Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. September is suddenly over and so it is time to say goodbye to Month 9 of our specially extended 14-month year. The game of the month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004/15) on the Xbox 360.
The 2015 release of the remastered version of this game was the reason I bought the Xbox two years ago. I desperately wanted to play it and have returned to it more than any other game apart from World of Warcraft over the last two years.
September was a hectic business month and I hardly had any time for gaming; despite this, I made more progress with San Andreas than on previous occasions.
If you are completely new to console gaming, like I was two years ago, having spent 20 years with PC games and their mouse-and-keyboard controls, Grand Theft Auto is a terrible place to start. It is fast paced and you will spend two-thirds of your time behind the wheel of an uncontrollable car, mowing down pedestrians and driving into walls at 100mph as you attempt to escape the police. You will not make any in-game progress and everyone will laugh at you as you handle the car like a drunken child.
This time around, I returned to San Andreas with eight consecutive months of console-handling experience. It was like a different game. I found myself able to control the car, outrun the police, complete quests, etc. And so it came to pass that I finally had the experience I wanted from San Andreas, the experience I knew was awaiting me, where I cruised around the beautiful, West Coast city in a series of progressively more glamorous stolen cars while listening to the deep reggae and hard core rap on the 1990s radio stations and only occasionally slowing down to do a drive-by shooting.
I am pleased to report that we have screenshots and actual gameplay.
Here I am in character as gangster Carl Johnson, aka CJ. In this clip, CJ is at the gym. I mainly included this to demonstrate how camp this game is. OK, so I deliberately dressed CJ in tiny shorts for comic effect, but even so. The shorts were there in the in-game wardrobe in the first place. I have to assume that this is how Rockstar Games wants CJ to look.
In this second clip, CJ is on the back of his friend’s bike. His friend is driving and CJ is shooting at police, very amateurishly. It is sheer dumb luck that I managed to hit anything but nevertheless we successfully finished the quest. There are exciting sequences in this clip such as a huge articulated lorry driving off a bridge.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Rockstar Games (2004/15), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world action-adventure game set in 1990s San Andreas, a fictional US state based on California and Nevada.
Plot and setting: Gangster CJ drives a series of stolen cars around a city that’s essentially Los Angeles in 1992, shooting rival gang members, evading the police and wearing a series of camp outfits.
General remarks: I absolutely loved it, it was everything I hoped for. It is funny. It is exciting. The cars handle beautifully once you’ve learned how to drive. The map is large. The quests are meaningful and contribute to plot development without being constraining. The roads are wide. The scenery is attractive, especially out by the coast. The soundtrack is hands down the best music I’ve ever heard on a game and I couldn’t have asked for more from it. The best moments were just driving around the city, listening to K-JAH West. As you recall, I enjoyed riding my horse around the deserts of Red Dead Redemption (also by Rockstar Games) but then the horse didn’t come equipped with a radio and even if it had, it would have played country & western, which, yanno, one would like to avoid.
Thumbs up: Everything. Music. Pleasure of driving. Map and scenery. Comedy. If you take CJ to the local fast food restaurant and make him eat too many chicken burgers, he will throw up on the floor.
Thumbs down: It’s hard to find anything to criticise. I suppose the graphics can be a bit blocky but it was originally released in 2004. When you take that into account, it looks great.
Return to? Without a doubt. I will return to this game and keep returning to it until I’ve listened to all of the music and seen all the locations. This was one of my favourite games of the year so far, on a par with Ark: Survival Evolved.
We must close with a tune. This is on the GTASA rare groove radio station Master Sound 98.3. If you played the original version of this game back in 2004 and didn’t wait for the 2015 remaster, then you should congratulate yourself because the original soundtrack was longer and even more funky, if such a thing is imaginable. Cross The Track was produced by James Brown.
Maceo and The Macks: Cross The Track (We Better Go Back) (1975)