Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Is San Andreas still big and clever enough to dazzle you on more powerful platforms? What do you think?

Xbox, PC, PS2
Rockstar North

By Andy Robinson

It was over six months ago that Rockstar unleashed its latest crime simulator on the world and predictably sold millions upon millions of copies. Now owners of non-Sony consoles can enjoy one of PS2's greatest games complete with sharper textures and some pretty new lighting effects, as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas comes to Xbox and PC. This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.

I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone how fantastic San Andreas is. It seems everyone and their mother already knows. When I first played Grand Theft Auto 3 I was really impressed by what Rockstar had achieved; a completely seamless interactive world where you really could do almost anything. I'm sure the overwhelming success of the game wasn't entirely planned though. GTA3 sold over 7 million copies in its first year alone, and it's one of the few commercial successes I think deserves its accolade.

San Andreas is genius. No effort has been spared, time and attention has gone into every area of the game and you literally could find yourself lost in the game world for hours and hours without ever running out of new things to do. San Andreas is indeed absolutely massive, three times the size of Vice City in fact. Three intricately designed cities and countryside all tied together and yet San Andreas' content comes not from tediously trekking around the world, but smaller things like anything from playing basketball to fighting a turf-war.

It's easily one of the biggest games ever; play it for 60 hours and you still won't be anywhere near to finishing it. In fact if you ever meet someone who has finished San Andreas 100% then you definitely want to be weary of them.

We'll skip the 10-page essay and assume most people have already experienced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and I can move on to the key differences of the Xbox version. However, for Kikizo's extensive review of the PS2 version which goes into the games high-points in detail click here.

I've never played a game before that I find so ugly and beautiful at the same time; the character models can look very poor and blurred up-close, but around the city in particular places the game can look stunning. The Xbox version brings the obvious technical improvements present in the previous GTA ports. The games textures are visibly sharper and clearer; road signs and bill boards can now be read properly and environments look generally less blurry.

Characters and vehicles are slightly higher in the polygon-count department, whilst the character models in particular still suffer from being rather blocky around the edges. Progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support are added bonuses and both help clean up the visuals of the game. Due to the size of the game world overall there isn't much drastic visual improvement between the Xbox and PS2 versions - presumably the game world is simply too massive for the Xbox to significantly improve the graphics.

Fortunately there are new features in the Xbox version of San Andreas other than the slightly improved visuals. The game sports a new 30-second replay feature which lets you replay your impressive stunts and massive gun-battles. Also new to the Xbox version is the expected inclusion of custom soundtracks; you can play any music stored on your Xbox hard drive from your own custom radio station, you can even choose to put advertisements or DJ's on your radio station if you wish. Whilst you could question the point of this feature in a game with eight CD's worth of licensed music it still proves useful as San Andreas is all about customisation.

Rockstar North's wealth of imagination spread across this game is mind-boggling, even a simple bicycle can keep you entertained by bunny hopping, pulling off wheelies and taking a trip to the skate parks for some fun on the half-pipes. If you ever get bored of the BMX's you could always steal a car, take a ride in a plane or helicopter - perhaps even take to a spot of parachuting. There's just so much to do, it's mind boggling. Failed a mission? Fine - start a turf war, get your hair cut or beef up at the gym!

The customisation present makes this GTA more like an RPG than ever. You can visit the barbers and change your hair style and add facial hair, the more you run around the better your stamina will become, if you visit the gym you can become much stronger and get greater sex appeal, if you eat too much you will get fat. Your personal experience with the game really does feel unique and this is one of many things that makes this game a hundreds times better than the greatest imitation.

San Andreas' greatest appeal to me has always been the "sandbox" style gameplay; you can create your own scenarios and play around with the game world for hours on end. Just seeing how long you can outrun the police is a whole game in itself, you can get the same length of enjoyment as 10 other games combined without even touching San Andreas' missions - the actual story part of the game, remember?

Graphics Sound Gameplay Depth Presentation OVERALL
8.5 8.0 9.0 10.0 9.0 9.0

If you don't already own Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, make it your priority to pick it up on any of the three platforms it is now available for. It's a massive, extremely imaginative and enjoyable action game which anyone can pick up and make their own.

Video Coverage
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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Xbox
Fantastic Xbox trailer   (Rockstar)
1.01m 10MB DF, SD, 30
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Direct feed gameplay - various scenes
(480x360, 1.3Mbps)
3.00m 25.9 MB WMV
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Trailer 3 - direct feed
(640x480, 1.3Mbps)
1.18m 11.6 MB WMV
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Trailer 3 - direct feed
(640x480, 1.3Mbps)
1.10m 10.3 MB WMV
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Trailer 1 - direct feed
(640x480, 1Mbps)
1.17m 10.0 MB WMV

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