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SummaryI am a bit too mature for this.
The GoodThe Grand Theft Auto series is always one of the best sandbox games out there and you could probably lose hours in this game by just driving around, fighting gang members and police officers. I used to play a lot of Vice City and I know how great it feels to take down helicopters with the rocket launcher and fight off hundreds of soldiers afterwards before driving off in one of their tanks. The fun of dicking around has remained intact with this new installment and with new additions it only got better.
If you ever get bored of the same boring old town there is the option to take a car and head straight for the countryside. This redneck-infested land full of farms and tractors is a very welcome refreshment and home to some of the most insane missions in the entire story mode. The best thing about it is that like in Red Dead Redemption it is different enough by removing a lot of the buildings, but it stays interesting due to the rough and dangerous nature of the outside world.
There is the option to play this game with a friend, allowing you to tear up Grove Street with not one, but two crazed murderers. The trick is that there are these symbols which allow you to have a second player join in, this will have both of you on a shared screen (so you can't move too far away from each other) and both of you play like you normally would alone. The fun thing is that it doesn't limit your options too much, you can still use cheats and do all the stuff you'd otherwise do alone.
The BadI am usually the one defending video games, but I have to admit that San Andreas is as racist as it can possibly get. You take on the role of Carl Johnson, a black ex-gangster who returns to his city to join up with his old gang again. I swear almost 90% of the characters in this game are black and every single one of them uses more than three swear words in every sentence they say and every single one of them is either using drugs or constantly talks about gang violence and murder like an eight year old after watching a Mission Impossible box set. There is simply nothing dignified about any of the characters, you are in no way any better than the people you are trying to kill and, like other reviewers have pointed out, the things you are ordered to do border on the psychotic.
Every single mission within the story mode has to be finished in order to complete the game, there is not a single one you can skip or reserve for later, you have to do every mission within a chapter to unlock the next ones. Most of the time it doesn't even make sense, such as the missions from OG Loc which all involve stealing stuff for him or killing people he doesn't like to boost his rap career (that he doesn't have). There are like four missions and none of them help the gang and he never does anything for it in return.
This also adds the problem that you are naturally not going to be good at everything, especially not in a game with such a broad supply of mechanics. You might be good at gunning down people, but a sniper might be too much for you. Or you might be really good at sneaking, but suck at driving. The mission where I decided I had enough of this game was in the earlier mentioned countryside where I had to race over the rocky terrain against insanely fast cars that I couldn't steal anywhere in the area. I think I managed to drive like eleven cars into the water at one godforsaken turn before I banished the disc to the back of my collection.
If you fail a mission you don't just start it over, hell the option is not even given to you. If you die during a mission you are transported to a hospital where they take a part of your money away and ALL your weapons. So if you died during a very tough mission with lots of combat, you'll get to eat shit when you have to do that all over again with maybe the starting pistol and a SMG if you are lucky. However, if you simply fail the mission because a character escapes or a friend dies, you will simply have to drive ALL THE DAMN WAY back to the location where you started the mission.
The auto-targeting was probably what caused the most deaths that I encountered. In the heat of battle it is very likely you are going to want to quickly switch between targets, but the targeting system has no sense of priority and will assume that after murdering one of the twelve gang members firing at you, you will be in a rather cruel mood and switch to a random NPC located somewhere behind a wall. I suppose you could say that I should aim myself than, but that doesn't work very well either.
A game should really be ashamed when missing textures and rendering problems are not the exception, but the standard. I am not really one for graphics, but roughly 70% of the time there is always something wrong with this game and its textures. Sometimes they get all blurry, sometimes they are somewhere they shouldn't be (too high or too low) and sometimes they are just not there, leaving me walking on thin air or hitting a wall at full speed that appears five seconds afterwards. It looks terrible, it creates huge problems for gameplay and it shows the developers took no time to polish this game at all.
The game is rather determined to make you date some of its characters, but as you might have expected after reading the first problem I mentioned none of the characters are really likable and this includes the females too. At first I wanted to ignore these missions altogether, but then the game would throw me to death with notifications telling me their status with them had decreased. I tried to ignore it, but when I arrived on the countryside I was FORCED to do missions with one of most despicable characters ever, each and every single one of them was a "date" in its own psychotic way. I felt insulted to be saddled up with this stain of a character and then I was even forced again into hearing one of those off-screen "sex-scenes" that is just two minutes of female moaning. This is sickening, this is displaying a lack of respect for the female race and for the personality traits she had been given (won't spoil) and this can't be justified solely by pointing at the rating on the box.
Finally and fatally, there is a severe lack of pacing. I already mentioned that the story is stuffed with missions that don't have anything to do with it, but to top it off the few missions that do have something to do with them are very repetitive and show little to no progress. You just go around robbing places, killing a few enemies and going to a few meetings until the chapter ends with one or two missions that actually change the world around you. After robbing a military base I couldn't see any gang-members using new guns or after doing a drive-by on some local enemies I didn't notice a decrease in enemy presence, so why did I have to do them? I tell you why: It is too pad out the game as much as they possibly could.
The Bottom LineSan Andreas could be a pretty decent game if it would focus on what made Vice City so much more edible: organized crime, dignified characters and humor that relied on absurdity rather than on swearing. Instead the game suffers heavily from psychotic and immature design and writing that displays a severe lack of respect for the problems it addresses and gives enemies of the industry more ammunition against us. I have nothing against a game that wants to play to the violence crowd, but at least Vice City did it with a sense of restraint.
If you are in dire need of a ton of violence and you are one of those people who skip every cut-scene and enter entire lists of cheats before firing at a single enemy than this game is quite edible due to the fact you will miss all the idiocy anyway. Anybody with a sense of self-respect and with an intelligence higher than that of a plank should stay far away from this game and try Red Dead Redemption instead.