Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an action-adventurevideo game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 26 October 2004 for PlayStation 2, and on 7 June 2005 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox. A high definition remastered version received a physical release for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on 30 June 2015 and 1 December 2015, respectively. It is the seventh title in the Grand Theft Auto series, and the first main entry since 2002's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It was released on the same day as the handheld game Grand Theft Auto Advance for Game Boy Advance.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is played from a third-person perspective in an open world environment, allowing the player to interact with the game world at their leisure. The game is set within the fictional U.S. state of San Andreas, which is heavily based on California and Nevada.[b] The state of San Andreas consists of three metropolitan cities: Los Santos, based on Los Angeles; San Fierro, based on San Francisco; and Las Venturas, based on Las Vegas. The single-player story follows Carl "CJ" Johnson, who returns home to Los Santos from Liberty City after his mother's murder. Carl finds his old friends and family in disarray, and over the course of the game he attempts to re-establish his old gang, clashes with corrupt cops, and gradually unravels the truth behind his mother's murder. The plot is based on multiple real-life events in Los Angeles, including the rivalry between the Bloods, Crips, and Hispanic street gangs, the 1980s crack epidemic, the LAPD Rampart scandal, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Considered one of the sixth generation of video gaming's most significant titles, and by many reviewers to be one of the greatest video games ever made, San Andreas received rave reviews by many critics who praised the music, story and gameplay. It became the best-selling video game of 2004, and has sold over 27.5 million copies worldwide as of 2011; it remains the best-selling PlayStation 2 game of all time. The game, like its predecessors, is cited as a landmark in video games for its far-reaching influence within the industry. However, the violence and sexual content of San Andreas has been the source of much public concern and controversy. In particular, a player-made software patch, dubbed the "Hot Coffee mod", unlocked a previously hidden sexual scene. The next main entry in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV, was released on 29 April 2008, also to critical acclaim. San Andreas has been ported to various other platforms and services, such as OS X,Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Fire OS).
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an action-adventure game with role-playing and stealth elements. Structured similarly to the previous two games in the series, the core gameplay consists of elements in a third-person shooter and a driving game, affording the player a large, open world environment in which to move around. On foot, the player's character is capable of walking, running, sprinting, swimming, climbing and jumping as well as using weapons and various forms of hand-to-hand combat. The player can drive a variety of vehicles, including automobiles, buses, semis, boats, fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, trains, tanks, motorcycles and bikes. The player may also import vehicles in addition to stealing them.
The open, non-linear environment allows the player to explore and choose how they wish to play the game. Although storyline missions are necessary to progress through the game and unlock certain cities and content, they are not required as the player can complete them at their own leisure. When not taking on a storyline mission, the player can freely-roam and look around the cities of San Andreas, eat in restaurants, or cause havoc by attacking people and causing destruction. Creating havoc can attract unwanted and potentially fatal attention from the authorities. The more chaos caused, the stronger the response: police will handle "minor" infractions (attacking pedestrians, pointing guns at people, stealing vehicles, manslaughter, etc.), whereas SWAT teams, the FBI, and the military respond to higher wanted levels.
The player can partake in a variety of optional side missions that can boost their character's attributes or provide another source of income. The traditional side missions of the past games are included, such as dropping off taxi cab passengers, putting out fires, driving injured people to the hospital and fighting crime as a vigilante. New additions include burglary missions, pimping missions, truck and train driving missions requiring the player to make deliveries on time, and driving/flying/boating/biking schools, which help the player learn skills and techniques to use in their corresponding vehicles.
Not all locations are open to the player at the start of the game. Some locales, such as mod garages, restaurants, gyms, and shops, become available only after completing certain missions. Likewise, for the first portion of the game, only Los Santos and its immediate suburbs are available for exploration; unlocking the other cities and rural areas again requires the completion of certain missions. If the player were to travel in locked locations early in the game, they would end up attracting the attention of SWAT teams, police, and police-controlled Hydras if in an aircraft.
Unlike Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, which needed loading screens when the player moved between different districts of the city, San Andreas has no load times when the player is in transit. The only loading screens in the game are for cut-scenes and interiors. Other differences between San Andreas and its predecessors include the switch from single-player to multiplayer Rampage missions (albeit not in the PC version), and the replacement of the 'hidden packages' with spray paint tags, hidden camera shots, horseshoes, and oysters to discover.
The camera, fighting, and targeting controls were reworked to incorporate concepts from another Rockstar game, Manhunt, including various stealth elements, as well as improved target crosshairs and a target health indicator which changes from green to red to black depending on the target's health. The PC version of the game implements mouse chording; the player has to hold the right mouse button to activate the crosshairs, and then click or hold at the left mouse button to shoot or use an item, such as a camera.
In addition, players can swim and climb walls for the first time in the series. The ability to swim and dive underwater has a great effect on the player as well, since water is no longer an impassable barrier that kills the player (although it is possible to drown). For greater fire-power, the player can also dual wield firearms or perform a drive-by shooting with multiple gang members who can be recruited to follow the player. Due to the size of San Andreas, a waypoint reticle on the HUD map can be set, aiding the player in reaching a destination.
Role-playing game features in character development
Rockstar has emphasised the personalisation of the main protagonist by adding role-playing video game elements. Clothing, accessories, haircuts, jewellery, and tattoos are available for purchase by the player, and have more of an effect on non-player characters' reactions than the clothing in Vice City. CJ's level of respect among his fellow recruits and street friends varies according to his appearance and actions, as do his relationships with his girlfriends. The player must ensure CJ eats to stay healthy and exercises properly. The balance of food and physical activity has an effect on his appearance and physical attributes.
San Andreas tracks acquired skills in areas such as driving, firearms handling, stamina, and lung capacity, which improve through use in the game. CJ may learn three different styles of hand-to-hand combat (boxing, kickboxing and kung fu) at the gyms in each of the game's three cities. CJ can speak with a number of pedestrians in the game, responding either negatively or positively. According to Rockstar, there are about 4,200 lines of spoken dialogue for CJ when the cutscenes are excluded.
In total, there are around 250 vehicles in the game compared to approximately 60 in Grand Theft Auto III. New additions include bicycles, a combine harvester, a street sweeper, a jetpack and trailers amongst others. Car physics and features are similar to the Midnight Club series of street racing games, allowing for much more midair vehicle control as well as nitrous upgrades and aesthetic modification.
There are several different classes of vehicles that serve different purposes. Off-road vehicles perform better in rough environments, while racing cars perform better on tracks or on the street. Jets are fast, but usually need a runway to land. Helicopters can land almost anywhere and are much easier to control in the air, but are slower. While previous Grand Theft Auto games had only a few aircraft that were difficult to access and fly, San Andreas has eleven fixed-wing aircraft and nine helicopters and makes them more integral in the game's missions. There is also the ability to skydive from aircraft, using a parachute. Several boats were added, while some were highly modified.
Other additions and changes
Other new features and changes from previous Grand Theft Auto games include:
- Gang wars: Battles with enemy gangs are prompted whenever the player ventures into enemy territory and kills at least three gang members. If the player then survives three waves of enemies, the territory will be won and fellow gang members will begin wandering the streets of these areas. The more territory owned by the player, the more money that will be generated. Occasionally, the player's territory will come under attack from enemy gangs and defeating them will be necessary to retain these areas. Once all marked territories are claimed from one of the two hostile gangs for the protagonist's gang, the opposing gang can no longer attack. Once the player takes control of all the territories, none can come under attack.
- Car modification: Most automobiles in the game can be modified and upgraded at various garages. All car mods are strictly visual apart from the stereo system and nitrous oxide upgrade which increases bass and gives the car a speed boost when activated respectively; and hydraulics, which lowers the car's height by default and allows the player to control various aspects of the car's suspension. Other common modifications include paintjobs, rims, body kits, side skirts, bumpers and spoilers.
- Burglary: Continuing the series' tradition of controversy, home invasion is included as a potential money-making activity. By stealing a burglary van, CJ is able to sneak into a residence at night, and cart off valuables or shake down the occupants.
- Minigames: Numerous minigames are available for play in San Andreas, including basketball, pool, rhythm-based challenges (dancing and 'bouncing' lowriders with hydraulics), and video game machines that pay homage to classic arcade games. In addition, there are the aforementioned casino games and methods of gambling, such as betting on virtual horse races.
- Money: The money system has been expanded upon, compared to previous titles. Players can spend their cash on gambling, clothes, tattoos, meals, etc. Excessive gambling loss can force the player to sink into debt, which is shown in red negative numbers. When the player leaves a safehouse, CJ gets an unexpected call and a mysterious person tells him about his debts. Four gang members suddenly appear and shoot Carl on sight if he does not erase the debt when the mysterious person calls him a second time.
- Multiplayer: Rampages have been modified to allow two players to complete them. The players are both shown simultaneously on the screen, meaning they must stay within close proximity of each other. The multiplayer rampages provide such functionality.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas takes place in 1992 within the state of San Andreas, which is based on sections of California and Nevada. It comprises three major fictional cities: Los Santos corresponds to Los Angeles, San Fierro corresponds to San Francisco, and Las Venturas corresponds to Las Vegas. The environments around these cities are also based on settings within the Southwestern region of the United States. Players can drive up the half-mile (800 m) tall Mount Chiliad (based on Mount Diablo), parachute from various peaks and skyscrapers, and visit 12 rural towns and villages located in five counties: Red County, Flint County, Bone County, Tierra Robada, and Whetstone. Other notable destinations include Sherman Dam (based on the Hoover Dam), a large secret military base called Area 69 (based on Area 51), a large satellite dish (based on a dish from the Very Large Array), Vinewood (based on Hollywood) and the Vinewood sign (based on the Hollywood sign) which is located in Mulholland, and many other geographical features. The bridges in San Fierro are based on the Forth road and rail bridges which link Edinburgh, the home of Rockstar North, to Fife although the road bridge is highly similar to the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. San Andreas is 13.9 square miles (36 square kilometres), almost four times as large as Vice City and five times as large as the Grand Theft Auto III rendition of Liberty City. The three cities are linked by numerous highways, a train system, and air travel. While its predecessors' areas were limited to urban locations, San Andreas includes not only large cities and suburbs, but also the rural areas between them.
The main character is a member of the Grove Street Families street gang, a set of a gang that also includes the initially-hostile Temple Drive and Seville Boulevard Families. The two main rival gangs are the Ballas and Los Santos Vagos, both based out of Los Santos. The Varrios Los Aztecas also operate in Los Santos. The main gangs of San Fierro are the San Fierro Rifa, led by T-Bone Mendez; the Da Nang Boys, a Vietnamese gang; and the San Fierro Triads, whose leader Wu Zi Mu forms an alliance with Carl. In Las Venturas, the only gangs are the Triads (run by Wu Zi Mu) and the Italian Mafia (consisting of the Forellis, Sindaccos, and Leones). The "Loco Syndicate" appears in the San Fierro mission chain, essentially made up of T-Bone Mendez's Rifa gangsters, Mike Toreno and a pimp Jizzy B. In addition, the Russian Mafia makes a few small appearances in the storyline.
Main article: List of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas characters
The characters that appear in San Andreas are relatively diverse and relative to the respective cities and locales which each of them based himself in. This allows the game to include a significantly wider array of story lines and settings than in Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City. The player controls Carl "CJ" Johnson (Young Maylay), a young African-American gang member who serves as the game's protagonist.
The Los Santos stages of the game revolve around the theme of the Grove Street Families gang fighting with the Ballas and the Vagos for territory and respect. East Asian gangs (most notably the local Triads), an additional Vietnamese gang (the Da Nang Boys), and a force of Hispanic thugs working for the local "Loco Syndicate" (the San Fierro Rifa) are evident in the San Fierro leg of the game, while three Mafia families and the Triads who all own their respective casino are more prominently featured in the Las Venturas section of the game.
Like the previous two Grand Theft Auto games, the voice actors of San Andreas include notable celebrities, such as David Cross, Andy Dick, Ron Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, James Woods, Peter Fonda, Charlie Murphy, Frank Vincent, Chris Penn, Danny Dyer, Sara Tanaka, William Fichtner, Wil Wheaton, rappers Ice-T, Chuck D, Frost, MC Eiht and The Game and musicians George Clinton, Axl Rose, Sly and Robbie and Shaun Ryder.Young Maylay made his debut as the protagonist, Carl.
The Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer's Edition lists it as the video game with the largest voice cast, with 861 credited voice actors, including 174 actors and 687 additional performers, many of those performers being fans of the series who wanted to appear on the game.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas stars Carl "CJ" Johnson, a former gangbanger for the Grove Street Families gang in Los Santos. The game begins when CJ learns that his mother was murdered in a drive-by shooting. CJ returns to Los Santos for her funeral, but is intercepted by a group of corrupt police officers led by Frank Tenpenny. Tenpenny coerces CJ into working for him by threatening to frame CJ for the murder of an Internal Affairs officer (whom it is strongly implied that Tenpenny killed himself).
After Tenpenny lets him go, CJ meets his surviving family at his mother's funeral: his brother Sweet and his sister Kendl. Sweet angrily confronts CJ about his long absence from Los Santos and blames CJ for the Grove Street gang's declining fortunes. However, CJ wins Sweet's grudging acceptance by promising to stay and help rebuild the gang. The two brothers work closely with their friends, Big Smoke and Ryder, to reunite the divided Grove Street Families and reconquer their old turf from their rivals, the Ballas. During the gang war, CJ is occasionally sidetracked by orders from Officer Tenpenny, who forces CJ to assist him with black market and drug racketeering. Later, Sweet asks CJ to investigate Kendl's new boyfriend Cesar. Despite his preconceptions, CJ discovers that Cesar genuinely cares about Kendl, and the two men become friends.
With Grove Street stronger than ever, Sweet plans to ambush a major group of Ballas and end the war. However, before CJ can get to the fight, he receives a call from Cesar to meet elsewhere. Cesar shows CJ a shocking scene: Big Smoke, Ryder, Tenpenny, and the Ballas working together to hide the car used in the shooting which killed CJ's mother. Big Smoke and Ryder had arranged the shooting, and were working with Tenpenny and the Ballas to sell out Grove Street. CJ rushes to warn Sweet, but by the time he arrived, Sweet was already badly wounded by the Ballas counter-ambush. Tenpenny shows up and arrests them both. With Grove Street's leadership decapitated, Big Smoke and Ryder openly declare their alliance with the Ballas. They take over Los Santos and flood its streets with drugs, and with Tenpenny protecting them from police interference, they appear unstoppable.
However, Tenpenny decides to get more use out of CJ. Instead of throwing CJ in prison, Tenpenny drives him into the rural country outside Los Santos, and threatens to arrange Sweet's death in prison if CJ doesn't cooperate. Exiled in the countryside, CJ is forced to carry out favors for C.R.A.S.H, under threat of Sweet being transferred to a cell block where Ballas affiliates are housed. He also works with Cesar's cousin Catalina to make money by carrying out several heists in the area. He also befriends a hippie named The Truth and a blind Chinese-American Triad leader named Wu Zi Mu. After winning the deed to a garage in San Fierro in a race against Catalina and her new boyfriend, CJ goes there with The Truth, Cesar and Kendl to get it up and running so they can make a living. While in San Fierro, CJ crosses paths with the Loco Syndicate, Big Smoke and Ryder's drug connection. CJ infiltrates the organization and identifies its leader, Mike Toreno. CJ kills Ryder and the other Loco Syndicate leaders, Jizzy B and T-Bone Mendez, and shoots down Toreno's helicopter. CJ then destroys the Syndicate's drug factory.
Soon after, CJ is called by an unknown man using a digitally distorted voice and encourages CJ to meet him at a ranch in the desert. There, CJ finds Mike Toreno alive, thus revealing Toreno as the caller. Toreno reveals that he is actually a government agent spying on criminal operations and enlists CJ's help in several shady operations in exchange for Sweet's freedom. Meanwhile, CJ travels to Las Venturas, where Wu Zi Mu invites him to become a partner in the Four Dragons Casino, where the organisation is facing problems from the mob families that control the city. Seeking to wrest control of Venturas from them, CJ helps Wu Zi Mu plot a robbery of the mob's casino and gains the mob's trust through various jobs for mob boss, Salvatore Leone. Eventually the heist is carried out successfully, earning the Triad a place of power in Las Venturas, although causing the mob to detest CJ. CJ also encounters rapper Madd Dogg, from whom he stole a rhyme book to help rapper OG Loc become a name in the business. After rescuing Madd Dogg from a suicide attempt, he asks CJ to be his manager once he returns from rehab.
Tenpenny, fearing his arrest is inevitable, tasks Pulaski with killing CJ and Hernandez, whom Tenpenny found out was informing on them to Internal Affairs. While Pulaski forces CJ to dig his own grave, Hernandez, severely injured after being hit over the head with a shovel, manages to attack Pulaski, leading to his death. Pulaski attempts to escape, but CJ kills him.
Madd Dogg returns from rehab, prompting CJ to return to Los Santos to get his music career started again. Toreno contacts CJ for one last favor, and finally has Sweet released from prison. Now rich and successful, CJ attempts to cut Sweet in on his businesses, but Sweet becomes angry that he ran away and let their home be taken over by rival gang members and drug dealers to make his fortune. While CJ helps Sweet once again kill the rival gangs, Tenpenny is arrested and tried for felonies that he has been charged with, but the charges are dropped due to lack of evidence, prompting a citywide riot. CJ helps Cesar regain control over the barrio and also regain territory for his gang, so as to have enough power to obtain knowledge of Big Smoke's whereabouts.
Sweet soon learns that Big Smoke is holed up in a fortified crack den in the city, and he and CJ go there to confront him. CJ enters the building alone, fighting his way to the top floor and confronting Smoke. CJ attempts to reason with Big Smoke, but the latter engages CJ in a gunfight. CJ defeats him and Big Smoke confesses that he betrayed the GSF in order to gain more power and money, and dies shortly after from his injuries. Just then, Tenpenny appears, holds CJ at gunpoint and steals Big Smoke's money, intending to use it to leave the city. Tenpenny escapes and CJ and Sweet pursue him. During the pursuit, Tenpenny loses control of a fire truck that he was using as a getaway vehicle, driving off the bridge over the Grove Street cul-de-sac and crashing at the entrance to it. CJ and his friends watch as a fatally wounded Tenpenny crawls from the wreckage and dies.
In the aftermath, CJ's family and friends arrive at the Johnson house for a meeting. Madd Dogg announces his first Gold record. As his friends and allies celebrate their success, CJ turns to leave.
Marketing and release
The Introduction, an in-engine video, was provided on a DVD with the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Official Soundtrack, as well as the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Special Edition re-release for the PlayStation 2. The 26-minute video chronicles the events leading up to the events in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and provides insight on the development of the characters of the game, to the point when Carl learns of his mother's death in a phone call from Sean "Sweet" Johnson & returns to Los Santos to find his life is ruined. The film incorporates locations from the original Grand Theft Auto III game. The PS2 release also includes a live-action documentary on the custom car culture (featured prominently in the game) called Sunday Driver.
Main article: Music of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
As with the previous two entries in the Grand Theft Auto series, San Andreas has music taken from the time in which the game is based.
San Andreas is serviced by eleven radio stations; WCTR (talk radio), Master Sounds 98.3 (rare groove, playing many of the old funk and soul tracks sampled by 1990s hip-hop artists), K-Jah West (dub and reggae; modelled after K-Jah from Grand Theft Auto III), CSR (new jack swing, modern soul), Radio X (alternative rock, metal and grunge), Radio Los Santos (gangsta rap), SF-UR (old school Chicago house music), Bounce FM (funk), K-DST (classic rock), K-Rose (country) and Playback FM (classic hip hop).
The music system in San Andreas is enhanced from previous titles. In earlier games in the series, each radio station was essentially a single looped sound file, playing the same songs, announcements and advertisements in the same order each time. In San Andreas, each section is held separately, and "mixed" randomly, allowing songs to be played in different orders, announcements to songs to be different each time, and plot events to be mentioned on the stations. This system would be used in Grand Theft Auto IV. WCTR, rather than featuring licensed music and DJs, features spoken word performances by actors such as Andy Dick performing as talk show hosts and listener callers in a parody of talk radio programming.
Lazlow again plays as himself on the show "Entertaining America" on WCTR in the same persona as in III and Vice City. He takes over after the former presenter, Billy Dexter, is shot on air by in-game film star Jack Howitzer. Lazlow interviews guests such as O.G. Loc, who is one of the four characters Carl encounters during the game that is on the radio, along with Big Smoke, Madd Dogg, and The Truth.
The Xbox, iOS, and Windows versions of the game include an additional radio station that supports custom soundtracks by playing user imported MP3s, allowing players to listen to their own music while playing the game. This feature is not available on the PlayStation 2 version of the game or when played on the Xbox 360.
Upon its release, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was met with critical acclaim. It received an average review score of 93/100, according to review aggregatorMetacritic, tying for the fifth-highest ranked game in PlayStation 2 history.IGN rated the game a 9.9/10 (the highest score it has ever awarded to a PlayStation 2 game), calling it "the defining piece of software" for the PlayStation 2.GameSpot rated the game 9.6/10, giving it an Editor's Choice award. Jeff Gerstmann said "San Andreas definitely lives up to the Grand Theft Auto name. In fact, it's arguably the best game in the series".San Andreas also received an A rating from the 1UP.com network and a 10/10 score from Official US PlayStation Magazine. Common praises were made about the game's open-endedness, the size of the state of San Andreas, and the engaging storyline and voice acting. Most criticisms of the game stemmed from graphical mishaps, poor character models, and low-resolution textures, as well as various control issues, particularly with auto-aiming at enemies. Some critics commented that while a lot of new content had been added to San Andreas, little of it had been refined or implemented well. Nevertheless, since its release, San Andreas has been regarded to be one of the greatest games of all time, placing at number 27 in Edge's Top 100 Games to Play Today. Edge declared that the game remains "the ultimate expression of freedom, before next-gen reined it all back in." In 2015, the game placed 8th on USgamer's The 15 Best Games Since 2000 list.
Sales and commercial success
By 3 March 2005, the game had sold over 12 million units for the PlayStation 2 alone, making it the highest selling game for PlayStation 2. The game received a "Diamond" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), indicating sales of at least 1 million copies in the United Kingdom. As of 26 September 2007, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has sold 20 million units according to Take-Two Interactive. As of 26 March 2008, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has sold 21.5 million units according to Take-Two Interactive. The Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer's Edition lists it as the most successful PlayStation 2 game, with 17.33 million copies sold for that console alone, from a total of 21.5 million in all formats. In 2011, Kotaku reported that according to Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has sold 27.5 million copies worldwide.
San Andreas was criticised by some for its perceived racial stereotyping. Some saw the alleged stereotyping as ironic, while others defended the game, noting that the storyline could speak to people of different backgrounds. A study of how different groups of youths engaged with the game found that "they do not passively receive the games' images and content".
Hot Coffee mod
Main article: Hot Coffee mod
In mid-June 2005, a software patch for the game dubbed the "Hot Coffee mod" was released by Patrick Wildenborg (under the Internet alias "PatrickW"), a 38-year-old modder from the Netherlands. The name "Hot Coffee" refers to the way the released game alludes to the unseen sex scenes. In the unmodified game, the player takes his girlfriend to her front door and she asks him if he would like to come in for "some coffee". He agrees, and the camera stays outside, swaying back and forth a bit, while moaning sounds are heard. After installing the patch, users can enter the main character's girlfriends' houses and engage in a crudely rendered, fully clothed or nude sexual intercourse mini-game. The fallout from the controversy resulted in a public response from high-ranking politicians in the United States and elsewhere and resulted in the game's recall and re-release.
On 20 July 2005, North America's organisation who establish content ratings for video games, the ESRB, changed the rating of the game from Mature (M) to Adults Only (AO), making San Andreas the only mass-released AO console game in the United States. Rockstar announced that it would cease production of the version of the game that included the controversial content. Rockstar gave distributors the option of applying an Adults Only ESRB rating sticker to copies of the game, or returning them to be replaced by versions without the Hot Coffee content. Many retailers pulled the game off their shelves in compliance with their own store regulations that kept them from selling AO games. That same month in Australia, the Office of Film and Literature Classification revoked its original rating of MA15+, meaning that the game could no longer be sold there.
In August 2005, Rockstar North released an official "Cold Coffee" patch for the PC version of the game and re-released San Andreas with the "Hot Coffee" scenes removed (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Version 2.0), allowing the game to return to its "M" rating. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions have also been re-released with the "Hot Coffee" scenes removed in the Greatest Hits Edition, the Platinum Edition, the "Grand Theft Auto Trilogy Pack" for Xbox and PlayStation 2, as well as a Special Edition for PlayStation 2 that includes the documentary film Sunday Driver. The updated game disc has "SECOND EDITION" text under the "M" rating logo.
On 8 November 2007, Take-Two announced a proposed settlement to the class action litigation that had been brought against them following the Hot Coffee controversy. If the proposed settlement is approved by the court, neither Take-Two nor Rockstar would admit liability or wrongdoing. Consumers would be able to swap their AO-rated copies of the game for M-rated versions and may also qualify for a $35 cash payment upon signing a sworn statement.
A report in The New York Times on 25 June 2008 revealed that a total of 2,676 claims for the compensation package had been filed.
Rockstar released two follow-ups to San Andreas: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, both by Rockstar Leeds. Unlike San Andreas and its predecessors, Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories were developed for the PlayStation Portable handheld, and there was no Windows or Xbox version although a PlayStation 2 port was released afterward. San Andreas thus marks the last major Grand Theft Auto release across the sixth-generation consoles to be produced by Rockstar North, as well as the last one to introduce an entirely new setting.
Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories are prequels to San Andreas' predecessors, so both games derive their maps from Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, respectively, each of which cover a considerably smaller area than San Andreas. Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories eliminated gameplay elements introduced in San Andreas, including the ability to swim (in Liberty City Stories, but re-introduced in a limited capacity in Vice City Stories) and climb. Both Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories include references to characters featured in San Andreas, with Liberty City Stories set about 6 years after the events of San Andreas (in that game, for example, radio reporter Richard Burns, featured in news bulletins in San Andreas, returns as a radio call-in guest) and Vice City Stories set about 8 years before the events of San Andreas. Except for news bulletins, radio programming in Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories does not change based upon player progress. While character customisation elements such as wardrobe changes are retained, for later games, Rockstar eliminated the need for the game protagonists to eat and exercise.
San Andreas marked the technological pinnacle of the Grand Theft Auto III era (also known as the "3D Universe") and also the end of that continuity (albeit for the handheld-focused Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories spin-offs). Rockstar launched a new canon (the "HD Universe") with Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V for the seventh-generation consoles. The celebrity voice acting that had been so prominent in the "3D Universe", especially in Vice City and San Andreas, was scaled back in the "HD Universe". Rockstar also took a new direction in the series, focusing on realism and details instead of greater area and added content. For instance, although the explorable sandbox area is smaller than San Andreas, the main setting for Grand Theft Auto IV is comparable to San Andreas in terms of scope when "the level of verticality of the city, the number of buildings you can go into, and the level of detail in those buildings" are taken into account. The goal for the HD Universe layout of Liberty City was to have no dead spots or irrelevant spaces, such as the wide open deserts found in San Andreas state.Ars Technica wrote Grand Theft Auto IV's "slight regression of the series from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is surprising: there are fewer vehicles, weapons, and story missions, less character customisation, and even the size of the city itself is smaller".
Los Santos, one of the three central cities in San Andreas, is the main location of the latest game in the franchise, Grand Theft Auto V. Although GTA: San Andreas included three cities separated by open countryside, Grand Theft Auto V included only one city, Los Santos, as well as adjoining countryside and desert areas. By focusing their efforts on one city instead of three, the team were able to produce Los Santos in higher quality and at greater scale. For both games, Los Angeles was used as the model for Los Santos, but the team felt that the ambition of having three cities in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was too great and that the game did not emulate the cities as well as they had hoped. Houser elaborated that "to do a proper version of L.A., [...] the game has to give you a sense of that sprawl — if not completely replicate it", and dividing the budget and manpower between multiple cities would have detracted from capturing "what L.A. is". Garbut felt that in the PlayStation 2 era the team did not have the technical capabilities to capture Los Angeles properly, resulting in the San Andreas rendition of Los Santos feeling like a "backdrop or a game level with pedestrians randomly milling about". Therefore, the team disregarded San Andreas as a jumping-off point for Grand Theft Auto V, as they had moved on to a new generation of consoles since the former and wanted to build the city from scratch. As Garbut explained, with the move to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 hardware, "our processes and the fidelity of the world [had] evolved so much from San Andreas" that using it as a model would have been redundant.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is distributed on Steam. The game received a notable amount of updates raising the version from 1.1 to 3.0. On 7 November 2014, an update caused controversy after 17 tracks from the soundtrack were removed due to expired licenses. Other drawbacks of the update include removal of widescreen support (which was later fixed via another minor update) and certain regions had incompatibility with older saves. Both old and new owners were affected by the update, unlike with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, where only new owners were affected due to a similar update. Additionally, the game received native support for XInput-enabled gamepads and the removal of DRM.
On 12 December 2013, San Andreas was released on select iOS devices. The upgrades and enhancements from the original game include newly remastered graphics, consisting of dynamic and detailed shadows, greater draw distance, an enriched colour palette, plus enhanced character and car models. The Android and Amazon Kindle version was released on 19 December 2013 and Windows Phone version on 27 January 2014.
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions
In 2008, the original Xbox version was released on Xbox 360; an emulated port as part of the Xbox Originals line-up. However, in late 2014 it was removed from the Xbox Live Marketplace and replaced with a port of the mobile version on 26 October 2014, the game's tenth anniversary. It featured HD 720p resolution, enhanced draw distance, a new menu interface, and achievements. While it introduced many new features, around ten songs were removed from the HD version that were present in the original due to licensing issues, and numerous new bugs were introduced. A physical release followed on 30 June 2015 in North America and 17 July 2015 elsewhere, under the "Platinum Hits" banner ("Classics" in PAL regions).
San Andreas was first released on PlayStation 3 in December 2012 as an emulated PS2 Classic. This version was also removed in late 2014, leading to rumours of a PS3 HD release. However, this was not the case at the time and the PS2 Classic later returned. In early November 2015, the game was re-rated by the ESRB for an upcoming PS3-native release. The HD version was released on 1 December 2015, replacing the PS2 Classic on the PlayStation Store, and on physical media, gaining instant "Greatest Hits" status in North America. There has also been a PlayStation 4 version released, though unlike the remake for the PlayStation 3, it is an emulated port of the PlayStation 2 game, but it still has trophies and some songs edited out due to licensing restrictions.
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- ^Gaston, Martin (November 26, 2016). "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will be released for iOS and Android in December". GameSpot. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
- ^Greg Kasavin (13 August 2004). "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Weekend Update: Robbery and Home Invasion". GameSpot. p. 2. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
- ^ abcdeGerstmann, Jeff (25 October 2004). "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
- ^Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Weekend Update: Street TalkingArchived 25 October 2004 at the Wayback Machine., GameSpot, 23 October 2005.
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- ^"GTA San Andreas — Gangs". Gta-sanan.ucoz.net. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
- ^Greg Kasavin, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Weekend Update: Robbery and Home InvasionArchived 18 August 2004 at the Wayback Machine., GameSpot, 13 August 2004
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- ^"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Q&A — Under the Hood, GameSpot, June 1, 2005"
- ^Ported to Android, Windows Phone, Fire OS, iOS, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 by War Drum Studios.
- ^Games in the Grand Theft Auto series are grouped into distinct fictional universes, which share interconnected plots and characters. The "3D universe" consists of Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City (2002), Advance (2004), San Andreas (2004), Liberty City Stories (2005), and Vice City Stories (2006). The San Andreas rendition of Los Santos is different from the rendition in Grand Theft Auto V (2013).
It may be two Grand Theft Auto generations and 11 years old, but GTA: San Andreas is still very much alive. Its two most popular online multiplayer mods currently have a million or more active players between them — one, Multi Theft Auto, had 616,000 players in July (up from just 33k in February 2010), while the other, SA-MP, oscillates between about 15,000 and 50,000 concurrent players. I went to talk to members of both mod communities to find out what keeps them playing.
These certainly aren’t numbers to be sneezed at. They put many of the biggest current PC games to shame. Even the massively-popular GTA 5, replete with a sprawling online mode of its own that consistently puts it in Steam’s top 10 games by player count, fares no better than its ancestor. (To put a number on it, SteamSpy estimates over 1.2 million GTA 5 players in the past two weeks, with peak concurrent players consistently around 50,000.)
SA-MP and MTA are both very similar to GTA Online at first glance. They turn San Andreas into a persistent online multiplayer world that allows players to embark on the full gamut of GTA-like activities — killing sprees, racing, stunts, heists, running away from the police, and so on. Where they differ, however, is in approach. GTA Online puts up to 30 players on each server, and it doesn’t let you choose the server. SA-MP and MTA allow much larger player counts — sometimes several hundred, depending on the server — and in traditional PC gaming style offer up a long list of servers to choose from, each of which has its own rules, available game modes, and eccentricities. The mods themselves differ in more subtle ways. MTA is open source, but SA-MP is not. SA-MP has fewer custom interfaces, quicker load times, worse synchronisation and overall performance, and more elaborate role-playing servers. (And for creative types, MTA has a map editor and an easier-to-learn scripting system.)
I asked one of the MTA developers, a chemical engineer named Dan, to help me understand what makes this San Andreas multiplayer community tic. Dan started out as a Multi Theft Auto player back before San Andreas even came out — when the mod was available for GTA 3 and Vice City. He was drawn in by its accessibility. “At the time the big game was Counter-Strike,” he recalls. He downloaded it and gave it a shot, but it seemed impenetrable. “I’d jump in and get shot immediately and have to wait like three minutes to jump into the next round.” But with Multi Theft Auto he didn’t have to worry about being killed constantly by skilled players. He could just drive around and have fun.
That’s a big part of its appeal now, too, more than a decade later. And it’s especially noticeable if you’re coming from GTA Online, where other players attempt to shoot at you, run you over, or run you off the road every other minute. Where GTA Online has a “passive” mode that offers a scant layer of protection for newbies and non-violent players (there are, sadly, many ways to kill a player set as passive), Multi Theft Auto and SA-MP each offer hundreds of servers where cold-blooded murder is rare. As SA-MP player JasperM notes, “the GTA SA online community is a lot more friendly and less toxic than GTA Online where people randomly hunt you down for no reason.”
Dan suggests that the root of this comparative friendliness is in the mod architecture and the game itself. San Andreas plays terribly as a shooter. Its verbs — the actions players can take — may skew towards violence, but its systems and world design favour different kinds of experiences. Indeed, deathmatch servers are uncommon; players tend to gravitate more to free-roam (the world is a playground to explore and crash and do stunts in), racing (think TrackMania, not Forza; Multi Theft Auto’s initial release was actually restricted only to this), cops and robbers, and (overwhelmingly) roleplay.
Role-playing servers present the GTA that critics clamour for. Instead of using the enormous, detailed world as a playground for a mass murderer, possibly of migrant or poverty-stricken origins, who sometimes moonlights as a taxi driver or vigilante cop, they let you be a taxi driver or policeman or incarcerated criminal or dock worker or whatever else. I tried one such server where you arrive as a migrant worker with no belongings and no money beyond a 20 “ECash” cheque. Even with the money from that cheque you still can’t afford to get a job (yes, it costs money to get a job), so you need to either hang out at the bank until 6am (whereupon in a surprisingly socialist twist you’ll receive another 20 ECash) or go do bottom-of-the-barrel jobs like street sweeping, collecting trash, and mowing the golf course.
In another server, I tried my hand at being a professional trucker, a la SCS Software’s Truck Simulator games but with crappy physics and the ability to get out of the truck to walk around or stop for lunch or any of a dozen other things. I also tried my hand at a prison server that’s nigh unplayable without learning a complex set of typed commands and role-playing etiquette.
There are lots and lots of options for roleplay across the two multiplayer mods, some narrow and focused like the prison and trucking servers mentioned above and others broader and more ambitious and reliant upon a whole virtual society forming within the San Andreas world (or a custom map). Dan mentions that MTA even has a server where you can get a job as an astronaut and fly to the moon to mine moon rock.
GTA Online has delivered the traditional GTA experience in a multiplayer package — stealing cars, killing cops, driving like a maniac, punching random pedestrians while they scream or talk smack at you, and causing as much chaos as possible. “But what Multi Theft Auto has delivered is something that other people were looking for,” Dan explains. “They’re looking for these role-playing games. They’re looking for some crazy customisable races. And what we’ve been able to do is just niche into a market where people can build experiences really quickly and really easily. And players can just flock to that.” Several players I consulted emphasised this point, noting that the big variety in servers keeps San Andreas multiplayer feeling fresh in a way that GTA Online doesn’t.
They also talk about community. It’s GTA, so there are still plenty of jerks, but online staff members and anti-cheat tools keep them at bay and the tight-knit community on many servers quickly stamps out the anti-social behaviour (caveat: a few players noted that the admins on some servers are just as guilty of bad behaviour). “People play on the same server for a while and become friends,” says a player who goes by the handle Kimble. PrO.GameR echoes the sentiment, suggesting that GTA Online has considerably lower maturity levels. He also praises SA-MP’s depth. “SA-MP is the land of possibilities and the only limitations are the server scripter’s imaginations,” he says.
It helps, too, that the system requirements are modest. “A lot of our players are just on their laptops or ancient office computers,” Dan explains. “And those are the kinds of people who jump in. That’s not by design. That’s not something we intended. But that’s how our player base is growing. Because the actual experiences in the servers themselves are very complex, and they’re very elaborate. They can compete with professionally developed games.” Yet unlike those games they compare to, these San Andreas server experiences will run on an ancient rig. “Even if you just look at a race on its own, the idea that you can build custom maps and race with other online players with really modest requirements has captured a niche.”
Dan believes the low system requirements really can’t be understated as integral to MTA’s growth. “After version 1.1 we implemented translation and internationalisation,” he explains. “It’s really tapped into this market of middle eastern and Russian gamers who perhaps can’t afford a top-spec rig but they can easily install this and run it.” Put down a mere £10 to buy the game on Steam, then downgrade the executable and install one of the mods and a crappy PC can suddenly handle your pick of hundreds of popular online racing, exploration, role-playing, trucking, competitive action, flight, and stunt driving games that all run on mod servers. “I think that’s the reason why we’re successful. Because still no one’s addressing this,” Dan continues. “There’s not a commercial game out there that’s really community-driven and you can build your own game modes in [to this extent with system requirements anywhere near this modest].”
SA-MP and especially MTA — because it’s open source — differ fundamentally from GTA Online in that they are bottom-up projects. They don’t simply dictate, “this is what we think GTA should be”, but rather evolve with their community. “Our approach has just become ‘hey this is what people like doing. Let’s build towards that,'” Dan explains. And Dan says there’s almost like a chain of command. The players make requests or complaints, or play in a certain way that gets the notice of the server owners, who work with scripters to enhance the experience and file bug reports or requests directly with the mod developers for specific issues. Those improvements, such as an API for importing custom cars, will then filter back down, propagating through to other servers.
In the early days, the multiplayer mods offered what Dan calls the “bog standard” game modes — things like deathmatch, team deathmatch, some kind of assault, and other modes that were common in early-2000s first-person shooters (but now with cars and a bigger map). But it was the freeroam and race modes (and later roleplay) that gained traction and ended up setting the direction for the future.
Some of the most interesting things emerge as meta games. Dan describes how a feature of freeroam mode that lets you warp to another player’s location has on some servers sparked clan wars. “People have mastered warping to people and knifing them instantly. It’s so random, but now there’s this competitive underground thing on MTA that’s banned on some servers because people hate having people warp to them and kill them instantly.”
The dynamism of the San Andreas multiplayer community boils down to the complexity that San Andreas itself provides: a huge, sprawling, interesting map with dozens of vehicles and a cache of weapons that enable chaos and destruction on varying levels, plus a whole suite of RPG elements like the food and exercise and dating systems that we all loved and loathed and that made my CJ distinct from yours.
The mods are elaborate extensions to the San Andreas game engine, but their ambitions in enabling compelling multiplayer experiences are both matched and made possible by the ambition of San Andreas as a single-player experience. And that they’re not only still around but actually growing attests to the unending capacity of organised fans to keep a great game vibrant. People keep playing because they can, and because 11 years later the world of San Andreas still has more to offer.
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