This game! I bought a PS2 just to play it on release and sold the PS2 before I could complete it. Then I eventually bought it again on the Xbox and bought an Xbox 360 before I could finish it a second time. Third time I finally completed it (you know what they say) , six and a half years after release. I question myself on why I finished it, was it a matter of persistence or is the game that good?
Bit of both I’d say. I remember the hype back in 04 and maybe you do too. It was building up to be the best game ever with a huge open world with so much to do; ride cars, bikes, planes, bicycles, boats. Play arcade machines, customise your character, swim, get fit, fat or thin with the new RPG style system and take part in a wide variety of side games. It was all the first GTA game to feature a black protagonist which for some reason caused a fair bit of controversy due to the whole gang focus, but everyone was too busy enjoying the game when it came out. The sunny 90’s version of San Andreas was full of character with streets named with sexual innuendos in mind and the radio station bringing some amazing music from rap to classic rock. It was the first time I heard the likes of Faith No More, Soundgarden and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In a sense the game shaped my music taste. Shame the game was enduring, clunky and glitchy, breaking you out of the urban ghettos.
Going back to it the flaws are more apparent, especially after playing newer open world games since. It is an incredibly ugly game with objects popping into view only when your right up by them, stiff animations and cars looking like cardboard, it was ambitious in scope and you can certainly see sacrifices had to be made. Controls are also a big problem with how clunky they are. Auto targeting doesn’t always work and doing a drive by is a stupidly complicated action. It can make missions an annoyance rather than fun and with no checkpoints and some unforgiving moments, the game is rubbish and just not fun sometimes. The huge size of the game with a boring middle also create that endurance run feeling and at this point I just stopped played the side games. By the end of the game my CJ character was badly dressed, thin and without a single muscle, just wanted to see the story through to the end.
But despite the game being a bit messy, ugly and irritating, it has moments which are truly amazing. Sneaking into a secret government base to steal a jetpack, flying through the clouds for the first time, surviving an intense gun fight or seeing the casino stuffed Las Venturas for the first time; the game is full of exciting and grand moments. Add the excellent range of music in the radio stations,the ads which bring the world alive and the different characters you meet on your adventure, and San Andreas can be seen as a game full of charm, ambition and something which was worthy of the praise at the time. It throws everything in the barrel and it all piles out looking a bit scrapped and broken, but some of it comes out being pretty damn good. Six and a half years it took me, but I felt I was playing it for fun more than just out of persistence.