bad, the enemies are easier. Once you beat the first difficulty level, 2 more types of games open up. There’s a total of 5 different modes, so if you care enough to be the best Max Payne in the world, try beating each one.

Crappiest Part:

I’d say the crappiest part of Max Payne would be how it left you off on a sort-of cliffhanger when you beat the game. It ended the story, but it left a few unanswered questions. But I guess that’s what Max Payne 2 is for.

Overall Score:

Max Payne is an excellent game, with no plot falls, and seamless gameplay. This game is one of my favorites, and is a lot of fun if you have good speakers for your computer.

10/10

 

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP) Review

Developer: Rockstar Leeds / Publisher: Rockstar Games || Overall: 9.5/10

Grand Theft Auto has finally made its way to a portable system in pure 3D. Only possible by taking advantage of the Playstation Portable’s technology, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is an amazing transition of this generation’s Grand Theft Auto games from console to handheld. Regarded as the first major release on the PSP, Liberty City Stories is a major reason for owning the pricey handheld.

Taking place in Liberty City, the same city as in Grand Theft Auto III, you take the role of Toni Cipriani. For Grand Theft Auto III patrons, you’ll remember Toni Cipriani from nearer to the beginning of the game that had the mom who’d yell through the window during the cutscenes where you would take missions from Toni. Being part of Salvatore Leone’s gang, Toni will visit many familiar places and will see familiar faces that you will instantly recognize from GTA III. But, since Liberty City Stories is a prequel to Grand Theft Auto III, all the events that had actually taken place in Liberty City during GTA III haven’t actually happened yet. As such, certain buildings will be under construction to reflect that Liberty City Stories is a prequel. Not to mention certain people still being alive. However, Liberty City is still intact just as it was played on the Playstation 2, but there are enough changes and shake-ups to the city that will make Liberty City Stories unique.

The most important thing to mention about the game is the controls. Unfortunately for the PSP, it just doesn’t have as many buttons or analog sticks as the Dual Shock controllers do. But the hardware limitations don’t stop the game from having good enough controls to make those limitations almost not be a factor. Almost. There are two pre-set configurations in the Controls menu which will change the functions of the shoulder buttons for car use. SETUP1 will make L the “Look” button, that when pressed you move the analog stick the direction you want to look at while driving, and the R button the hand brake. SETUP2 will give a closer feel to the controls of the console games, making the shoulder buttons look left, right, or behind when both are pressed. There are no differences between the setups for when you’re on foot. There is also the option to change how you control the character – either with the analog stick or the directional buttons. Whatever movement selection is not used for primary movement, it will become less important, yet necessary, controls such as honking the horn, starting a special mission, radio station cycle, weapon cycle, and target cycle. Since the analog stick on the PSP is just about at a perfect sensitivity for moving and driving around, it’s more beneficial to use the directional pad as the other functions. But any way you slice it, the only real problem you might have is when it comes to shooting and targeting with weapons. When you get into instances where there is a requirement for high-speed shooting and targeting action, the PSP’s controls are not as responsive as a Dual Shock controller’s and you may get frustrated having to try something over and over again.

Plenty of the aspects of the Grand Theft Auto games actually work well for the handheld arena. Mostly the Taxi, Ambulance, and Vigilante missions, as well as a few other special non-story missions can easily be initiated and completed within a very short amount of time. Even story missions are finer tuned and shorter to complete. Another big point to the formula is the loading times. The only time you’ll see noticeable loading times are when you first start up the game, move around to other parts of Liberty City (which are the same as Grand Theft Auto III), and right before missions. While it could get annoying when you constantly retry the same mission, the loading times are very acceptable in the end and typically don’t take out a chunk of your playing time. There is also a slight lag between switching radio stations as the audio loads, but nothing too out of the ordinary. As a consequence the UMD will be spinning most of the time, since the data will stream off, resulting in less actual playtime unless you’ve got an outlet nearby.

As for graphics and sound, they’re exactly what is to be expected from the series. Not only that, it is truly amazing how they could pack it all in into such a small package. Compared to GTA III, the game looks to be on the same level, if not better. The cars look realistic, as well as the damage to the cars. Buildings themselves also look exactly how they should be remembered. The most impressive thing about it all is that the actual distance that you can see is a whole lot better than what had been done in almost any other GTA game. You might also notice a little bit of ghosting and frame rate, which is very solid, can drop at points. Radio stations are just as diverse as they were in GTA III, not to mention a couple more were added, along with the ability to play custom tracks off your memory stick. To utilize the custom tracks, however, you have to download a free program to your computer that will convert CDs into a format that the game can read – MP3s can’t be directly used. Voice work is also nothing short of what is to be expected. All the voice actors that played reoccurring characters from the series have reprised their roles, and while it may sound a little tinny at times, there really isn’t anything to complain about in that regard.

Besides a little bit of a shake-up in the control scheme, everything about the game gives the same experience of its console brethren. There’s a great story in a huge city filled with tons of things to do for everyone, even veterans of the series that will spark enjoyment on some level, and you can take it anywhere you want. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is by far the best game you can spend your money on at this point in the PSP’s life.

 

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP) Preview

Developer: Rockstar Leeds/Rockstar North | Publisher: Rockstar Games

The name Grand Theft Auto has stricken fear into the hearts of politicians and conservative moralizers as of late with the aftermath of the Hot Coffee mod. But now they have even more reason to be afraid – Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is coming to the PSP in October. It was worse enough for them that the game was only limited to households, but with the first true incarnation of a full 3D handheld GTA, the possibilities become endless. You could jack a car while jacking a car in real life (though you really shouldn’t do that)!

Those who played through GTA III should remember Toni Cipriani. The reason why, is because he is the main character in GTA: LCS. Taking place a couple years after GTA: San Andreas, in 1998, Liberty City is in the midst of a mafia war for control over the city. Problems galore have washed over Liberty City from political corruption to massive organized crime and drug trafficking. It’s up to Toni to clean up the mess and put the city under Leone’s control.

Probably the reason why there is so much interest behind GTA: LCS is because it is not a throwback to its top down roots like GTA Advance for the GBA is, and is touted to be as immersive as the console versions have been come to be known as, all on a handheld. Not only that, but many of the radio stations from GTA III will make its way back and then some.

Furthermore, in regards to the radio stations and music, GTA: LCS will allow for a “custom” radio station playing music off of your memory stick rather than music included on the disc itself. This adds to the variety of the game and is something yet to be seen, other than in the Xbox versions of the GTA games. While the radio stations will probably not be as diverse in their music selection as the console counterparts, Rockstar will probably have packed the game’s disc to the limit. GTA: LCS will not be “stripped” like many port-downs appear to be.

The game shouldn’t even be called a port as it will feature a whole new story, voice acting, the same (if not, larger) city we saw in GTA III, and the massive amount of things to do that are signature to the series. GTA: LCS should not disappoint, and with the enhancements the series has gone through with Vice City and San Andreas, it’ll be nice to play with those improvements as well as with motorcycles in the city we first visited in the world of GTA.

Developed by Rockstar Leeds and Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories will be released exclusively for the PlayStation Portable on October 24, 2005.

 

GTA: San Andreas (PS2): A Soccer Mom’s Review

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Soccer Mom Dave

This is a satire about the way a certain “parent” would look upon a video game. It’s written as if it was for a site that was run by mothers who denounce controversial video games based on third party information rather than actually experiencing it themselves, and making rash judgments about things they have little knowledge about. The name of this “mother” is Soccer Mom Dave.

I have never been so appalled in my life. Today, while I was neglecting my children and watching the latest episode of Alias, I came by a news break commercial about a horrible horrible horrible game that had been re-rated by something called the “ESRB.” Upon further research, I had learned that by giving players the option to do whatever they please in a made up world of lust, sex, violence, and drugs, GTA: San Andreas has made its strike on America’s morality, which can never be healed.

How anyone can find this game fun eludes (I used the thesaurus for that one) me. Telling a story about a gangster is absolutely Ludacris (get it?). So, because of the fact that the story offends me, I refused to actually read any more into it. I am abhorrently against anything that may represent true life, and this is definitely something I am against, because gangsters are not real people according to my philosophy. I have heard that Samuel L. Jackson voices a crooked cop in the game, but it only makes me hate it even more because Samuel L. Jackson is a very obscene and RUDE individual. He drops the F bomb more than a can of peas at sunset. Never mind the fact that you can sleep with a prostitute and then kill her to get your money back! This is a completely unforgivable act, and I can’t believe that they would even insert this into the game and force you to do it nonetheless!

As to whether or not I have seen (because I don’t play games – ever. I am a very serious person, except for when it comes to dating) any other games in this “series” (I call it more of a disgrace than a series), I would have to say no. I will easily pass judgment on them and say they offend me as well, even though I don’t even know their names.

As talented as the programmers of the game may think of themselves to be, I believe them all to be felons, and nothing less. They should all be tossed into jail for concocting such a horrible horrible horrible game to release to the masses, even though it’s the consumers’ choice to buy it in the first place.

I had also heard that the Grand Theft Auto games have a good musical selection included in them. I say it’s crap. Any soundtrack that doesn’t have “The Bomb” by The Bucketheads and the whole Barry Manilow album (deservingly titled) “Ultimate Manilow” deserves a big thumbs-down from this van-driving wannabe-soccer-enthusiast.

So, when I had seen the report on this GTA San Andreas game getting re-rated to Adults Only (!!!!!!) from a Mature rating, I was shocked. Not only was the violence off the charts, but there was a hidden mini-game included in the game where you can have sex with your girlfriend! How could they rate a game Mature for having full-on, hardcore, PORNOGRAPHIC content EMBEDDED WITHIN THE GAME AND HAVE IT ONLY HAVE A MATURE RATING!!?!?!?!??!?! THIS IS CRAZY. After hearing the news, I took part in helping the National Parental Warning issued by the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) by calling up Easily-Offended Mom Anthony, Dr. Phil-Addicted Mom Elias, Horribly-Inept Mom Kevin, Irresponsible Mom Dan, Censoring Mom Ian, and 24-Hour-A-Day-Drunk Mom AJ and told them about the uncovered lie told by Rockstar. All were up in arms, and we told the rest of our community in hopes to spark an outrage.

I would never let my son touch this game with a sixty foot pole. Though he has asked for the game, I have vehemently denied him the right to, and threatened to not pay for his college education if he ever asks again. MY nine year old will just have to do with his other games like Manhunt, Killer 7, Killzone, Metal Gear Solid 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Madden 2005 (I once had to take it away for two weeks when he called me an I Formation with two Wide Receivers – that language is not tolerated in this house) for the time being until he gets old enough to play a game like GTA: San Andreas.

The overall score for the game is a Ban-And-Squelch-Free-Speech/10.

 

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2) Review

Developer: Rockstar North / Publisher: Rockstar Games || Overall: 9.6/10

It’s arguable that no gaming series in recent history has had an effect on the gaming world as much as Grand Theft Auto. By giving players the option to do a number of different things outside of the linearity of the game’s story, there’s just an incredible sense of freedom found in GTA. This carries over to the newest game in the series, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, maybe more so than any previous game. It expands on things to do and the realism of it all by an incredible amount.

The story of the game itself starts when the main character CJ comes back into San Andreas from Liberty City because his mother died. He gets in a taxi to go home, but is pulled over by Officer Tenpenney (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and his team of corrupt cops the moment he gets back into Los Santos. When he finally gets back to his home neighborhood, CJ (voiced by rapper Young Maylay) finds out the streets his gang once ruled have been lost, and the gang itself in shambles. His crew shows distrust towards him since he went to Liberty City instead of staying in Los Santos. Once part of the gang, he is viewed as an outsider since he doesn’t fully understand what happened before his return.

Jacking Cars and Living Life as a Criminal Has Never Been So Fun
San Andreas introduces an amazing amount of new terrains to a huge world containing three massive cities. In the game, you’ll see country sides, dirt tracks, woodlands/forests, and deserts. However, these are just among the many additions the game includes. Gameplay features such as gang wars, pimping, burglary, physical conditioning, and having abilities improve in a (more or less) traditional RPG style are just some of the many things that have improved and expanded in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The enhancements and additions seem to make a list a mile long. It is truly amazing to experience how many new things have been added.

The main cities in the game all mimic actual places in real life and how they look. Los Santos is the equivalent of Los Angeles, San Fierro is the equivalent of San Francisco, and Las Venturas is the equivalent of Las Vegas (complete with casinos of all types). Being from California, I’ve been to all three real cities and live near Los Angeles. First hand, I can say that everything is closely replicated to the styles of housing and how things actually look. There are even some noticeable structures that may not be important to someone who doesn’t live in the area, but is easily recognizable to someone who does. The same holds true for the other GTA games, as people who live in or around the city(s) copied will notice those minute details.

Through the first part of the game, most of the missions you do will exhibit one new improvement or addition Rockstar has made to GTA: San Andreas. Some missions teach you basic skills that have already been introduced in the series, like when they show you how to drive a car while doing a drive-by. More often than not, however you will learn something new that has been added to the game. A difference that is immediately noticed is as you travel around town, rival gang members will all of a sudden start shooting you. This forces you to find a different way around to your destination, since you’re trying to avoid them, thus adding to the difficulty of the game. If you’re in a car, they could possibly pop one of your tires during the attack.

Though everyone knows who CJ is already, if you want to attract even more attention from your rival gangs you can wear your gang’s colors. This increases the respect you have among your gang as well, though it’s a trade off. In the long run, respect is a lot more important among your gang than worrying about heat from other gangs.

The game play itself has been tweaked just enough to make it better than its forerunners. Using some of the ideas from Rockstar’s Manhunt, the targeting system has been improved. Also, some techniques that have never been used in this series before, like stealth, are used throughout the game.

Instead of just being thrown into the game with a basic set abilities and no way to improve them (like previous game’s in the series), San Andreas features an “RPG-like” level up trait increases your stats as you gain more experience from actually performing many of the game’s actions.. For example, the more you drive, the higher your skill gets, and your lung capacity skill will increase as you dive underwater more. The same method applies for muscle, weapon skills, respect, cycling skill, motorcycle skill, stamina, and a few others. It isn’t very expansive, but it is a nice addition to the game, and you will begin to notice slight changes in how well you handle your car or beat someone’s ass using your bare fists with fewer strikes than before.

To build up your muscle, stamina, and learn some new abilities to use in melee fighting, there is a gym in each city that you can use. As you advance to new cities, you are able to train at the more advanced facilities in each progressing city. Eventually, when you kick the “master” of the gym’s ass, they will teach you their fighting style, thus learning newer advanced fighting styles that you can use when you’re locked onto someone in addition to another style of melee attacks. This is a new addition to the series, as before, you only had one set of melee moves. Of the possible fighting styles you can train to learn, there is boxing, karate, and “dirty.” You don’t switch between the styles on the fly, but you are able to use the fighting ability of the master you had last won against, so you’re able to keep your favorite style.

Some Improvements Become Problems

There are only a few nuisances that I’ve noticed throughout the game, but they’ve appeared in the other GTA games as well. There are only one or two new problems I have noticed that are unique to San Andreas. It’s hard to see how much ammo you have left for the particular gun you have equipped, because the font for the counter is so small. You can estimate how much ammo you may have by counting how many digits you have in your reserve, in regards to whether there are two, three, or four digits for your reserve count. If you have four, you probably don’t have to worry about the count. When this actually affects the game play, is when you’re down to your last few shots, and you don’t know how much you have to conserve.

The load times experienced in other GTA games had as you traveled to different cities have been totally done away with. The game will continuously load any new area you go to as you are going there. The only problem with this however, is that you may notice that the details of particular buildings will not load that fast, especially if you’re going into a new area. This makes it seem less realistic. Sometimes if you look off into the distance, you will see nothing, and then a building pop in out of nowhere. This can also affect the game play at times, like when you’re trying to follow someone that is far away. They’ll disappear and you can’t see where they go. There’s also the annoyance of having the game pause for a few seconds to load a new area you’re going into if you get there too fast (like if you’re driving really fast in a car). There are other times where there is slowdown, but not very often. For the most part, the game loads well, and shows improvement over the other GTA games. The only “real” load times are before missions.

Gangsta’s Paradise (Not the Coolio Song.)
The music featured in the game is made up of 90’s music, as well as a few classic tunes from before that period. Most genres are covered, including alternative rock, classic rock, 90’s rap/hip-hop, classic hip-hop/rap, house, funk, country, dub/reggae, soul, and the ever-popular talk radio. The music makes the game feel as if you’re really in the 90’s.

The game’s voice acting has a quality comparable to Vice City’s, though by no means is this bad. The dialogue stays true to the atmosphere of the game, so players should be sure to expect a load of swearing. It’s safe to say that this game isn’t for those offended by language, as San Andreas uses swearing a lot more freely than any of the other Grand Theft Auto games. Also, the cast of celebrities providing the voiceovers is the series’ most prolific to date, including the already mentioned Samuel L. Jackson and Young Maylay, as well as others like comedian David Cross, Ice T, James Woods, amongst a few others. The auditory in San Andreas is exactly what should be expected from the series, a game with an awesome soundtrack and high profile celebrity voice acting.

More of the Same, Visually
Visually, San Andreas doesn’t look that much different than Vice City, but a few things do look noticeably better. The most obvious enhancement visually is the improvement of how the cars look. The cars can now be modded to fit your likes, from nitrous to hydraulics to having a different style hood. Nothing is better than driving a pink taxi with a spoiler, nitrous boost and hydraulics that is taking people to their destination in the Taxi Mission game.

There are other visual effect changes that have been made in San Andreas, as well. For instance, the rain that had once been very visible in Vice City is now more like a light drizzle. Granted, it doesn’t rain nearly as heavy in San Andreas as it does in Vice City, but it can be hard to tell if it’s even raining. Having the effect of rain splattering against the screen in Vice City has been dropped in San Andreas, since it actually impaired your vision while playing. There is now fog/smog depending on what city you’re in. This adds to the realism of GTA: San Andreas, as real weather conditions are replicated more accurately. Similar to arcade racing games, when you’re driving very fast, the area around you becomes blurred, adding to the feeling that you’re going fast.

Final Thoughts
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is without a doubt the best GTA to date. New challenges are exhibited in nearly every mission, and with a huge quantity of new improvements, additions, and challenges involving all the skills they provide you, this is one hell of a game. There is also a very involving story that keeps the game moving along, as it keeps you wondering how things will turn out and why things are happening. While the other Grand Theft Auto games still hold their own by being set in different cities and having distinctively different atmospheres (from being a mercenary in GTA3, to a part of the mob in Vice City), GTA: San Andreas manages to be unique, having the whole aura of the main character being completely different, making itself a definite must-have.

 

Grand Theft Auto Advance (GBA) Preview

Developer: Backbone Entertainment/Digital Eclipse Software | Publisher: Rockstar Games

Ever since Grand Theft Auto 3 came out, I know everyone has been pining relentlessly for a new, top-down Grand Theft Auto game. Well, everyone’s wishes have been granted, with the upcoming Grand Theft Auto game for the Game Boy Advance, Grand Theft Auto Advance.

GTA Advance takes place in Liberty City, during the same time period as GTA3. You play as Mike, a member of the mob, who is about to leave the crime world behind. However, his friend Vinnie had a few more jobs for him to do before they could get enough cash to leave for good. That’s when Vinnie dies in a car explosion (with all the cash), and Mike is suspected for Vinnie’s murder. It’s up to Mike to figure out who killed Vinnie, while all the cops in the city are after him. As more missions are completed, more of the storyline is opened up. Story scenes are also drawn in the GTA-style of art that was introduced with GTA3.

Even though GTA Advance goes back to GTA’s roots as a top-down game, GTA Advance keeps the improvements that have been done to the series, to make it seem almost like you’re playing one of the 3D games, of which are:

• Explore and exploit a sprawling, handheld Liberty City that’s over twice as large as Grand Theft Auto 3.
• Dozens of vehicles to find and drive – compacts, sports cars, delivery trucks, taxis, SWAT vans, tanks, and more.
• Take time off from the task at hand with hundreds of side missions: taxi driver, paramedic, fire fighter, street racing, vigilante, and rampages.
• The freedom and open-ended game play that is synonymous with the Grand Theft Auto franchise provides countless hours of portable entertainment.

If you liked the classic GTA games, then this should be a definite addition to your game arsenal.

GTA Advance is set for a simultaneous release with the upcoming GTA: San Andreas in October 2004.

 

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2) Preview

Developer: Rockstar North | Publisher: Rockstar Games

No game has more hype, controversy and rewarding pedestrian killing than the Grand Theft Auto series. With the success of the GTA3, the transition to full 3D game play was the best thing to happen to this game series. And if GTA3 couldn’t be any better, GTA: Vice City blew every other game in the series out of the water. One can only imagine how the 5th installment of the GTA series, GTA: San Andreas will completely rule over all its predecessors, this October 2004.

Five years before the game starts off, Carl Johnson, the main character in this GTA, escaped from the pressures of life in Los Santos, San Andreas. The city was tearing itself apart with gang trouble, drugs and corruption. It was also a place where film stars and millionaires do their best to avoid the dealers and gangbangers. From the poor to the rich, Los Santos was not a very happy, or safe, place to live.

In the early 90s, Carl is forced to go back home, because his mother has been murdered. When he comes back to Los Santos, he finds that his family has fallen apart and his childhood friends are all heading towards disaster. However, on his return to the neighborhood, a couple of corrupt cops frame him for homicide. CJ is forced on a journey that takes him across the entire state of San Andreas, to save his family and to take control of the streets.

Some of the newest innovations in the GTA: San Andreas are in how you make and spend your money. There’s a lot to spend money on, and to get around a whole state, you’ll need plenty of cash. Like in previous GTAs, you will sometimes earn money by completing missions, but not always. That’s why side missions will take a new level of importance. One of the new ways you can get hold of cash, is by stealing other people’s stuff.

Burglary is another crime added to the repertoire of other crimes you’re able to commit in the GTA series freely. To begin the actual burglary side mission, you have to carjack a moving truck and then press the R3 button. There are dozens of places in San Andreas to burglarize, for example residential homes and businesses. Most can contain a variety of goods that you can make off with and sell.

If you don’t know how to burglarize well, you’re going to get caught. First of all, you can only rob places at night. You’re going to have to get something to hide your identity, like a ski mask or balaclava. You’re also going to have to bring a weapon or two, just in case someone is home, and they try to alert the police. But that’s only if you make enough noise to wake up the inhabitants, if any. People will be sleeping, because its night. If you’re able to slip in quietly, you may be able to make off with a VCR, TV, or the home stereo system. It’d do you well to check every room in the house, because making off with a 13 inch TV wouldn’t be better than making off with something with way more value.

Once you’re able to make off with your haul, you’re able to sell your goods, and make sure you get your money’s (and effort’s) worth out of it. The money you make can be put forward to buy items, food, clothes, guns, properties, and even businesses.

The way you spend your money influences the way you play the game. In San Andreas, the way you dress and take care of yourself tells a lot about who you are. As a result, your clothes and haircut affect the way others respect you. There are many barbershops throughout San Andreas, and with enough cash, CJ can get whatever cut he wants. The sharper CJ looks, the more respected he is. Rivals will take notice to him, and be more wary of him, as well as women noticing how good looking CJ is, and gaining more authority within his own gang, the Orange Grove Families. You can choose from many different cuts, including bald, afro, jheri curl, and cornrows.

Clothing affects the game as well. Through the game, if you dawn your gang’s colors, rival gangs and police will take notice to your allegiances easier, while gaining more respect in his own gang for doing so. Some missions will even require CJ wearing a particular outfit. Some of the places that you can choose clothing from are Binco, SubUrban, and ProLaps. Binco is a discount clothes store which sells cheap and utilitarian clothing. SubUrban has a bigger selection than Binco, and also targets a customer base that has a higher budget to spend on clothing, favoring brand-name apparel. ProLaps is an athletic gear outlet store, selling jerseys, shorts, hats and other sport related items. Prices at ProLaps are a bit more expensive, and CJ will have to earn a lot more money.

CJ will keep all the clothing he buys, so you won’t have to go back to the clothing store and buy clothes every time you want to change your look. All you have to do is walk into your safe house and look in the closet to see every piece of clothing CJ has earned/purchased at that point in the game. This adds a collecting mission to the game, and also a huge amount of customization for you character, for mixing and matching the clothing you have.

The game itself will be five times as big as GTA: Vice City, featuring three cities. Los Santos (the capital, and a mirror of Los Angeles), San Fierro (a mirror of San Francisco), and Las Venturas (a mirror of Las Vegas).

GTA: San Andreas will also feature a new type of transportation, the BMX bike. To me, nothing would seem more fun than riding a BMX bike to another city clear across the state. Now it just leaves to wonder if there’s going to be a paper route you can do (been hoping for that one since GTA 3). Among other improvements, there are also motorcycle cops, citizens who will not give up their cars so easily (when you’re carjacking), improved police AI and even more troublesome police.

If you’re wondering about the game’s musical score, Rockstar has not released too many details about what is actually going to be in the game, other than the fact that there will be music from many genres of the early 90’s. Since there are three different cities, there is a possibility that each city could have its own list of unique radio stations and music.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas hits the PlayStation 2 on October 18, 2004.