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November 05, 2004 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

1 0 -- Thp Mirhissan nAily _ Prirlav Klnvnrnknr F I)AOA

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FRIDAY Focus

4

Welcome to the jungle
"San Andreas" expands the "Qrand Theft Auto" universe

By Jason Roberts
Daily Arts Editor
VIDE0GAME REVIEW * * *
It's almost difficult to comprehend the
amount of information packed into Rock-
star's latest entry in the thriving "Grand
Theft Auto" series. Part role-playing game,
part driving game, part action game and
part epic adventure, "Grand Theft Auto: San
Andreas" is so involved
and so expansive it liter-
ally takes an entire state Grand Theft
to contain it all. Auto: San
The setting for this Andreas
iteration of "GTA" is PS2
three West Coast cit-
ies in the early '90s (all Rockstar
inspired by real-world
cities) sprawled across the fictional state of
San Andreas: Los Santos (Los Angeles),
Las Venturas (Las Vegas) and San Fierro
(San Francisco).
Carl "CJ" Johnson, a young man from the
desolate neighborhood of Los Santos known
as Ganton, and his gang are pulled straight
out of John Singleton's "Boyz N the Hood"
and the architecture and styles of the times
are all hit with uncanny precision.
Though the progression in "San Andreas"
is often linear, it is, like it has been in the
past, extremely open-ended. After meet-
ing up with a few friends from CJ's past
- Ryder, Big Smoke and Sweet - a vast
majority of Los Santos's map is already
available for exploration. The three cities,
each the size of Vice City in 2002's "Grand
Theft Auto: Vice City" version, have plenty
of winding roads and small backcountry
towns in-between. To put this expanse in
perspective, the amount of area that's open
;n the heainnina of the. - am s,.... *r thn

well-developed in "GTA" history. The voice
acting of the characters (Samuel L. Jackson,
Ice T and David Cross are a few of the well-
known actors who lent their voices to the
production) and the well-written script give
the performances a cinematic touch so that
they don't feel fake or forced. No longer do
the cut scenes feel unnatural and rigid; they
are an integral part of the game and blend
well with the in-game action.
The missions, like those in previous edi-
tions, keep the narrative moving forward, as
do the calls CJ receives on his cell phone.
In addition, the player's use of a gang also
changes the perspective of play. Most of the
missions are not solo; they usually involve
one or more members of CJ's crew, making
them more about teamwork and unity and
adding more human quality.
Breaking from the narrative, however,
has always been one of the game's biggest
assets, and "San Andreas" is no different.
Not only is there much more area to explore,
but there are dozens of new things to see
and do, including eating, exercising, gaom-
bling, tricking out cars and much more. In
this edition, the numerical health meter has
been replaced by a stamina bar. The play-
er no longer relies on picking up random
power-ups to recharge and replenish health.
Stamina is replenished by eating food at
local restaurants, which mainly consists of
pizza, hamburgers and chicken. Eating too
much, however, will put extra pounds onto
CJ's waistline and force players to work it
off in the gym.
Stats such as "Respect," "Fat" and "Sex
Appeal" are all recorded in a level-building
way similar to games such as "The Sims."
As players buy more stylish outfits (one
can don anything from a green hoodie and
flip-flops to a sharp suit with dog tags and
high-tops), CJ's sex appeal and respect will
vacillate, making it either easier or harder
for him to pick up dates. In addition, skills
such as driving, shooting and swimming
(yes, gamers no longer die as soon as they
hit water) have to be worked at and learned
over time. A player that has a higher level
in driving, for example, is better equipped
to handle tight turns. A player that has an
increased stamina level will be able to sprint
further and longer than one that is fat with a
lower stamina rating.
The stat system is a welcome addition
to the "GTA" package and adds more real-

ism and customization to an all-ready well-
rounded package. In addition to changes in
clothes and nutrition, players can also visit-
local barbers and tattoo artists to further
customize their character's physical appear-
ance.
"GTA" has always been about the vehi-
cles, and "San Andreas" does not disap-
point. Some of the highlights of the latest
edition include the bicycle, the black van
and the four-wheeler. The bicycle is easy to
use and as CJ becomes more skilled with
the bike, he can enter BMX races to win
cash prizes. The black van can be entered at
night and triggered - like in the "Vigilan-
te" missions and taxi cab missions of past
installments - to perform home invasions,
where CJ will sneak into a person's home
and steal valuables for extra money while
the resident is asleep. The four-wheeler can
be found outside the city limits and used to
terrorize the backcountry in a full-out ATV
onslaught.
Technically, "GTA: San Andreas" is
another solid installment into the genre.
While the characters look a bit blocky in
medium and close-up shots, their anima-
tions and subtle nuisances clearly make up
for it. The environments are extremely well
rendered (each neighborhood within the
various cities that make up San Andreas
have their own unique feel) and push the
capabilities of the PS2. Rarely do objects
or textures suddenly "pop" into view.
The weather effects - including a heat
haze for the mid-day desert settings
and a grainy, desaturated texture
for the grey, rainy evenings - are
especially impressive.
The radio stations, a staple
of the "GTA" series, are a col-
lective mix of hip-hop, reggae,
techno, country, classic rock
and talk that span a range
suitable for a game of this era.
There's nothing like perform-
ing a drive-by to 2 Pac's "I
Don't Give a Fuck" or cruis-
ing through redwood country
in a stolen pickup truck lis-
tening to Ed Bruce's "Mama,
Don't Let Your Babies
Grow Up to be Cow-
boys."
"San Andreas"
is an epic game no

e may slice it. With all of
6s for exploration, expan-
>mization, gainers could
50 plus hours within this
rse and still not reach
¬ęt completion rating.

4

nave eassy let the game ge
far out of hand and end oI
a jumble of misfit parts. B
in "San Andreas," every
thing clicks and falls into
place to create one of the
defining videogames of
this generation.

4

4

I

['M' for Matui
breeds a storm of controversy

4

they had something with the series.
Previously, Rockstar had been known for
their monster truck games on the Nintendo
64 platform - not exactly a medium where
intense creativity could thrive. As such, the
company's name was always a bit ironic -
it was no more a rock star of the videogame
world than Dale Ernhardt Jr. is considered
an expert on proper etiquette. But with
"GTA III," Rockstar finally got its chance
to realize the dream of a game that felt more
like living a movie than pushing around pix-
elated dots with a plastic controller.
But not all was right with the world. For-
mer presidential candidate Joe Lieberman
called the series horrendous during a Janu-
ary 2000 speech at Dartmouth College in
the primary state of New Hampshire. Not
surprisingly, Lieberman failed to gather
the New Hampshire youth vote.
In 2002, children, apparently inspired
by "GTA III," killed two drivers with
a sniper rifle in the Great Smoky Moun-
tains. In a desperate search for someone to
blame, several lawsuits were filed against
Rockstar, their parent company, Take-Two

Interactive and the superdistrib-
utor Wal-Mart for indirectly
causing the homicides.
Mature adults worry about
how these games lure and
transform their children,
while many children
worry about getting their
hands on the game with-
out alerting their parents.
After all, this sort of bad
publicity can only serve
to pique public interest
in the game. Because of
the game's mature themes,
minors cannot purchase it
without adult permissi
fact that hasple lrl
into Rockstar'sden:,
Few vidog avtsid
of sordid atored his
this is butone ot waysh 'A
has proven t ra
"San Andreas"'otnu' tis1lea-
cy with rawviolotentepus-
ing the envelope on a)1leveIs.

I

Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969
1999 (Playstation, PC)
An expansion disc for the original "GTA," this time players could
hijack cars and commit crimes in the swinging '60s. And for the
only time in the series, it took place in a real-life location: London.
Grand Theft Auto 2 - 2000 (Game Boy Color)
Slightly more bearable than the first por-
table "GTA," but not by much.

Grand Theft Auto Ill
2001 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
The third time proved to be the charm, as the
"GTA" franchise gained immense popularity
and broke new barriers in its third installment.
Becoming an unnamed hood who has been set
up by his girlfriend, the player has to deal with
the mafia, gangs and crooked cops on various
objectives. Switching to a 3-D perspective and
having a more refined, mature story seemed to
do the trick - the game went on to he one of the
biggest and most controversial titles of all time.

I

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
2004 (PS2, coming soon to Xbox and PC)
The latest "GTA" installment takes place in the early
1990s and takes a more urhan approach. The story
foiiows Car l"CJ"Johnson, who returns to the town of
Los Santos after his mother is killed. While there, he is
framed for a murder and finds his old gang in shambles
- all of which sets him on a journey all across the state
of San Andreas. Containing three vast cities to explore,
"San Andreas" is set to make another mint for Rockstar
games and raise the bar for videogames even higher.

I

...w.r

Grand Theft Auto
1999 (Game Boy Color)
The less said about this quickie
cash-in for Nintendo's popu-
lar portable, the better.

Grand Theft Auto 2
1999 (Playstation, PC, Dreamcast)
With sharper graphics and more engaging mis-
sions, the second game in the series marked
an improvement over the original. Once again
you assume the role of criminal, looking to
earn respect from one of seven different gangs
(all of who are at war with one another). When
you earn some respect (by killing off members
of a gang), more complex missions begin.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Grand Theft Auto Advance
2002 (PS2, Xbox, PC) 2004 (Game Boy Advance)
"GTA liI" was a tough act to follow, but Rockstar was more than Making its return to a handheld system, this new por-
up to the task and succeeded in creating a memorable sequel table version of the franchise takes place within the
that was even superior to "GTA il." Set in the year 1986, play- time frame of "GTA Ill." Players assume the role of
ers assume the role of Tommy Vercetti, who's just been released Mike, who with his friend Vinnie, is ready to leave Lib-
from prison. His old boss, Sonny Forelil, sends him to Vice City erty City. Unfortunately, Vinnie is killed by a car bomb
to handle some new crimes. But when Tommy's first mission and Mike has to avenge his death. The series returns
involving a drug deal goes awry, the mob isn't happy and it's up to its roots here with an overhead view, and has Its
to Tommy to set things straight. Topped with an all-star voice violence and mature content completely Intact.
cast, "Vice City" just heightened the controversy among violent
videogames, and helped legitimize games as a true art form.

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