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The Mass Media

The Video Game Connoisseur: As Gangsta As You Wanna Be

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas/ Publisher: Rockstar Games/ System PS2/ Price $49.99/ ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A review of this game isn’t really necessary. It has been speculated upon, previewed and reviewed to death, rebirth, and ascension to Heaven. However, I can pick what I write about so, like any good reviewer- I go for the good stuff. Now, if your one of the few nerds that will read this column then you’ve either already got a copy of this game, are getting one soon, or have been under a rock for the past year. Easily the most eagerly awaited and top grossing game of 2004, with an estimated 1.5 million copies already sold in America and more worldwide. The Grand Theft Auto series has always held a special place in my heart. I fondly remember the original and the second with mixed emotions. My infatuation with the series started with GTA Vice City (the previous GTA game and the first game I had for PS2). Selling a total of 15 million copies, the 80’s throwback immersed gamers in a world we tried so hard to forget. A star studded cast of voice actors (including goodfella Ray Liotta and porn star Jenna Jameson) a soundtrack of 80’s hits brought the pastel world to life.

Rockstar games have used their time machine to create another blast from the past. This time they have brought us back to the early nineties. Most people say “early nineties!? Big whoop!” if you don’t believe that that was a different era take out some old photos from the period. Now repeat after me: What the hell was I thinking? GTA: San Andreas takes place in an early 90’s imitation of California. The first thing that will strike gamers is the sheer size of the game; previous GTA games took place in a single city. San Andreas is a whole freaking state! Three huge cities the size of the previous game’s Vice City with the surrounding countryside. It will literally take you 15-20 minutes to get from one city to the next (longer if you crash your car and have to walk- don’t try to hitchhike, the rednecks don’t take kindly to your type out there).

Now that I’m done gushing over the game (for now) I’ll get into the more technical aspects. The story of the game is that you play as Carl “CJ” Johnson, a gangbanger who left the city of Los Santos (a Los Angeles clone), for San Andreas 5 years ago, after your younger brother was killed. You return to Los Santos because your mother has been killed, and after getting picked up by a couple of crooked cops after getting off the plane and surviving a drive-by during your mom’s funeral, you find out that your old gang, The Orange Grove Families, is in disarray and falling apart. By the way, this is the first GTA game and one of the few, if not only, games (not counting sports games) where you play as an African American. Unlike previous games in the series your character has no definitive look, you can go clothes shopping and come up with an almost unlimited number of outfits, (unlike previous games that only had a few choices) go to a barber and change your hair, (my character looks eerily like Jules from Pulp Fiction) go to the gym and get buff, or go to the burger joint and become a literal fat-ass (other characters in the game will call various names if you waddle down the street with a sumo wrestlers gut).

The programmers have added several new features besides changing your appearance. A most major change is the addition of respect meter, which increases depending on what missions you complete, whose ass you pop a cap in, and how you look. If you choose to become fat, your respect goes down. If you get buff your respect goes up. Your respect dictates how many gang members you can recruit, (you can get other people to help you out for once) what tables you can sit at in casinos, and who you can talk to.

In my opinion, the most exciting new addition is the fact that you can now swim. When I told a friend about this, his reply was “I won’t die from stepping in a puddle now?” In previous games over a foot of water was hazardous to your health, and my biggest problem was water-related fatalities. I can now drive into the bay then pull myself out of my car and swim off, or get back in my boat if a sniper knocks me off. Ah yes, violence, the staple of GTA whether your on foot, in a car, or flying a ‘copter- you’re armed and ready to go. As the name implies Grand Theft Auto is all about stealing cars to get around. GTA has always forced the character to rely upon carjacking and some hapless driving to get around. The previous carjackings consisted of yelling and pulling the driver from his or her vehicle then climbing in and driving off. The yelling has escalated and become a lot more violent, with your character either punching, kicking, or slamming their face into the steering wheel before pulling the driver out of their vehicle; and don’t fiddle around with the mirror or the guy you just carjacked is likely to repay the favor. Before I close and give my final rating, I have a two more subjects to touch upon. The voice acting in the game is top notch, with the main character, CJ, being voiced by rapper Young Maylay. Some other note-worthy voice actors in the game are Samuel L. Jackson as a crooked cop, Ice T as Rapper Madd Dogg, Axl Rose as a burnt out radio DJ, and Charlie Murphy (brother of transvestite loving comedian Eddie Murphy) as a guy named Jizzy B (no comment). The main reason for the M rating the game received is the language, because of the constant dropping of F bombs and the N word adds to the atmosphere (and the rating). With some of the content in the game (they have a statistic for the number of times you’ve had sex) along with the language it’s surprising the game did not receive the coveted adult rating. This is probably also the only game to feature Dr. Dre, Guns N’ Roses, and Merle Haggard in the same soundtrack. With the amazing soundtrack, beautiful graphics, and incredible game play with only a few minor problems, it makes me proud to give this game a perfect 5 out of 5. If you’re still reading this and don’t own it then what the hell are you waiting for!