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Rockstar Games took a big leap into the 3D world with Grand Theft Auto III, and it was a massive success. This begs the question: how will Rockstar follow the success of GTA III?
A year later, we got an answer.
A game that brought refurbished, extensive, and expanded the gaming horizons. GTA: Vice City dives straight down to an immersive experience in the Landscapes, audios, and vibes of mid- ‘80s Miami.
So, what’s next? GTA series got bigger and more complex. On the 26th of October, 2004, Rockstar dropped a bomb on the gaming world we know as GTA San Andreas. The game features a map six times bigger than Vice City and even more so than GTA III. It encompasses three major cities with open countryside, rivers, desert, and forest in between.
You may be wondering: is the game worth your time? You came to the right place. I intended to discuss the core elements of the game in this GTA San Andreas overview. These elements include graphics, characters, story, and gameplay.
GTA SA follows the footsteps of its predecessors and receives a lot of controversy for its mature content. In other words, GTA SA is not a Cinderella story that you can show to your children, which is good news for adults who love action, drama, and crime.
The game offers a series of plot twists, turns, and situations beyond reasonable. It retains the violent sadistic attitude of a drive-thru, into, by, and over crime.
So, what is the moral behind the story? The truth is, there is no moral. The plot is brutal with relentless characters.
Connection to the Predecessors
One thing that I admire about San Andreas is the connection and references to Vice City and GTA III. Naturally, the events of the series start from Vice City (1986) to San Andrea (1992) then GTA III (2001). Most of these crossovers take place in GTA San Andreas. It could be in a mission, a minor character role, or an easter egg.
Related read: Comprehensive GTA San Andreas Mission guide.
For instance, GTA III’s main story revolves around Claude working with or against criminal organizations to take revenge on Catalina for betraying him. Both of these characters have a role in San Andreas. Catalina becomes CJ’s girlfriend. But, she dumps him and leaves for Liberty City with her new lover, a street racer named Claude.
Another example is Salvatore Leone’s appearance in Las Venturas in the San Andreas storyline. Salvatore is the Don of the Leone Mafia located in Liberty City.
Lastly, CJ left for Liberty City after the death of his brother and worked with Joey Leone. On the other hand, Vice City is referenced via the Forelli Mafia. Sonny Forelli had beef with Tommy Vercetti in Vice City, and CJ killed Marco Forelli (Sonny’s brother) in San Andreas events.
Just like the previous games, GTA San Andreas is influenced and inspired by a few movies. For example, the green Saber drive-by that killed CJ’s mom is similar to the final scene from the Menace II Society movie. Plus, Grove Street and some gang members resemble characters from the film.
Fun info: “I don’t know you, wrong number, prank caller, prank caller!”- this conversation between The Truth and CJ about Tenpenny’s drugs is taken from the legendary movie Pulp Fiction.
Characters and AI
So far, San Andreas has the best story narrative because it is compound, complex, and offers a wide array of independent story characteristics that conveys a message.
The characters do not change or grow like most adventure RPG games. Nonetheless, each character is different and compliments the other. And they most certainly will keep you interested and entertained.
For example, the horrific rapper OG Loc is on the absolute opposite end of the spectrum to Sweet and Big Smoke. And the caring sister Kendl is as far as it can be from that lunatic loose canon of a girlfriend, Catalina. All these characters play their role perfectly and create unforgettable moments.
AI in San Andreas is unique and differs from area to area. They have their dumb moment, and they love to fight back. For instance, some AI will pull out a gun or some sort of bat if you attack them, while others will flee or take cover. And you can get arrested for it too. My favorite part about the AI is road rage.
If you get into a fender bender, the driver will ram continuously with their vehicle, or they will get out of the car and beat you up with a shovel. Either way, it may end very badly for you.
Main Character Perks
Don’t get me wrong, I love both Tommy Vercetti and Claude, but they lack certain features that make the game a little bit frustrating. Thankfully, Rockstar added a lot of new cool and useful features to CJ’s character in San Andreas.
These new features include swimming, climbing higher walls and fences, riding a bicycle, crouching, ducking, hiding, and rolling.
The main aspect Rockstar focused on is character customization. In GTA SA, you can buy CJ new t-shirts, hoodies, bandanas, caps, hats, shoes, pants, and you can even give him different style haircuts and tattoos.
It’s not just the attire, but the body mass as well in which he can get shredded, overweight, or very skinny. Such stats will affect CJ’s performance and his interaction with the AI.
For example, if CJ gets really fat, he will become slower and lose the ability to climb high walls, and the AI will mock him. But if he hits the gym, he will get shredded, become stronger, faster, more agile, and gain more stamina.
Plus, the AI will compliment him. In addition, for CJ to date someone, he must be in a specific physical shape. Furthermore, he can learn new styles of combats at the gym and rob houses at night.
Want to know more about CJ? Check out our comprehensive CJ Guide,
Skills and Stats System
This is a great feature that measures your progress throughout the game. Things such as stamina, fat, driving, and shooting skills will show up on a stats box on the bottom corner if you press T, L1, or TAB. You can level up your driving, flying, and shooting skills by practicing allowing you to unlock new activities and perks.
And yes, respect is also measured. With each mission you complete, you get respect+. Earning more respect enables you to recruit gang members as your own personal squad. In addition to sex appeal, which helps you in getting a girlfriend.
The game includes many new features. The weapons inventory has been expanded to cover 38 different weapons. In addition, you can carry items that you can consume and gifts that you can give to your girlfriends.
Shooting in GTA SA became much easier than in the previous two games in the series with the introduction of auto-aim.
The fighting, point of view, and targeting system are similar to the ones in Manhunt.
It locks on to the nearest target and shows you their health with color indicators. For instance, when you aim at a pedestrian, you will notice a color indicating their health. The color changes from green to yellow or red, and it turns black when they die. Thanks to the stat system, you can level up your shooting skills.
When the meter reaches 50%, you unlock the Gangster level. At this level, you will be able to move while shooting. When the meter gets to 100%, you activate the Hitman level. At this level, you can wield two weapons simultaneously, get a higher firing rate, accuracy, and lock-on range.
For the die-hard fan of GTA, San Andreas kept some of the old legendary names’ list and added many more to it. It includes:
- Sports cars
- Emergency vehicles
- Military-grade vehicles
- Dune buggies
Each vehicle has its own unique handling, speed limits, suspension characteristics. It is a big improvement from the previous games as it uses similar handling and high-speed effects to Burnout 3. In addition, there are custom garages spread across the map giving you the freedom to modify your whip the way you see fit.
Map and Climate Change
Rockstars have outdone themselves with San Andreas open map. It is massive and encompasses three cities, Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas. In addition to large open areas of countryside, rivers, and small towns between the cities. Luckily, Rockstar was generous enough to provide man ways to move around.
The climate is dynamic and resembles real life, and it differs from one area to another. For instance, Los Santos is cursed with a dark halo due to the terrible pollution.
Meanwhile, Las Venturas is almost always sunny and witnesses sand storms every now and then because it is in the desert. On the other hand, the weather in San Fierro can be rainy, foggy, or just overcast.
Gangs are a big part of the Grand Theft Auto series, and they are no different in San Andreas. The main gangs constantly fighting include the Grove Street Families, the Ballas, and the Vagos. The player is introduced to gang wars in the mission Doberman.
To win new territories, you must get involved in a shootout with the rival gangs and survive three waves of enemies. After eliminating the rival gangs, you can claim the turf as your own. However, the territories may get attacked, and you will have to defend them.
After the mission of The Green Saber, you will lose the ability to gain new territories. Gang wars will resume in the mission Home Coming in the last stretch of the game. It is worth noting that the areas you can win are only available in Los Santos.
One feature that I am truly thankful for in GTA San Andreas is no more loading screens when you reach a new area. The only loading screens you get in the game are during cut scenes or activating a mission.
It was difficult for GTA III to move to PC, but not San Andreas. The game involves the great controls of Vice City with extended and expansive visual and sound effects. However, it is not perfect.
Considering the sheer size of the map, GTA SA sometimes suffers from texture loss. In addition, you may run into some slowdowns, weird glitches, poor framerate, and pop-ins. However, these issues happen occasionally and at a low frequency so you can still enjoy the gameplay.
GTA San Andreas offers a wide variety of missions, and by a wide variety, I mean 100 of them. Just like the previous games, you must complete a series of jobs for multiple criminal syndicates to progress the game.
You will start off with simple jobs like giving a ride to a couple of acquaintances, tagging up walls with gang symbols, beating up crack heads, and doing small-time drive-bys.
So far, everything is manageable.
However, as you progress through the game, things will get crazier and more demanding. You will be asked to:
- Shoot down helicopters
- Fly airplanes
- Steal military-grade weapons from military bases
- Assassinate individuals
- Takedown mafia bosses
- Do street racing
- Pull off a casino heist.
The one that cracks me the most is stealing a combine harvester.
The missions are much more exciting and immersive than the previous ones. Additionally, the instructions are straightforward and color-coded. My only issue is that CJ follows orders blindly with no questions asked.
Is a bit of a bummer.
Making decisions that can alter the course of the story, or change the ending could have made the game more exciting than it already is.
Time to Beat the Game
If you focus only on the main objectives, it will take 30 hours on average to finish the game. Time may extend past 47 hours if you add all the side missions and tasks. But, if you love to explore the map and take your sweet time, you will end up spending almost 190 hours on this game and maybe more.
Rockstar’s description pretty much sums up the entire game without spoiling anything. It is the story of a gangster called CJ who returns to Los Santos after five years hiatus.
To his misfortune, CJ discovers that things went downhill. His family fell to pieces, the streets overtaken by rival gangs, and his friends headed for their demise.
However, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas has a complex and long story that needs a deeper explanation.
Let us break it down!
The storyline revolves around the thug life in its early stages. The game begins with young CJ returning to Los Santos from Liberty City after hearing that his mother was killed in a drive-by shooting. The return is painful for CJ, as he left Los Santos in the first place because he was blamed for the death of his brother.
Nonetheless, family is family, and CJ goes back to his mom’s funeral to pay his respect. When CJ arrives at the airport, he is met with two cops rotten to their core. Frank Tenpenny and Eddie Polaski (known as C.R.A.S.H.) strip CJ of his belongings and threaten to frame him for the murder of another cop unless he does what they say.
A Hot Mess!
Defenseless, CJ is left in uncharted enemy turf and forced to run back to his old home to survive. From that moment onwards, CJ reunites with his brother Sweet, his sister Kendl, and childhood bros Big Smoke and Ryder.
Together, the Families restore power and regain the lost territories. CJ begins with small missions like tagging up the turf, beating up crack heads, and buying guns. Later, he moves up the ladder and starts assassinating people and helping old friends.
After a twisty road full of gang wars and dirty cops, CJ successfully regains the lost territories and reunites the Families. To end it once and for all, Sweet decides to ambush a big group of Ballas at the Mulholland Intersection. On his way to provide backup for his brother, CJ receives a call from Cesar asking him for a meeting.
Cesar reveals that Sweet was the main target in the drive-by shooting that killed his mother. At that moment, CJ and Cesar see Big Smoke, Ryder, C.R.A.S.H, and Ballas leaving a garage that contains the Saber involved in Beverly’s murder.
Apparently, Big Smoke and Ryder are working with C.R.A.S.H, sold out the gang to the Ballas, and organized the drive-by to kill Sweet.
CJ heads to Mulholland and finds that Sweet is injured. After fending waves of Ballas off, Sweet got arrested, and CJ was exiled from Los Santos to the countryside of Whetstone.
After a series of races and chain robberies with his girlfriend Catalina, CJ moves towards San Fierro and starts working for a blind Triads leader called Wu Zi Mu “Woozie”.
During his stay in San Fierro, CJ is again blackmailed by Tenpenny to help him with his drugs operations. CJ meets The Truth and starts working with his associates to take down a couple of gags in town.
They later get involved with a criminal organization called the Loco Syndicate led by Mike Toreno and his partners. After eliminating the Syndicate, CJ buys a set of assets to gain extra money and learns how to fly for his next set of missions.
CJ receives a call from Mike Toreno, who is supposed to be dead (killed by CJ in a mission). Mike explains that Sweet is safe and can be released early. In return, CJ must complete a few jobs for mike. One of these jobs includes stealing military-grade equipment.
Woozie becomes a successful businessman and opens a casino in Las Venturas, then calls CJ to give him a visit. CJ heads down to Las Venturas to find that the casino business is going downhill because of opposition from the Leone and Forelli Mafia Families.
Next, CJ, Woozie, and their associates plan to pull a big heist on a rival casino. At the same time, CJ starts working for Salvatore Leone to gain his trust.
After a series of twisty missions, CJ and his friends succeed in robbing the casino. The latter weakened the rivals and allowed Woozie to carry out his business.
The Return to Los Santos (Last Stretch)
CJ goes back to LS and reunites with his brother Sweet. The Grove Street Families embark on a wild journey filled with guns, pops, and bangs to reclaim their lost turf from the Ballas and Vagos. Meanwhile, riots rise across the city of LS, and Tenpenny is arrested and trialed for several charges. However, he is released later on due to the lack of evidence.
CJ and Sweet hunt down Big Smoke and kill him. While CJ is talking to Big Smoke on his death bed, Tenpenny arrives and holds CJ at gunpoint. CJ survives and chases Tenpenny after he took the money in a stolen firetruck. With the help of Sweet, CJ shoots the truck off a bridge ending Tenpenny’s life.
GTA San Andreas has a long and complex storyline. As a result, it requires a lot of characters to play their roles perfectly and deliver the message. Here is a list of the main characters driving the story.
Known more often as “CJ”, he is the main protagonist, the good guy, and the only playable character in the game. After his brother’s death, CJ left his home to escape the pressures of life, but he returns later when he receives the news of his mother’s murder. CJ arrives at the airport but misses his mom’s funeral because he was arrested.
Nonetheless, he sticks around to help his brothers regain the lost territories and bring the Grove Street Families back together.
From the get-go, you will notice that Tenpenny is the bad guy in the story. He is a corrupted police officer with the Los Santos Police Department, and the leader of C.R.A.S.H.
This group of cops is involved in creating a feud between the gangs of LS, particularly CJ. Tenpenny threatens CJ by framing him with a murder of a cop and hires him to do his dirty work. F. Tenpenny dies in the end after driving a firetruck off a bridge into Grove Street.
Melvin Harris also known as “Big Smoke, is one of the high-ranking lieutenants in the Grove Street Families gang. While CJ is away, Big Smoke joined forces with rival gangs and became a drug baron. In the end, he gets shot by CJ for betraying the Families.
His real name is Sean Johnson, and the older brother of Kendl, Brian, and CJ. He is the leader of the Grove Street Families marking him as a target for the rival gangs.
In the beginning, he is reluctant to accept CJ back to the gang and questions his loyalty. Eventually, he joins forces with his brother and starts working on getting back their turf and regaining power.
Lance Wilson, dubbed Ryder, is a lieutenant in the Grove Street Families gag next to Big Smoke. He welcomes CJ home and helps him get fresh attire and guns for the gang. However, he later turns on the Families and joins the Ballas to get involved in the drug trade. CJ kills him after fleeing a meeting with the rival gangs.
Cesar is the leader of the Varrios Los Aztecas gang and the boyfriend of CJ’s sister, Kendl. He becomes an ally of CJ and helps him in his journey. Later, Cesar is forced to leave Los Santos when Ballas and Vagos take over major parts of the city. He introduces CJ to his cousin Catalina and helps him regain power over the streets of LS.
Catalina is Cesar’s cousin and later becomes CJ’s girlfriend. The couple starts their love story by doing a series of chain robberies. But it ends quickly after Catalina gets frustrated with CJ’s lust for money. She breaks up with CJ and leaves for Liberty City with her new Boyfriend Claude.
He is an old hippie who lives on a farm on the outskirts of San Fierro. He gets CJ’s help in stealing a combine harvester, a Jetpack from Area 69, and burning his weed crops before the cops find it. He introduces CJ to Jethro, Zero, and Dwaine.
Mike Toreno is an undercover agent for an unknown agency. Mike is involved with the Loco Syndicate drug deals. CJ attempts to kill Mike but he survives and helps CJ get Sweet out of prison.
Wu Zi Mu, often called Woozie, is a blind businessman and the leader of the Triads in San Fierro. He meets CJ in a street race and hires him as a handyman to take out the competition. He later moves to Las Venturas and opens a casino with the help of CJ.
GTA: the Definitive Edition
I am not sure if this is a nice treat from Rockstar Games or just another diversion to distract us from GTA VI, depending on the way you look at it. On October 8th, 2021, Rockstar Games announced the Definitive edition.
It was released online on November 11th and released in its physical form on December 17th of the same year. It is available on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox, Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
The Definitive Edition is a compilation of remastered versions of the original games. It includes Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
It features improved graphics and gameplay enhancements while maintaining a classic and original vibe.
The gameplay features include GTA V-inspired controls and mechanisms. for instance, the old scroll through weapons was ditched and replaced by the weapon wheel.
In addition, you can restart a failed mission from a checkpoint instead of going all the way back to the beginning. The resolution has been raised to 4k, and the characters receive smoother and updated facial graphics.
The mini-map has been updated to accommodate the massive landscapes. it allows you to set a waypoint and show you directions like GTA V instead of pausing the game every second to check the road. A new dynamic lighting system was introduced alongside enhanced shadows and reflections.
However, the game was heavily criticized by hardcore GTA fans. Many have claimed that Rockstar destroyed the mood with this edition and described it as a plastics surgery gone wrong. Some common issues people complained about include texture loss, poor frame rate, and featureless characters.
If you are not entirely sold out on GTA San Andreas and feel hesitant to play it, you can try similar games instead. Give these a try:
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Red Dead Redemption
- Last of Us
- God of War
- GTA IV
- Sleeping Dogs
Question: How Large are GTA SA Files?
Answer: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas files are roughly 4.7GB when fully downloaded.
Question: Is San Andreas the Biggest Map Rockstar Created?
Answer: No. GTA V has the biggest map in the Grand Theft Auto series, but Red Dead Redemption 2 has the biggest map created by Rockstar overall.
Question: How Many Girlfriends does CJ Have?
Answer: There are six possible girlfriends CJ can possibly date across the three cities. Each girlfriend has her own characteristics and special demands.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas may not have the best quality graphics, but it is truly a Rockstar-created masterpiece. It’s an open world that offers different things to different gamers.
Are you looking for challenging missions and a jaw-dropping story? San Andreas is for you. If shooting and racing are your favorites, San Andreas got you covered.
And if exploring satisfies you the most, the San Andrea map is one of the biggest in the series. In short, Rockstar did it again. San Andreas without a doubt lives up to the Grand Theft Auto name.
Here are some of the best games like GTA San Andreas you might want to give it a try.