April 13, 2019
Apr 12, 2019
"Oh sh*t, here we go again!" It's time to bring chaos and disarray into San Andreas once more, but on a smaller screen!
I still remember seeing this game's trailer on TV back in 2004 and being flabbergasted by the visuals. The game was incredibly good-looking at that time and I still marvel at the fact that it was released almost 20 years ago now.
The graphics and animations have aged quite a bit, but that's to be expected. Nonetheless, I still come back to this game time and time again. The last time I tried it on mobile, it felt like 2004 all over again, and it was surely astounding to see how much mobile technology had advanced in 2014, to the point of being able to fit a game as big as this one into such a small form factor.
There are, naturally, differences between the ports, but these differences essentially boil down to graphics and controls.
In terms of graphics, the mobile version came with some improvements in textures and lighting. Draw distance was also enhanced drastically, and the colors and car reflections popped off my old Nexus screen.
The port also gives you a myriad of graphic options you can tweak to suit your mobile device's graphical power. On newer devices, you'll hardly notice any hiccups on max settings, though the experience may differ depending on how optimized the game is for specific hardware.
More obvious are the differences in controls. San Andreas has controller support, but the touch controls are not that bad when driving or running around. Get into a feud with some Ballas fool, however, and you'll start to miss your PS2 controller, but you eventually get used to it (especially if you don't have the console or PC version handy).
The game has not changed at all in terms of content. It's the exact same San Andreas we've grown to love back in the PS2 days. You will spend 70+ hours of game time between doing missions, playing the fool, and getting fat eating at a Cluckin' Bell (unless you burn all those extra calories at the gym or running around).
The story in San Andreas is as cliched as it gets, and it's reminiscent of your typical "hood" films from the 90s and early 2000s, though it served its purpose well within the framework of the game.
Carl Johnson (CJ) is moderately likable. Notwithstanding, going back to CJ after having played as Niko Bellic made me feel a bit lukewarm. I'm not going to claim that CJ was a blank slate or anything, but I found Niko to be a far more intriguing character, perhaps owing to his foreign Eastern European background that is so alien to American pop culture.
Also, I felt disconnected from CJ at various moments because the game strives to make him seen as "the good guy", whereas Niko is shown as the miserable human being that he is, but one who's aware of who and what he is. The way he seemed conflicted by his moral choices and his seemingly irredeemable traits deems him likable, although in a strange kind of way. This level of fleshing-out is notably missing in the game under review.
San Andreas is, as of this writing, regarded as one of the best entries in the Grand Theft Auto series (if not the best). I still prefer GTA IV if only for the story and characters (especially Niko and his cousin Roman), but I can still appreciate what San Andreas was trying to do, and the sheer size of the map is enough to sing praises.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an open-world action-adventure game that is played from a third-person perspective. It introduces role-playing elements - mainly stats - into the GTA formula. These stats, linked to personality and bodybuilding aspects, can be upgraded or degraded depending on your in-game actions.
The game takes place in the fictional state of San Andreas (a miniature representation of California and Nevada combined) which comprises 3 different cities: Los Santos (equivalent to Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco), and, lastly, Las Venturas (Las Vegas).
You start in Los Santos and, as you complete missions, you'll have unrestricted access to the other 2 cities. Though, in theory, you'll be able to travel to these locations, you will be heavily chased by the police if you reach them before the intended time.
You play as Carl Johnson (CJ), a Los Santos-born Liberty City thug who, upon learning of his mother's death, travels back to Los Santos for her funeral. The intro cutscene introduces you to three rogue policemen - Tenpenny, Pulaski, and Hernandez - who would "welcome" CJ by threatening to frame him in the recent murder of a cop unless he decides to cooperate with them.
You will gain control of CJ after he's dumped in Ballas territory (your enemy gang). The game will prompt you to get on a bike nearby, which would trigger a bike-riding tutorial, though you're free to wander anywhere at that point. The on-screen controls will show contextual buttons depending on the action you're performing, and the layout can be customized from the settings menu.
The game grants you total freedom to do what you want: From stealing cars to killing pedestrians, to even launching missiles from a military aircraft. The sky is literally the limit. You may also enroll in illegal car races after a certain mission is completed.
Causing havoc will attract unwanted attention from the police, and the persecution gets more intense as you commit more consecutive offenses, provoking the potential intervention of SWAT teams and the FIB (FBI's equivalent in GTA's game world).
This entry also has various shops, restaurants, clubs, barbershops, and gyms available for you to visit. You can buy budget-tier sportswear at the beginning, being able to unlock more luxurious clothing options as you progress. Eating food will help replenish your health bar, but it will also make you fatter. Running consistently will conversely make you look thinner.
This game has hardly anything to complain about, albeit I did find some of the features to be half-baked, while interesting in concept. The girlfriends, apart from some notable exceptions, were a bit bland, and I found it hard to get invested in them, even if they did grant some nice perks at peak interest.
Lastly. worth mentioning is the sad fact that many of the things that made this game great were largely absent in subsequent releases, such as home burglary missions, gang wars (though they make a return in GTA IV: The Lost and The Damned), gyms, and body stats.
In sum, this game deserves to be in the annals of game history as one of the best games ever made, and its mobile port deserves nothing but recognition from my end. Aside from the usual drawbacks present in virtually all mobile games (related mostly to controls), this version didn't suffer from the compromises one often sees in mobile ports of other popular games from the PS2 era (I'm looking at you, Dragon Quest VIII!)
Let me know what you think about this legendary game or this review in the comments section below!
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