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San Andreas is bound to be groundbreaking in the amount of open gameplay it gives to players. New vehicles, cityscapes and more control over the storyline and your character will all be wrapped into one cult classic. Rockstar yet again brings their originality and experience to the table with the latest and greatest title in the Grand Theft Auto series. It's bigger, it's badder, and it packs more ass-burnin' fun than a jar of bean dip. Say hello to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas!

Welcome to San Andreas, USA.

"San Andreas, loosely based on California, is made up of 3 cities complete with countryside and desert in between."

The first thing you'll notice when playing the game is that San Andreas is a state, not a city. San Andreas, loosely based on California, is made up of 3 cities (each rougly the same size of Vice City) complete with countryside and desert in between. The latter 2 both include their own variety of missions to complete, as well as having Rockstar's trademark stunts and rampages to check out in your spare time.

High limit lovin' in Las Venturas.

To compliment the new huge map, an extremely massive mountain has been thrown in. Every hill that Vice City lacked seems to have been rolled together into one huge-ass rock. Apparently it takes just under a minute to ascend the mountain in a helicopter. Sure to be fun riding down it!

Although Rockstar has (quite literally) sized up the competition with a huge expanse of land, they haven't skipped over the small stuff. Vice City introduced snazzy new interiors that were both jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring. With an increased amount of time to work on San Andreas (a full extra year), Rockstar has promised to give us more of the same. More interiors means more buildings. SA is situated in a fuller and more diverse environment than in either GTA3 or Vice City - no more of those large lots of empty land or static buildings, as we experienced in Vice and GTA3.

Getting from point A to point B in style.

"SA is situated ia fuller and more diverse environment than in either GTA3 or Vice City."

As well as bringing back classic GTA vehicles and introducing new ones to the mix, what many thought would never be found in a GTA game finally became reality - bikes. No, I'm not talking about more PCJ-600's for you to blast around suburbia in, I'm talking about genuine, pedal-to-the-asphalt bicycles. BMX Bicycles, Mountain Bikes and Lowrider Bikes are all featured.

CJ Swimming
Swimming in Los Santos.

As well as bicycles, there is also area-specific vehicles. Just as the caddy's were unique to Leaf Links (golf range) in Vice City, you can be certain that there will be many more specific modes of transportation only available in certain locales. 4-wheeler fun in the countryside, for example? You can also unlock special vehicles as you progress through the game.

One thing that many gamers have complained about is the fact that, since the beginning of the GTA series, you would drown even in knee-deep water. It seems that the boys at Rockstar have finally caved to our moaning and bitching, and have given us the ability to swim in San Andreas. Moving the left analog stick forward triggers the classic 'Breaststroke' movement. If you hold down the 'X' button whilst doing so, CJ will switch to freestyle mode, and swim a whole lot faster. However, this can only be done for a limited time, before his stamina runs out. CJ can also dive underwater, and witness the local marine life, by holding the 'Circle' button. Not only can CJ swim, but certain non-playable characters can swim too.

Making the most of your time.

"Robbing houses will involve the risk of being caught by the police."

Gruppe Sechs may have their hands full with security now that home robberies have been added. Details are still a bit sketchy on how you'll go about breaking and entering (and looting and pillaging like a drunken pirate), but we do know that it won't be an easy task. Skill and planning will both be necessities of any home robbery.

Robbery taking place
A robbery takes place.

Finding firepower to assist you in your escapades shouldn't be a problem, though. According to Dan Houser, a "whole crapload" of new weapons have been added to your arsenal in the game. How many and what type? All of the weapons fit into the early 90's era that San Andreas exists in. (Sorry, folks - that means the electro-gun from GTA2 won't be making a comeback)

To make the most out of an increased variety of guns (and swords and chainsaws and bats and flamethrowers), 4-person drive-by's have been added. We've seen a preview of such in one of the first official screenshots released by Rockstar, and it's a mighty impressive bit of action to incorporate into San Andreas.

More side-missions (along the lines of Vigilante, Fire Truck, Paramedic and so on) are included in San Andreas. So even after you're done the main storyline, you can rush back and do even more in the months afterwards.

Four-person drive-by shooting
Multiple-person drive-by shooting.

As well as the standard health and armor pickups from previous games, you will also have to maintain a healthy diet. Eating will affect your stamina, and depending on what you eat (and how much of it), there will be some pretty interesting results. For example, if you eat too much fast food, your ass is going to swell up like a hot air balloon. Weight gain will affect not only your energy, but will keep you from being able to partake in some missions. Pedestrians will also react to your doughnut-like physique. It's a cruel world, isn't it?

To keep you from becoming a walking Goodyear blimp, you now have the ability to train at the gym and shed that flab, build some muscle and become a rippling symbol of masculinity. Riding a bike for prolonged periods of time will have a similar affect.

Real-er than reality television.

"Eating will affect your stamina. If you eat too much, your ass is going to swell up like a hot air balloon. Jog off those kilos on the street, or pump them into muscles in the gym!"

Another feature that will affect your interaction with in-game characters is the ability to get a custom hair style. What is certainly an expansion on the wardrobe selection in Vice (which, of course, is bound to make a reappearance with some great improvements), this new ability is sure to make for some interesting in-game scenarios. With improved pedestrian AI, you're sure to get some rather blunt comments based on what piece of hair decorates your head.

CJ Working out
You can learn many new fighting techniques at the gym.

The shooting mechanics of the game have been upgraded and tweaked yet again to improve accuracy, response and functionality with your new lineup of boomsticks. To quote Dan Houser: "Play Manhunt - the shooting levels from Manhunt. It's a development from that."

Expanding your empire and purchasing property was first tested out in Vice City, and proved to be rather popular. San Andreas re-introduces the notion of expanding your control over businesses and operations around the state - you will also have the ability to construct and operate your own Casino with some Triad friends.

"You will also have the ability to construct and operate your own Casino."

Having your own gang - it was first introduced in Vice City, but there was very little control over what your goons did. They mostly just ran from cops, beat up punks and loosely patrolled their territory. Now, the amount of control you have over your gang has been improved, and the depth of gang affairs has increased. Hopefully this will bring an end to your thugs disappearing when things get a little too hot when a pissy partner decides to turn on you. *cough*

Car Customization
San Fierro offers the best car services
The long and forever corrupted arm of the law.

Cops on bikes! HUZZAH. Some gamers complained about the lack of such a thing in Vice, and it looks like Rockstar heard the cry. Along with some new hardasses riding choppers, an improved pedestrian AI is sure to mean an improved police AI, as well.

In closing, GTA: San Andreas is everything we could have asked for. Rockstar have taken the features of previous titles and developed them ten steps further. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this game is that you are never left with nothing to do - there is always something you can do no matter what stage you are in the game, whether it be side missions, dancing or performing drive-by's with your homies.


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