Over the past several weeks, I have spent virtually all of my gaming time in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As I previously mentioned, the game is so large that it has taken me this long to complete it. And now that I have completed the main story line, I feel I can better point out the game's highs and lows.
What I Liked My main praise for this game is the story line. San Andreas weaves an interesting tale full of twists and surprises. Character development is decent, but it's the voice acting that pushes it over the top. The developers of this game cast each character to a tee (Samuel L. Jackson is excellent as Officer Tenpenny). Likewise, the game environments are impressive. Not only is the game world gigantic, but it's well developed with plenty of detail. The number of vehicles available to the player is much larger than in previous GTA titles. This variety really adds to the overall experience. And finally, the game soundtrack really fits the overall 'gangsta' theme.
What I Disliked San Andreas is far from perfect, however. A few game missions are poorly designed, making them unnecessarily difficult. Several of the racing missions are near impossible, and the various driving schools contain tests that rely on pure luck to result in a perfect score. Enemy AI exhibits some severe flaws; often times during a gang war, the enemies will flee from the war zone. You inevitably have to chase them down, but then get penalized by leaving the war zone. Likewise, recruiting gang members to fight for you is an exercise in futility. They often get in the way of your line of sight, so you end up killing them instead of the rival gang members.
A number of people have slammed San Andreas for its graphics (and they are indeed sub-par). But given that the world is so large, and that there is so much to model, I can see why the developers chose to go with simpler designs. Fortunately, running at 1280 by 1024 with all the eye candy turned on helps in this regard (thank you GeForce 6800 GT).
So do I recommend the game? Absolutely. Just make sure that you are mature enough to play it (the 'M' rating is clearly warranted due to extreme language, intense violence, drug references, and sexual themes). If you are old enough, welcome to San Andreas. Grove Street baby - holla!