The StarSoldier


Artist touch: The cool multiple picture art from the past games continues with San Andreas and it really shows off what the game itself can do. The art is a little too comical which can confuse some parents who don't look at the rating. Cover art rating: 8/10

(Rockstar North, October 2004)

Month it won: August 2005

Special note: Are you kidding me! This is the ever console video game to win the AO rating.

Introduction and Story:
2004 was sure a great time to be a gamer, eh? Lucky Xbox owners got Halo 2; the big sequel to one of the best First Person Shooters ever made. While on the Playstation2 there was highly anticipated new chapter in the popular car jacking series: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. That game was an absolutely mammoth 3D action game that won rave reviews for its stunning new features like character customization and multiple player options. Both games were great in their own way but it was a shame that some gamers couldn't play San Andreas in 2004 since they didn't have the system. Well, there is good news and bad news. Fortunately good things happen to people who wait because you can now play this edgy/award winning game on the Xbox as well. The bad news is you can't buy it in most game stores because of a hidden secret so big that it got banned for the market.

This GTA game still is just like previous installment because you steal any vehicle (from bikes to a harrier jet) you want to help you be a much better anti-hero but what has changed is this game takes place in the 1990's and it stars a new lead character. The good news about the new star of this game is an African American, something you don't see in video games too often especially one this big. The bad news it is a GTA game, some of the most controversial titles in history thanks to all the graphic violence and sexual themes. To counter this San Andreas doesn't beat around the bush and has a very gritty and realistic urban story lines much like a Menace 2 Society or Boys N the Hood movie. The game does have a few funny moments here and there to lighten things up a bit but remember this is rated Mature to Adults Only for a reason so expect a lot of heavy content with some very foul and very offensive language. Remember, keep the kids far away from this one!
Controls and Game Play:
In the game you play the role of a man named Carl Johnson. He returns to his old home town after he finds out his mother was murdered. CJ needs to find out just what happened to her and it won't be easy. As soon has he returns back to Los Santos, CJ is instantly greeted with a mixed reception to say the least. A lot of your old friends don't trust you anymore, the crooked cops are always on your back and there are rival gangs all over the place ready to shoot you down at a moments notice. You will need every trick in the book to survive the huge fictional cities of Los Santos, Las Ventura, and Vine Wood.

If CJ wants to get any answers he not only needs to do several odd job to get more money but he also needs to earn a lot respect and that's where the game's new Role Playing features come in. OK, you can't gain experience like in a traditional RPG (like a Final Fantasy) game but you can increase your stats and looks so you can go from a very skinny guy and in a boring white shirt with jeans to a jacked up muscle head with cool tattoos, a stylist hair cut, and hip cargo pants. Your looks play an important role when doing certain jobs and you can even use it to help you go out on dates with a cute honey. Although it funny to see CJ get fat from fast food, certain girls won't go out with you if you are a fat slob that doesn't wear the right stuff.

Going on dates are not the only extra activity you can par take in. If you are trying to stay in shape you can go to the gym to work out or why not try to compete in a marathon? If none of that sounds exciting then you try a game of one on one basketball or how bout a Dance Dance Revolution-like game with Low riders? These are just some of the games you can find in this massive title and another new edition to this GTA game is a second player can join in on some of these mini games as well so you don't have to play with yourself all the time.

Graphics and Sounds:
If you are familiar with the past 3D GTA games then you will instantly recognize the look of San Andreas. The game graphics are amazing simply because Rockstar has able to create this huge virtual world populated with tons of citizens and secrets. Although the graphics are still impressive especially in the real time cinemas, they are starting to show their age thanks to all the slowdown, bland textures, and some choppy animations. It's true that the Xbox version comes with more polish then the PS2 version but the problems are still there.

Both GTA III and Vice City were some of the best sounding games for the Playstation2 and Xbox and thanks to all the millions they made on those hit games they were able to get bunch of big names for San Andreas as well. Turing on the game's radio will reveal a wide list of 10+ stations each with their own style like rap, rock, and much much more. Although listening to all these stations gives the player a lot freedom, you can still listen to your own custom soundtracks like in GTA Double Pack for Xbox if you even need it? If all that wasn't enough the game has some well acted cut scenes with Hollywood voice talent like Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda, James Wood, just to name a few. We can't forget the game is filled with realistic sound effects for each vehicle waiting to be taken.

The Bottomline:
So why was this game banned in the first place? Is it because of the hookers, the fact you can kill cops, or all the racial content? Surprisingly none of the above, the game was removed from the popular market because of a secret scene in the game called 'Hot Coffee'. If you are able to use a cheat device like an Action Replay then you might be able to unlock a silly little sex scene. I originally thought this controversial scene from the Xbox version was removed but Rockstar actually left it in because it was only recently where some hackers discovered it in a game. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was the first ever North American video game to be slapped with the dreaded Adults Only rating.

My take on this is this whole subject is it was a shame with all the game's questionable content; it was something as natural as sex gets a game banned. There is sex in movies all the time and nobody makes a fuss but people raise hell if it is a game? Senator Hilary Clinton even had spoken out against the game after she discovered this hidden sex scene. Well Ms. Clinton you are nothing more then a spoiled old cold fish and I can now see why your husband (former President Bill Clinton of course) cheated on you in the first place. You should really concentrate your time on more important things rather then a mere video game with a little booty in it. However, it was also stupid for Rockstar Games for lying to the ESRB in the first place so I understand why the game got pulled. I still want to play more Adult oriented video games in the future but it looks like this Hot Coffee news isn't going to help the industry break the stigma of video games being for just kids.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is literally one of the biggest games ever created and it will take you weeks or even months just to see everything it has to offer. San Andreas may not have the graphical overhaul and other improvements I wanted but if you are one of the few people that have not played this awesome adults-only game you have less of an excuse to go out play it now.

overall rating 93/100
Find Grand Theft Auto SA on eBay here!

For 1 or 2 players
Rated (AO) for Adults Only
graphics: 7/10
sound: 10/10
gameplay: 9/10
replay: 10/10

(Ryan Genno) 2005

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