Saturday, December 18, 2021

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)

2004 was a big year for gaming, with several heavy hitters like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Half-Life 2 releasing to critical acclaim and a lasting legacy. If there’s one game that I distinctly remember from this time period, however, it’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (San Andreas), Rockstar’s fifth entry in the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series. Even though I wouldn’t have been able to play the game at the time, I remember that everyone talked about the game, including a number of students in real life, and how great it was, with additional praise from gaming news sources. I also remembered the “Hot Coffee” controversy and how it made the news at the time, along with the recall and rerelease of the game. Eventually, I heard enough hype that I actively sought out a copy, but couldn’t find a single one in any GameStop that I looked at (back when I actually bought all of my games at GameStop). Fortunately, the game was rereleased under the Greatest Hits label and I got a complete copy that way.

Sometime later and about eleven years ago, I tried to play San Andreas, but for whatever reason only completed three missions (or about an hour of gameplay) before I got epically sidetracked by other games, including Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V), the only GTA game I had played to completion. Since then, I wanted to try playing San Andreas again, but that interest didn’t fully reignite until I saw footage of the botched Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, glorified console ports of mobile ports of console games. With San Andreas now relevant again, I passionately played the original PS2 version over two weeks, with an in-game time of 24:07 and completing the main story with an overall percentage of 63.10%. With that goal finally accomplished, I can confidently say that despite its rough edges, San Andreas is still a game worth playing and has definitely earned its reputation.

In 1992, following his mother’s murder, Carl “CJ” Johnson returns home to Los Santos to attend her funeral. When he arrives, however, he is intercepted by the LSPD’s corrupt C.R.A.S.H. unit, who threaten to frame him for the murder of an officer if he doesn’t cooperate. After he’s released, without any of his stuff, CJ reunites with his old friends, Sweet, Big Smoke and Ryder, at the funeral, where he learns that the Grove Street families’ territory has been overtaken by the Ballas, their main rival. CJ agrees to stick around and help Grove Street regain their influence, but gradually finds that there’s far more going on than he bargained for.

CJ returns to Los Santos and the gang life.

From beginning to end, San Andreas shows very strong writing, with a memorable cast of characters that have their own distinct personalities and believable histories. Just in the introduction alone, CJ’s implied history with Officer Tenpenny sets the tension between them while also hinting that they will cross paths more than once throughout the story and neatly establishing how the player starts off with no cash or inventory despite CJ returning home with a number of items from his stint in Liberty City. Gang members like Big Smoke and Cesar Vialpando are also quickly endearing and contribute to CJ’s character growth, which helps the player get invested in what happens to CJ and more easily lets them feel many of the same emotions that he does. Los Santos also does a great job capturing the atmosphere of 1992 Los Angeles and the story around the city addresses many heavy subjects from that time period, including the crack epidemic, the C.R.A.S.H. anti-gang existing as a corrupt gang in its own right and the LA riots following the acquittal of four officers charged with using excessive force against Rodney King. Without going into detail about the real-life event, San Andreas tactfully depicts the utter chaos of the riots under a different context and comments on the long-term negative consequences.

Though there’s plenty of serious commentary, however, the game also has a great sense of humor, with a lot of satire of the sensibilities of the time period that still proves funny today. For example, the radio ads poke fun at many of society’s ills, such as rampant obesity and the obsession with wealth, all without sounding preachy or mean-spirited. Humorous character interactions also help certain moments stand out and stick with the player, like Wu Zi Mu performing certain actions in spite of his blindness, like looking at a playing card he was just dealt. Some subplots also exist in the radio broadcasts and are funny to follow if you can catch them.

Even with all of the great and memorable writing, however, there are some inconsistencies. For example, a series of missions with The Truth ends with CJ stealing something for him and cryptic future implications, but nothing comes of it. There’s also how officers Tenpenny and Polaski appear in Las Venturas (the in-game equivalent of Las Vegas) without any explanation. Some plot elements, like the officers appearing in Las Venturas, are explained through radio broadcasts, including the news bulletin in WCTR, though the randomized nature of the radio means that not everyone will hear them unless they’re patient.

There’s also the matter of CJ. As the first GTA protagonist depicted sympathetically, he’s a complex character with plenty of qualities and actions that can easily influence whether or not the intended depiction resonates with the player. Personally, I ended up liking CJ after following his character development and growing independence and between this game and GTA V, he became my favorite of the protagonists. However, I have to acknowledge that the mission Deconstruction paints him in a very negative light, as he ends up burying someone alive just for insulting his sister. There’s the possibility that this came about from a development cycle that resulted in a lot of cut content, but it still feels generally out of character. I also ended up not liking his brother Sweet by the end of the game, as he comes off ungrateful and a hindrance to CJ thriving on his own.

CJ (center) is an interesting character;
also pictured: Ryder (left) and Sweet (right).

Before I get too far into describing the actual gameplay, I should make a note here about the number of missions, specifically the number actually required to complete the main story. If you count the introduction as a mission, then there are 101 story missions in the game, the most in any GTA game. While this sounds daunting, three mission tracks are completely optional: Zero, Wang Cars and Heist (marked with a green dollar sign in Las Venturas). This means that thirteen of them are skippable, bringing the total down to 88. Three of these, however, are cutscenes that count as missions, bringing the actual mission total down to 85. In other words, only 85 out of 101 missions are actually required to beat the game.

Getting into the actual gameplay now, the basic controls feel great after nearly twenty years, but do take some getting used to, including how Cross both lets CJ run and accelerates vehicles (as opposed to the more modern R2). I also had to invert the Y-axis on the camera for more standard movement. Combat feels a little basic, but effective and it’s worth noting that you can only hold one weapon of each type, which you cycle through with L2 and R2. This system still lets CJ carry a good number of weapons and allows players to better change their loadout based on their needs and gameplay style, but without feeling overwhelmed, which I appreciated. San Andreas also feels very much alive thanks to a number of random actions, like police chases, that happen all around the player, which gives the feeling that the world continues its business without your intervention.

One thing worth mentioning now is how the game responds when you fail outside of a mission, when CJ is either Wasted (killed) or Busted (arrested). Should either condition be met, CJ will respawn at the nearest hospital or police station respectively, but will lose all of his weapons and some of his cash, the latter for different reasons; the hospitals take money for the bill while the police take some money as a bribe. If you want to avoid the negative effects of starting from zero, however, you could simply reload your last save.

Unlike previous GTA games, San Andreas included an RPG-like stat system that influenced how well CJ could perform certain actions in an attempt at adding some level of realism. These stats, which players can view at any time with L1, are Respect (more on that later), Stamina, Muscle, Fat and Sex Appeal. While saving can reliably refill CJ’s health, he has to eat every so often or else he’ll faint. In this case, CJ can refill his health by drinking from vending machines or eating at fast food restaurants, with a choice between Pizza Stack, Burger Shot and Cluckin’ Bell and their $2, $5 or $10 meals that restore an appropriate amount of health. You’ll have to watch what he eats, however, as eating enough fast food will also increase CJ’s Fat stat. For this reason, fast food places will also offer a salad meal that doesn’t increase fat, though it only recovers as much as a $5 meal and usually costs $10.

CJ has other stats as well, though these are tracked separately from his main stats and includes his skills at driving and flying or how long he can hold his breath underwater, among others. Spending time doing different activities will naturally increase these stats over time, though I only found out when occasionally looking up mission hints that players can find a number of oysters and horseshoes that respectively increase his maximum Lung Capacity and Luck stats. Based on this experience, I can confidently say that you can potentially go the entire game without ever learning about or finding a single one of these collectables (fortunately, you don’t need them anyway).

Just as there are multiple methods for grinding and managing CJ’s stats, there are multiple methods for making money, which is vital for keeping up with the game’s gradually increasing difficulty. Killing certain NPCs like drug dealers and rival gang members can help, as will completing story missions and side missions (more on that later). Controlling territory (more on that later) and owning certain properties can also help CJ earn passive income and gambling money at casinos can work for those who are patient. However, the best and most efficient method for me was virtual horse racing, which you can access early in the game at the Inside Track location in Los Santos. By repeatedly betting the maximum amount of money possible on the teal horse, making sure to reload my save to try again in case of failure, I quickly went from about $1000 to about $24 Million and never had to worry about money again. After going through the campaign and liberally spending money on properties (including houses with save points), armor and ammunition as needed, I still ended the game with more than $23 Million left.

Although this screenshot depicts betting on the yellow horse,
you should always bet everything on the teal horse.

CJ can also get around San Andreas in a surprisingly wide range of vehicles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses based not only on the method of transport, but also the different models. Low Riders, for example, have poor handling, Patriots (Humvees) are very durable and motorcycles are fast but are more prone accidents due to their quicker turns. Regular bikes are also an option and while you can’t listen to the radio with them, you can more easily do tricks and can even ride up steep hills if you do it the right way. Speaking of steep hills, I observed that while falling, you can mitigate damage if you hug the environment, so long as the incline isn’t 90 degrees or more.

Aside from ground vehicles, CJ can also fly planes, which the game teaches you through the mission “Learning to Fly”. Unfortunately, thanks to misguided attempts at emulating the reality of flying a plane, of which there are naturally many types, the controls feel very awkward and frustrating. One sticking point was assigning R3 as the button for retracting the landing gear, which means momentarily sacrificing speed or upward steering unless you awkwardly use another finger. Later on in the game, you’ll fly the Hydra, a military-grade plane that can also hover, an ability that can also feel awkward to use.

No matter how much time passes in the game, the frustration of flight never completely goes away, but I’ll admit that after spending longer than I would have liked on “Learning to Fly”, I eventually got the hang of flying and, for the most part, had no trouble with it. The main issue comes from the amount of subtlety the game demands from the player when moving the left analog stick, with diagonal movement required for proper banking, as well as good knowledge of when to use the rudder to stabilize yourself. Persistence really pays off with grasping flight, especially since not learning it will bar you from playing the rest of the game. There’s also a later mission that grants you a very helpful jetpack afterwards, so the effort is more than worth it.

Flying planes has a surprisingly steep learning curve.

One stat the game greatly emphasizes, however, is Respect, which CJ can earn from completing missions or taking over territory. The higher CJ’s respect is, the more Grove Street gang members he can recruit to assist him against rival gangs. Despite the heavy emphasis on this stat, this is actually the only thing it’s good for and even then, it only works within Los Santos on turf controlled by the Grove Street families. Recruiting gang members may also not be worth the effort, as the AI acts pretty questionable a lot of the time and they can die pretty easily. As such, you’re better off going it alone most of the time.

Even without a gang, however, CJ can engage in gang warfare in Los Santos (unless you intentionally trigger a glitch that assigns territories to the entire map of San Andreas). To start a gang war, simply kill three rival gang members within the purple or yellow territories, which are controlled by Ballas and Los Santos Vagos respectively. Afterwards, just survive three waves of increasingly powerful enemies and the territory will turn green, signifying ownership by the Grove Street families. During my playthrough, I also made the observation that some extra gang members may attack you while killing the initial three gang members and you may have to kill those before the three waves attack.

There can be some difficulty in taking over gang territory, so it’s best to have the proper equipment and good stats before seriously attempting a takeover of multiple territories. Fortunately, when CJ is solo, you can potentially cheese the encounter by standing in the right spot, like behind one or more walls, so that enemies are forced into approaching single file rather than a chaotic mass from multiple directions.

Once you control territory outside of what Grove Street initially owns, it may occasionally come under attack from rival gangs. You’ll know which territory it is by which one is flashing on the map or radar. Unfortunately, this can occur no matter where you are in San Andreas and even during other activities. You can prevent this from ever happening by taking over every single territory, but some territories are a lot smaller than you may think, with some even as small as a small strip of the street, which can make this task rather daunting. You can, however, mitigate gang attacks by starting and then canceling a vehicle-based side mission (more on that later), so when seriously committing to taking over territory, it’s best done while driving a taxi or police vehicle around so you can cancel attacks at any time. It also helps if you know that rival gangs will only attack Grove Street territories adjacent to theirs.

While perhaps from another release, this map shows the gang territories in Los Santos.

As for the best time to attempt gang wars, it’s best ignored at first. You can get some money for holding territory, but when you return to Los Santos towards the end of the game, all of your progress gets reset anyway, so there isn’t really any point sweating over it early on (especially since horse racing is far more efficient). From my own experience, I can say that attempting a widespread takeover is best done at the end before the mission “Riot”, since the city will be in chaos and can make getting the required kills without incurring a Wanted Level more difficult, though it’s still surprisingly manageable if you go for quieter areas. Knowing the best time is crucial, since accessing the final mission of the game requires first controlling 35% of gang territory in Los Santos (I accomplished this with only 19 territories as opposed to at least 20).

While out in the world, the crimes you commit might grab the attention of the police and raise your Wanted Level. Your Wanted Level goes from one to six stars and police will go after you with an appropriate level of force. If you want to lower your Wanted Level, you can find a good hiding place or take the vehicle you’re driving to a Pay ‘n’ Spray repair shop, which, for only $100, will change the color of any non-police vehicle and give you a probationary period where your stars flash. If you commit any crimes while your stars are flashing, however, the full Wanted Level will be immediately reinstated. I’ve also observed that saving your game can instantly remove your Wanted Level, as will participating in a gang war if you can stay away from police long enough. While I have no real problems with the Wanted Level system, I did find it annoying that merely tapping a police car by accident, as well as an AI pedestrian jumping in front of your car with the police watching, can start a Wanted Level.

With a state as large as San Andreas, there’s a lot to do outside of potentially committing crimes. Different buildings within each of the three main cities provide different benefits for CJ. These include, but aren’t limited to, Gyms for gaining muscle and stamina, losing fat and learning new combat moves; Barber Shops, Binco stores and Tattoo Parlors for changing CJ’s appearance; Emmet’s for obtaining guns in the early game; Ammu-nation for buying guns, ammo and armor; Mod Garages for altering and upgrading your vehicle; and Inside Track for virtual horse racing. One quality-of-life addition I appreciate is that players can actually preview what it is they’re spending money on in these buildings before committing, which makes it easier to back out if it’s not right for them. One thing to keep in mind with Gyms, however, is that CJ can only work out so much during each in-game day and using the machines involves a lot of button mashing, so prepare for potentially sore thumbs.

Outside of the main story missions, CJ can also participate in various side activities that add a lot more gameplay variety while potentially providing extra benefits. Vigilante missions, which involve a police vehicle, can raise CJ’s Armor capacity to 150%; Paramedic missions, which involve an ambulance, can grant CJ maximum health; and Firefighter missions, which involve a fire truck, can make CJ fireproof. Some other side activities simply provide an extra revenue stream, like driving Taxis and Trucks, performing nighttime burglaries or completing jobs at a Quarry, among others. Of course, there are also neat little distractions, like shooting hoops and playing arcade games, or you can go on dates with three different girlfriends like Denise for unique benefits. You can also tag over graffiti in Los Santos to represent Grove Street for unique rewards. I’m aware that prostitutes and strip clubs are a thing, and even have their own budget values in the pause menu, but I ended up not engaging with these.

If you want the best benefits for the time commitment, I found Paramedic and Vigilante missions the most important, though you can also complete the Firefighter missions for a fireproof CJ if you want to make the final mission just a little easier. Paramedic missions can get frustrating since you have to drive all over the city with a limited time limit, but you can make it significantly easier by driving around Angel Pine, since the area is so small that everyone will spawn pretty much next to each other and you can complete all 12 levels with time to spare. I did find some annoyance in not seeing the Ambulance spawn at the town’s hospital right away, but running around nearby for a bit until it finally appeared helped (coincidentally, this same tactic works if you can’t find any rival gang members to kill for gang wars).

Paramedic missions are worth the effort (but go to Angel Pine).

Vigilante missions can run into the same problem as Paramedic missions, but it notably has a very specific exploit you can perform to gain the 150% Armor reward in under half an hour without actually chasing or directly killing any of the targets. From my understanding, this glitch takes advantage of how the game only renders what’s directly in front of the camera and works as follows:

1) Park your police vehicle next to a fast food restaurant so that you’ll automatically enter the door when you exit (it doesn’t matter which restaurant, but Cluckin’ Bell seems to have the highest success rate).

2) Stand inside the building for about 20 seconds. You can also rapidly enter and exit the building, but either way, make sure that the camera is facing away from the target marker(s) on the minimap.

3) At this point, the target should register as dead. You might need to stand outside, again facing the camera away from the target marker, for a few seconds until this happens.

4) If the target doesn’t register as dead, repeat the process until it does. Make sure to also occasionally re-enter the vehicle to both reset the timer that appears at the bottom of the screen and start the next level to continue the process.

From my experience, if you decide to cancel the Vigilante missions after obtaining the Armor reward, you’ll still keep it and can move on. It took me a few tries to get this glitch to work, but it felt very satisfying once I did, especially since I was on a time crunch for this review. I will note, however, that if you attempt it with a police bike and park it too close to the door, CJ will appear on the opposite side of the bike when exiting the restaurant, unnecessarily lengthening the process for attempting the glitch.

For the optional arcade games, I only encountered two of them, but found it interesting that Rockstar went out of their way to develop full-fledged games that you can play. The first one that I encountered, They Crawled from Uranus, looked like a combination of Tempest and Galaga that I actually got into once I understood how it worked. However, the other one, Duality, wasn’t as fun, since it was a variation of Asteroids that involved black and white spheres, but I couldn’t figure out the rules and gave up.

Arcade games can be a neat distraction for a few minutes.

For the purpose of this review, I thought I would make a note about a couple specific missions. Early in the game, players will receive a mission from Big Smoke called “Wrong Side of the Tracks” where CJ has to ride a motorcycle next to a moving train so Big Smoke can shoot some Vagos. While this mission is known for its difficulty and players hearing the same failure phrase over and over, I actually beat it in one try after I understood that CJ has to drive the motorcycle with enough room for Big Smoke’s shots to actually land. Another mission, “Amphibious Assault”, requires CJ to have at least 25% Lung Capacity. Since I didn’t have this stat boosted in any way before this, I raised it by going to the nearby docks and repeatedly diving and resurfacing for over 20 minutes. While only 25% is required, I had over 50% capacity by the end of the exercise and would advise players to get over the requirement for the sake of making the mission easier. If you just want the bare minimum, however, the diving and resurfacing method should only take about 10 minutes. Also, the final mission is broken up into two distinct parts and restarting after failing the second part skips the first part entirely.

As much as I enjoyed the gameplay and its immense variety, however, I’ll admit there are some rough edges. The difficulty of the story missions feels pretty inconsistent. One minute you’re just chasing someone down, the next you’re sneaking through a mansion to steal something and then you’re later wrestling with the frustrating flying mechanics, driving into the back of a plane while dodging barrels within an unforgiving time limit or chasing down a plane you can only just keep up with. While this does mean missions have a lot of variety that makes them more memorable, it also means dealing with some unnecessary frustration until you can figure out how to cheese the mission to your favor, like blowing out a car’s tires before a chase sequence can begin. When you can cheese some missions, like “High Noon”, it can feel more like you won through dumb luck rather than skill. On top of that, if you fail a mission, you have to go all the way back to the mission marker (though you can also just reload your save if you’re like me and save between every mission).

When firing at multiple enemies, the auto-aim can be a pain to work with at times. Sometimes it insists on targeting anyone but the enemy directly in front of CJ, sometimes CJ will aim at a wall if he’s improperly positioned even when someone is in range and, most annoyingly, he might not aim at someone at point-blank range. Friendly fire is also active at all times for some reason, which can get annoying when AI partners insist on standing directly in front of CJ. This can get especially annoying when certain missions will automatically register as failed if a specific character like Sweet dies. In fact, I once accidentally killed Sweet in an early mission because I didn’t realize that friendly fire was always active and unloaded several rounds into him while trying to hit a rival gang member. Speaking of the AI, there’s a certain sophistication to the random events in the open world for a game from 2004, but it can also result in random traffic pileups at always the worst times or pedestrians leaping directly into the path of your vehicles instead of away.

When driving any car with hydraulics, most likely a wild Low Rider, they suddenly feel harder to control. I quickly realized that it was because for some reason, you can no longer freely control the camera, as the right analog stick now activates the hydraulics instead (and L3 raises the car’s elevation). This means reorienting yourself with L2 and R2 instead, which can add some unnecessary difficulty to one story mission where you have to race against Low Riders.

While not really much of an issue with the way I played the game, I also found that the game didn’t properly explain the Sex Appeal or Luck stats or how to increase them. I quickly figured out that Luck related to gambling, a stat made potentially useless with virtual horse betting, but had to independently look up that Sex Appeal affected which women CJ could date. Additionally, the combination of CJ’s clothes, hair and car influence this stat, which would explain why I once saw the stat about halfway full and then empty. I think if the game at least had something in the pause menu that explained this, players wouldn’t need to guess.

For an open world PS2 game, San Andreas’ graphics hold up surprisingly well. Both the environments and the character models have an art style that’s very much grounded in reality, but still has some nice touches of stylization that help the game age more gracefully. Alongside the gradual and consistent day/night cycle, the game features some impressive reflections and wind and rain simulations. Draw distance fog also helps make the map feel much bigger than it actually is, which can help with the immersion, and the traffic that spawns in happens from enough of a distance that you can still safely maneuver while driving.

Never a dull moment in San Andreas.

Of course, the visuals aren’t perfect. While draw distance doesn’t get in the way of traffic, the simulation can occur in odd places, like a boardwalk or cul-de-sac, which can make players question where exactly the cars even came from. The low draw distance can also make flying in urban areas more difficult, as buildings and trees suddenly pop into existence while flying at high speeds. As such, during one mission in particular, “N.O.E.”, you’re better off mostly flying over the water until you have to circle back. The otherwise impressive simulations can also lead to minor performance issues when enough objects and effects are drawn onscreen and there are rare moments when the textures get a little wonky. For instance, I once saw through a Pizza Stop building while turning the camera in a certain position and during one run of the final story mission, I saw some very obvious texture loading on a flight of stairs.

Praise also goes to the incredible voice acting. For the most part, the characters sound very natural, with dialogue that sounds like how people would actually talk and inflections that help everyone sound very distinct from one another. Some big-name talent also made its way into the voice acting pool, though the two I recognized more were Samuel L. Jackson as Officer Tenpenny and James Woods as Mike Toreno, both of whom come off as appropriately intimidating. The game also features eleven distinct radio stations, which mostly play a number of licensed songs from multiple genres alongside the hilarious radio ads and station breaks. All of the content on each station plays randomly, which greatly aids the immersion.

Since I played the PS2 version of the game, I had access to all of the songs without any of the cuts that some later releases would have due to expired licenses. This pool of songs contains a generally good selection with plenty of heavy hitters, some of which I already recognized and others I heard for the first time and wouldn’t have otherwise. The songs that the game introduced me to that I ended up liking include "Children's Story" by Slick Rick, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by Gap Band, "Groove Me" by Guy, "Don't Be Afraid" by Aaron Hall, "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men, "Poison" by Bell Biv DeVoe and "Pretend We're Dead" by L7.

I’ll mention here that like in GTA V, characters will sometimes speak while driving, which can make players want to slow down just to hear the full conversation. However, San Andreas has better timing of these conversations, mostly ending just before reaching the appropriate marker. There were also some small discrepancies between the subtitles and what character actually said, as well as some odd timing and not actually rendering all of the spoken dialogue once, but nothing that really harmed the experience that much.

Of course, it’s hard to talk about this game without bringing up the “Hot Coffee” controversy, which I actually remembered seeing news coverage for at the time. Without going into all of the finer details, the short version is that during development, Rockstar president Sam Houser pushed for the inclusion of the infamous sex minigame as a way to push boundaries. Though he was warned that the minigame would earn the game an “AO” rating, removing it entirely would unintentionally break the game, so it was instead hidden behind cutscenes. Soon after release, modder Patrick Wildenborg discovered the content and released a patch that would allow players to access it. Unfortunately for Rockstar, the mod’s existence would lead to legal action and responses from politicians, which led to the game’s reclassification with an “AO” rating and a swift recall. Rockstar would re-release the game with the “Hot Coffee” content removed, along with some bug fixes, a running change reflected in both the Second Edition and Greatest Hits releases. Naturally, any original black label copies that are still floating around still have the “Hot Coffee” content on them, so any interested party can still access it that way.

Personally, I always found the controversy a little overblown. While the existence of the content would understandably raise some eyebrows, it wasn’t actually accessible on the disc through normal means. Players would have had to actively go out of their way to modify the game just to see it and even then, most players likely wouldn't have even known that the content existed had there not been such an uproar over it. Still, Rockstar’s response of cutting the content was very understandable.

On a more positive note, San Andreas also has a modern legacy of spawning several memes. While there are many examples that I could list, the ones that stuck out most from the game were CJ’s “Aw shit, here we go again” and Big Smoke’s lengthy order at Cluckin’ Bell and Big Smoke saying, “You picked the wrong house, fool!” Though I never encountered this line, Big Smoke is also known for saying “All we had to do was follow the damn train, CJ!”, a line that anyone who fails “Wrong Side of the Tracks” will grow familiar with.

If you have any interest in playing the GTA series, San Andreas remains a must-play and a good staple for any PS2 library. While the Greatest Hits release couldn’t fix all of the issues the game may have had at launch, the colorful cast of memorable characters and the sheer variety of activities in the varied open world can easily keep anyone hooked from beginning to end.

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