“All you had to do was follow the damn train, CJ”
Words that define many nineties kid’s childhood, and perhaps the most irritating sentence to be uttered by a video game character.
Especially after you fail the mission in question for the fourteenth time. Grand Theft Auto has quite a few difficult missions to contend with, whether it’s Vice City’s infamous helicopter-related outing ‘Demolition Man’ or GTA San Andreas’ other ridiculously difficult model plane mission, Supply Lines.
GTA as a series, while generally pretty forgiving and straightforward, has a few absolute doozies that will have you pulling your hair out, and of all those, the one that resonates most with me personally, is Wrong Side of the tracks.
On the surface, this seems like a pretty simple vehicle-related drive-by, albeit tailing a moving train. Due to the fidgety controls, your companion Big Smoke being big-boned and prone to falling off your bike, some stupid RNG elements, and just a sprinkling of uncontrollable bulls**t, Wrong Side of the Tracks is a deceptively hard task that requires persistence and a careful approach to see to completion.
You could be like me and bash your head against this metaphorical wall until you eventually break through. However, I aim to be your guardian angel and provide some killer tips to make this mission a breeze.
Allowing you to avoid hearing Smoke’s famous line, and see the rest of what GTA San Andreas has to offer. So without further ado, follow that train. This is GTA San Andreas Wrong Side of the Tracks Guide.
- Mission Number: #14
- Characters Involved: Big Smoke, CJ
- Starting Location: Big Smoke’s House (Grove Street)
- Previous Mission: Running Dog
- Reward: Respect+
As you turn up to Big Smoke’s home, you see Eddie Pulaski and Officer Tenpenny emerge from his garage. Naturally, they give ol’ CJ a hard time, before leaving the scene.
Big Smoke tells you to forget about it because he needs your head in the game. He’s heard that there’s a deal happening between the San Fierrans and the Vagas, and he wants to go and crash the party.
The only problem is that they spot you at the station, so they hop on the top of a moving train, and you’ll have to give chase to take them out. Good thing there’s a Sanchez sitting right where you parked.
Wrong Side Of The Tracks Guide
Step One: Drive to Unity Station
The first part of the mission couldn’t be simpler. Drive Big Smoke’s Elmdale over to Unity Station. The only way you can fail the mission at this point is if you destroy the car, or you leave Smoke behind. Let the cutscene play, and when the cutscene ends, hop on the Sanchez, and the real Wrong Side of the Tracks mission begins.
Step 2A: Take Out the Vaga Gang Members (Legit)
So here’s the deal. There is a really easy way to complete this mission, but we want to give you the clean version so that you can get the warm feeling that comes with knowing you accomplished something. If you do this mission as intended, you’ll likely be taken all the way out into Red County before you pop the last Vago, so be prepared for some offroading and evasive maneuvers.
The opening part of the mission is pretty straightforward. You’ll want to drive to the front of the train and avoid hugging the side of the train too tight. The tighter into the train’s body you go, the less likely it is that Smoke will be able to get an accurate shot on the targets. It’s also important to maintain a consistent speed to match the train and hold your position.
After this section, you will eventually reach a tunnel that leads out to the country. You need to make sure you give the train as wide a birth as possible when in the tunnel to even stand a chance of seeing Smoke dispatch any of the enemies in this section.
During this section, be aware that there will be an oncoming train that appears, and you’ll want to kill your speed and tuck in behind the train you are chasing when this happens.
After this section and you emerge from the tunnel, you should have two gang members left standing, maybe one if you are lucky.
If you have any more, then chances are the train will escape. After the tunnel, Smoke will ask you to take the dirt road to higher ground, and you should absolutely do that, then hug the edge of the track closest to the train. Be careful though, it’s pretty easy to slip off, and if you do, that’s pretty much curtains.
The aim here is to ice the last gang member before you enter the second tunnel, as realistically, there will be no more good opportunities to take them out after that. As long as the last one goes down before the train crosses the bridge, then you are golden.
Step 2B: Take Out the Vaga Gang Members (Cheese)
After a few failed attempts trying the above method, I would urge you to succumb to the dark side and try one of the cheat methods that we will go through now. There are actually more than a few ways that you can make this notoriously hard mission look like childsplay, so I’ll run through them all. Here we go:
- One great method is getting to a high vantage point that is above the train’s level and then jumping your bike onto the train’s carriages, allowing you to stand alongside the Vaga gang members and blast them to kingdom come without any need to chase down the train or make inaccurate pop-shots. The best place to do this is on a low-rooftop which just happens to be around the first bend the train turns, on the left-hand side of the tracks. Try to aim for the black circular grilles on the leading carriage so you can wedge your wheels in and avoid slipping off.
- You can drive to the exact same position and hop off your bike, and if you have weapons that are powerful enough to take out the gang members before they go past your position, you could have the mission wrapped up before the first corner. A Sniper Rifle works a treat here.
- Then lastly, if you have access to a Sniper Rifle, you can drive the long straight around the bend and get well ahead of the train. Then you line up a shot to take out the train driver. The train will stop, and then you can pick off the gang members on the static train one by one. Just note, if you approach the train, it will start moving again, so keep your distance and pick them off.
Step Three: Lose the Cops
No matter what method you use to clear this mission, chances are that you’ll have at least a one-star Wanted Level. So you’ll want to keep moving after you kill all the gang members, ideally making your way back to Big Smoke’s house as you do. Drop Smoke back home in Grove Street, and the mission is complete. Congrats!
Becoming a Meme
Then just for fun, before we sign off, we can’t finish without discussing how this iconic gaming moment became one of the most meme-worthy in gaming history.
This mission has been referenced on so many occasions, both in later GTA installments and in other forms of media. So we thought we would list off a few of them to give you a flavor of how beloved and vilified this mission is. Check it out:
- The phrase ‘Follow The Train CJ’ appears in a splash in Minecraft
- There is a mission in Rockstar Games IP Manhunt of the same name
- There is an in-game journal that riffs on the events of this mission, found on the bodies of Little Smoke and JC
- In The GTA V mission Derailed, players can earn an achievement titled ‘Better Than CJ’
- In Red Dead Redemption 2, players will be tasked with chasing a train with a companion, albeit on a horse
Question: How Early In The Game Is This Mission?
Answer: This is the fourteenth mainline mission that you will play through in GTA San Andreas. So if you consistently do missions, you should unlock this one in around two hours or so.
Question: Can You Leave Big Smoke Behind?
Answer: Sadly not. While he is a bit of a liability, he is also the best way to take out the gang members while on the move. Plus, even if you wanted to ditch him, the game will fail the mission if you do.
Question: Can You Kill The Train Driver?
Answer: You can kill the driver before the mission begins, but the train will still take off, as normal. However, if you snipe the train driver, the train will come to a halt, with the important caveat that when you come into a certain proximity, the train will start moving again.
As you can see, even though this mission consists of essentially following and killing four NPCs, it’s a lot harder than it looks.
Due to the offroading needed to navigate the situation, the fragility of the Sanchez, and a whole bunch of other factors, this mission has gone down in history as one of the hardest, most irritating, and most memorable gaming moments of all time.
That being said, I hope that my hints and tips will help you make short work of this troublesome mission, and you can then push forward to San Fierro, Las Venturas and beyond. As always, thanks for reading Grand Theft Fans.