|Grand Theft Auto: Sand Andreas (2005)
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox
It’s all yesterday’s news now, but the whole brouhaha over the “Hot Coffee” porno “glitch” in “GTA San Andreas” certainly had to have moved a few more units of this semi-old title. Who cares if Rockstar meant to take it out or not? Publicity is publicity, and once again you get your name in the papers and people pulling their hair out over a title that was already intended for adults to begin with. Who cares about the killing, etc.? There is SEX in the game… and HIDDEN! Oh my God! Sometimes I just have to laugh at my country tis of thee’s sweet land of hypocrisy. But so it goes as Nick Lowe once sang.
But enough of that. The whole GTA franchise seriously needs another overhaul or just a final chapter. “GTA 3” is going to be the title that goes into the history books because it broke so many barricades with its open-ended gameplay and gritty depiction of the criminal lifestyle. “GTA Vice City” was amusing for its ‘80s kitsch factor and retro soundtrack that jammed the usual one hit wonders of the era down our collective throats once again, but the overall game still felt familiar at the end of the day. Sadly, “GTA San Andreas” only furthers this notion. Sure, a few more bells and whistles have been added and the story is set in the ‘90s this time with urban gang warfare and corrupt cops taking center stage for plotline, but it’s nothing eye opening or innovative like, say, “Half Life 2” is to the original “Half Life.”
This time around, you’re playing as Carl Johnson, a dude who got away from San Andreas to clean up his act once and for all. Unfortunately for him, his mother’s recently been killed and his family and friends are at wits end due to some heavy gang banging that has left many of CJ’s old crew six feet under. To top that off, upon his arrival CJ is framed by a carload of corrupt cops, leaving Mr. Johnson to take up his old gangsta ways once again. It’s not the best storyline GTA has tackled, but it is gritty enough to give us comfy suburbanites a semi-new experience.
But in the end, it’s the same old, same old. The few new tweaks are mainly just a dash of pomp, allowing you to now get different hairstyles, tattoos, and work out at the local gym to become tougher. The hand to hand combat also has little combo attacks that seem rather pointless. Anyway, I made CJ look like the dude from Digital Underground (you know, they had that song “The Humpty Dance”) complete with fake nose and glasses and a boomin’ ‘fro. Did I feel bad about creating my own semi-stereotype? Hell no! Not when other main characters look just like Eazy-E and the like.
Rockstar got another load of celebs to do some character voices yet again to add to the hipness factor as well. This time, be sure to tune your ears to the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, Peter Fonda, Debi Mazar, and my two faves, good old junkie Shaun Ryder and hilarious comic David Cross. The game soundtrack is loaded with the usual expected big name songs from the past, so once more everything is as it should be in GTA Land.
But again, it’s just not enough. Merely tweaking the little things just doesn’t add up to much here. “GTA San Andreas” just doesn’t feel totally immersive like the previous two entries in the franchise. It’s starting to suddenly feel all Tomb Raider-like, and we all know how bad that whole series has become. Rockstar is a great company and should set its sights on something new and as equally innovative as “GTA 3” was at its time. Perhaps we’ll be treated to just that when the PlayStation 3 rolls out, but until then “GTA San Andreas” is only merely good.