There are few games that I have played as much as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Steam says I've played it for 73 hours, which is a lot, but it's not an absurd amount considering the game. Of course, Steam doesn't account for all the time I put into the console versions of the game. On PS2, I must have played it twice as much as that, though not quite as much on Xbox. Overall, that is an absurd amount of time. The scary thing is, I still haven't done everything there is to do in the game. I guess that's just the way Rockstar games go for me.
I have a long history of playing GTA games for long hours, starting with the Playstation version of the original game. For however many hours I played GTA 1 and 2, I never did any of the missions, and I pretty much just made my own fun in the sandbox. When GTA III came out I only did the first couple of missions, then went crazy exploring in the sandbox and killing a bunch of people. I knew that doing missions would open up more of the map, but instead of doing the missions, I would just input the “good handling” cheat and jump over the broken bridge with an ambulance.
In Vice City, I played enough of the missions, or had a friend play enough of the missions, to unlock the map, but never completed the story. When San Andreas came out for the PS2, I played it a ton, doing the usual sandbox stuff, but I also attempted to play through the story, which I actually enjoyed for the first time in the series's history. One thing I never understood about the story is the goals of the Grove Street gang. I mean, what is the point of controlling territory if the gang doesn't sell drugs? The economics of it just don't make sense to me. Maybe I've just watched too much of The Wire, and I don't really know what purpose a gang serves outside of dealing.
|Don't worry, I used the turret t shoot myself back the right way.|
I got through a lot of it, but it is a long game, and there were a few sticking points. No, I didn't really have any problems following the train like so many people seemed to, but I was initially majorly discouraged when I lost all of that gang territory that I had conquered due to a story event. Still, I enjoyed doing some of the rural stuff, and I carried on. The part that actually did stop me was a mission for Zero in which there are invading toy airplanes that must be shot down with a machine gun turret. I don't know if it was my awful, blurry TV or what, but I just couldn't see the planes, which made the mission impossible.
|Yeah, I shot two helicopters with a tank. Deal with it.|
San Andreas was probably the main thing that killed the laser in my PS2, not unlike how Vice City nearly destroyed my brother's PS2 previously. I don't regret it for one bit, and it was certainly worth the price of a new laser. So, I played it an ungodly amount on PS2, but I never got past San Fierro. When the game was ported to the Xbox, it had been long enough since I had put down the PS2 version that I played it again. Thankfully, due to the magic of he modded Xbox, I was able to download a save file that already had the game completed, so I could just go straight to screwing around in my beloved sandbox, but this time I could go anywhere and do anything. It was pretty great, and the graphical updates the Xbox version means it is still the nicest version of the game.
A while after that I picked up all of the GTA games in a Steam sale, but I didn't really place the PC version of San Andreas for a while because I was pretty much burned out on it at that point. I was pretty damn excited when GTA IV came out, and, as usual, I played a ton of it. Less usual, I actually completed the main story for the first time in the history of the series. There are a few factors that led to this surprising situation. For one, I really liked the story, and for two, I actually found many of the missions to be fun instead of frustrating.
I know it is a controversial statement, but I actually like IV as much as I like San Andreas. They are very different games, but they both have their strengths. IV does fewer things, but it does those things very well. The driving and shooting, the core of a GTA game, are really solid and a lot of fun, and the multiplayer is a whole lot of fun. San Andreas does a whole lot of things, but it only does most of them adequately. There is a lot of fun to be had in driving hovercrafts and jumping out of planes. I have friends that completely dismiss IV because it doesn't have all the craziness of San Andreas, and I can understand that, but for someone like me, that really enjoys the core of driving around and shooting people in a sandbox, IV feels really good. Still, I love both games.
|Insert ET reference here.|
After I was done with IV for a while, I went back to San Andreas, this time playing on PC from the beginning. Sure, I used cheats, but I did actually complete the story, and now at 73 hours have done the majority of the things in the game. I think all I've got left are some races. There is just so much fun to be had in the game. It is fun to ride bicycles. It is fun to parachute. It is fun to fly a Harrier jet. It is fun to knife civilians and drive buggies in rural areas and drive go-carts in busy city streets and use a jet pack to fly everywhere and do any number of insane things. The shooting controls were a great improvement over previous games, and while IV improves on them greatly, they are still serviceable.
|I'm saving on gas.|
One of the nicest features of San Andreas is the character customization. I really enjoy building up proficiency in various weapons and going to the gym to create my preferred CJ. I was even able to have my CJ inspired by hide of X-Japan, with pink hair and a leopard cowboy hat. If I am feeling less unique maybe I'll give him a mohawk, throw on some camouflage and make him look like B. A. Baracus. That's Mr. T, the night-elf mohawk to those young'uns that only know him as the guy from those World of Warcraft commercials. Also, any car is made more fun with ridiculous nitros and spoilers.
|CJ lived through this. Al Qaeda is amateurs.|
Anyway, San Andreas is a really fun game, and even though it is a bit dated now, there is still a ton of entertainment to be had with it. I spent all of a few minutes playing the game today to get these screenshots, and I like to think they've captured the essence of the wacky fun that can be had in the game. I had a good time with the system of capturing gang territory, but I wish it could have been expanded upon. I'll always love dicking around in Rockstar's sandboxes, and San Andreas is one hell of a huge sandbox with a whole lot of toys in it.