In 2004, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas debuted on the PlayStation 2, a full two years after GTA: Vice City, and became the console’s best-selling game of all time. It was the biggest title in the series up till that point and would introduce numerous new mechanics that would carry over into the new generation. With Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition releasing on November 11th for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5 and PC, should new players hop into San Andreas’ remastered version? Let’s take a look at 15 things that should be known before doing so.
The story centers around Carl Johnson or CJ, who returns to Los Santos after a five year absence to attend his mother’s funeral. After being accosted by officer Frank Tenpenny of the C.R.A.S.H. unit, CJ reunites with his friends from the Grove Street Families gang. After surviving a drive-by shooting and learning that the Ballas and Vagos have seized most of the territory and power, CJ commits to staying in Los Santos to help rebuild the gang. However, this is only the beginning of a grand saga of conspiracies, betrayals and high-stakes crimes.
Up till now, previous titles offered cities divided into boroughs or islands, and were fairly reasonable in size. But Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas offered, well, the state of San Andreas. This meant cities like Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas which each unlocked over the course of the story but there were also smaller locations like Red County and Flint County (which make up the countryside). Whetstone is where Mount Chiliad and the logging town of Angel Pine are located while Tierra Robada is a peninsular county with a bayside area. Bone County is where the deserts, and the Sherman Reservoir and Dam are located among other conspicuous sites. In terms of sheer size and scale, this was the largest world in the series till date.
As CJ (voiced by Chris Bellard), players encounter a fairly large cast of characters. Sean “Sweet” Johnson (played by Faizon Love) is CJ’s brother with whom he has a shaky relationship with; Melvin “Big Smoke” Harris (played by Clifton Powell) who serves as Sweet’s right-hand man; the corrupt Tenpenny (voiced by the impeccable Samuel L. Jackson); and many, many more. Even Ice-T has a fairly important role as rapper Madd Dogg.
For the first time in the series, players can actually influence the appearance and stats of the main character. There’s Respect, Stamina, Muscle and Fat which can be increased or decreased based on one’s actions. Hitting the gym, for example, will increase CJ’s muscles while eating too much periodically increases his weight, resulting in slower movement speed. And while GTA: Vice City had different outfits, San Andreas provides numerous brands with different articles of clothing that can be mixed and matched (along with different tattoos and hairstyles).
Open World Design and Improvements
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas offered a number of different improvements to Rockstar’s open world design when it launched. Pedestrian AI reacts more intelligently now – hitting their vehicles causes them to exit and attack the player. Attacking pedestrians also causes others to run away and there are much more extensive interactions with random folk. Gangs also have a stronger presence, existing as their own entity in the world and attacking or supporting CJ depending on his allegiance.
Swimming and Climbing, 2 Player Co-op
One of the greatest new additions in GTA: San Andreas is – believe it or not – the ability to swim (both Claude and Tommy would slowly die in deep water). CJ could also climb over various walls and fences, which meant the days of trying to find a way around simple obstacles were finally at an end. It’s also the first game in the 3D universe to introduce two-player co-op. Despite some restrictions, it offered some pretty fun ways to cause mayhem with a friend. Whether it’s included in the Definitive Edition or improved is currently unknown.
Much has been made about how much side content the trilogy offers, and San Andreas is the most packed of all. Outside of the 100 – yes, 100 – main story missions, you have Asset missions, racing tournaments, stadium events, Schools, the Exports and Imports chain of side missions, challenges, graffiti tags, and much more. Classic activities like taxi driving, paramedic, firefighting and vigilantism return, once again providing rewards for completing their various levels. HowLongtoBeat.com estimates 31 hours for the main story, 46.5 hours for the story and extra content, and a whopping 82 hours to complete everything.
Instead of simply having gangs as friends or foes in the world, GTA: San Andreas introduces Gang Warfare for taking over rival gang territory. Each district has a number of territories that must be cleared of rival gang members and will generate money upon capture. Even after a territory has been claimed by the Grove Street Families, opposing gangs can attempt to retake it and it’s up to the player to stop them. Based on CJ’s Respect level, you can recruit up to seven gang members who will accompany you and attack anyone that looks at you funny. Sometimes, they’ll even run off on their own and randomly hijack a vehicle. The AI isn’t necessarily the best but the resulting chaos is great.
There are 212 different vehicles, over double that of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City with various sports cars, SUVs, Lowriders, Sedans, Motorcycles, Industrial vehicles and much more to choose from. There are also a number of boats, helicopters and planes along with RC vehicles and, last but not least, the Jetpack. San Andreas also introduces driveby shooting, which allows for firing a weapon while inside a vehicle, and it’s seeing improvements in the Definitive Edition.
One of the many “firsts” that GTA: San Andreas introduces are schools where CJ can improve his skills in driving, boating, flying and biking. Each offers a range of lessons and tests to complete along with different medals based on one’s score. Some like Flight School and Driving School must be attended for story progression, though completing everything isn’t required. Various vehicles are doled out as rewards and thanks to the Definitive Edition’s new checkpoint system, which allows for restarting a failed mission immediately, it should be easier to complete some of the more frustrating challenges like Flight School. Hopefully.
Restricted areas were introduced in GTA: Vice City, granting a Wanted level in the police station or the bank after a heist. San Andreas expands on these significantly – along with the police impound garage, there are also military bases like Easter Basin Naval Station which grant an immediate five stars upon trespassing (and where fighter jets can be stolen). So if you’re wondering where the “survive for as long as possible in the military base” challenges in GTA 5 came from, it all began in San Andreas.
Assets and Properties
Assets return, once again allowing players to acquire different businesses which generate income on a daily basis. Most of them are unlocked from completing missions though you’ll need to spend money to acquire places like the Verdant Meadows Airstrip. Properties and safe houses are also back with numerous types scattered throughout the state of San Andreas. Some may be free while others require purchasing (and offer different benefits after clearing certain missions). Not all of them have garages but will sometimes spawn vehicles nearby.
Weapons and Combat Improvements
Though it has slightly less melee weapons than Vice City, San Andreas offers 38 weapons in total. This includes classics like the M4, Spaz 12, Tech9, Flamethrower, and Minigun along with new weapons like the Heat-Seeking Rocket Launcher and Desert Eagle, not to mention tools like Night Vision, Thermal Vision and Parachutes (which required rethinking the series’ fall damage system). Combat is also heavily revamped over previous games with options like dual wielding firearms, revamped crosshairs which become darker as the enemy’s health decreases, and auto-aim improvements. Again, how the GTA 5 style controls will factor into The Definitive Edition remains to be seen but it’s the best in the 3D trilogy up till this point.
12 Radio Stations
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also features the most number of radio stations in the series with Playback FM providing classic East Coast Hip Hop like Public Enemy; K-DST offering classic rock tracks like The WHO and Billy Idol; and Radio Los Santos with its West Coast Hip Hop like Dr. Dre, 2Pac and much more. You even have WCTR, a talk radio station with a variety of programs and shows. There are 12 stations in total with one custom station for adding your own songs. While previous titles have had a custom playlist option, San Andreas offers more options like shuffling, and adding commercials between songs. You can also have your playlist function as a normal radio station.
22.679 GB on PS4 and PS5
PlayStation Game Size on Twitter estimates the total size of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition to be about 39 GB on PS4 and PS5. GTA: San Andreas – The Definitive Edition takes up 22.679 GB, making it the biggest game in the trilogy. Those curious about the general quality of the remaster can also check it out on Xbox Game Pass – it arrives for the service as a standalone release on the same day.
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