Sunday, September 30, 2007



Over the course of the GTA series, Rockstar has gradually repurposed the missions to be less about gameplay or skill and more about playing out scripted story events and memorizing preset patterns. Storycentric events composed a small minority of GTA3’s missions, but in San Andreas you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single job that doesn’t feature a lengthy prologue and a healthy dose of running dialogue—frequently to the point where it interferes with the gameplay.

As a port, this PC version is a bit of a missed opportunity. The original PlayStation 2 game was great, but it suffered from shortcomings that really should have been addressed in the eight months since its debut. Unfortunately, PS2 veterans will encounter many familiar problems: unbalanced mission difficulty, dumb objectives, the unreliable “trip skip” function, and lots of glitches. They’re all here, same as ever.

Even if you have problems with the presentation, you can’t fault the story itself, as it’s stupendously written and acted. CJ is no angel, though he’s hardly unlikable; it’s difficult not to sympathize with his frustration as he’s bullied around by forces far beyond his control. And while you may not approve of his more extreme methods, you have to admire his street-smart resourcefulness.

The supporting cast is top-notch as well, particularly Samuel L. Jackson’s sleazebag cop and the yin-yang pair of Peter Fonda and James Woods as an ultraradical conspiracy theorist and an ultrareactionary government conspirator, respectively. But it’s Young Maylay’s turn as CJ—crude, angry, and more than a little crafty—that makes the story so compelling and helps you forgive occasional lapses into juvenile pandering. You’ll shift uncomfortably in your seat as you gun down Army reservists and Navy pilots or kill a guy for the unthinkable crime of being dumb-headed, but for the most part Rockstar has made a sincere effort to rise above the usual childishness.

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