"Believe the hype: This Game is The Gold Standard!"5.0 starson by LobeliaTook
Pros: Huge game space, better targeting, intricate plot, fantastic scenery and ability photograph it, to name a few.
Cons: Not many. The addition of two necessary flying missions can drive you crazy.
Summary: I thought Vice City was fantastic...and it is...but San Andreas FAR surpassed my wildest dreams. When I first hopped on a motorcycle and rode out into "Red County", I was flabbergasted at the enormous and detailed countryside. Little did I know what was in store, as CJ made it to San Fierro (a terrific condensation of San Francisco!) and then out to the desert and Las Venturas (Vegas).
Some of the missions are absurdly easy, while others (Toreno, a bizarre government agent, hilariously voiced by James Woods, forces CJ, not only to learn to fly, but then navigate the entire game space and BACK, in a touchy, WWI plane! You see the "WASTED" screen a LOT in this mission).
Another great feature is the believable relationships, which, like real ones, grow and deteriorate. Some people CJ suspects, like Cesar (his sister's boyfriend) and Wu Zi Mu (aka "Woozie"), a Triad boss, become stalwart friends. In a tragi-comic side plot, CJ also befriends famous, but drug-addicted rapper "Madd Dogg", again, wonderfully voiced by Ice-T, along with an aging hippie, "The Truth" (Peter Fonda!).
Still other characters CJ has known for years and trusts, betray him and even try to kill him. This, plus the necessary gang wars, give "non-gangsta's" a fairly good idea of the rush of battle and the near-despair of constant death and harassment by police and rival gangs. Even CJ's own brother, Sweet, eventually gives up and begins trying crack.
The missions are so diverse, they barely need any augmentation, yet you still have it. There are side missions galore, including a cute, yet EXTREMELY difficult one involving a Geek war with remote airplanes and helicopters!
Dating seems like an easy thing, but it is NOT! Most of the girls are hard to please, if not outright homicidal (Cesar's cousin, Catalina). Not to worry; after a "disastrous" date, CJ can still pick up one of the many hookers for some satisfaction. If he completes the Pimp mission, they pay HIM!
Sex not your bag? Try gambling in Las Venturas, or OTB shops and pool halls around San Andreas. Enter triathlons races with "Bloodring" cars, lowriders, high-performance autos, motocycles, mountain bikes, airplane & helicopter or try stunt-bike challenges (VERY difficult!).
The list of non-story missions is so long it'd take me an hour to list them all! Suffice it to say, if this game bores you, then you should just move in with Ned Flanders!
The interactions between various gangs is now larger and have "back stories"...an explanation of sorts, unlike the Cubans and others in Vice city who simply milled around, waiting to jump you.
Here, you may be on your way to a date or mission, yet suddenly attacked by rival "Ballas" from the old hood (often a drive-by), or in San Fierro, strolling near the docks when Vietnamese "Da Nang Boys" just open fire! Keeps you on your toes. You DO get your revenge on these guys, both by fighting back AND through missions. Even the pedestrians, and not just the hookers, often carry guns, knives and other weapons, and you don't have to car-jack them for them to attack you!
Your friend Cesar's gang, Varrios los Aztecas, help you, but if you hang round them long enough, they'll shoot you just because you're not one of them. Eventually, he enlists you to help "clean up HIS hood", just as he has helped you through the game.
The weapons here are FANTASTIC! Many forums have posts about which ones are peoples favorites. Though it's tough to say, the "Desert (one shot!) Eagle" is one of my first picks, but in this game, you can even kill somebody with the flower bouquet you were bringing to your girlfriend!
Furthermore, after a few trials and errors, you get to pilot the equivalent of a Harrier jet and engage a fighter pilot with SAM's! Targeting is much improved over previous GTA's, at least on the PS2, so it's entirely possible to take out a warehouse full of Mafiosi with Tec 9's if you're good enough (if not, go practice at Ammunation!).
Another fun addition is the use of parachutes. Though you need to use them in at least three missions, they are fun for all occasions. You can base-jump off of skyscrapers in all three cities, but after you get to 100% with your required dates, and are sick of their whining, take one out in a helicopter....when she starts in, YOU can jump out, and often watch her plunge, sometimes to her death, sometimes just to taking points away for "abandoning" her! Great fun.
One thing about this game that I did NOT experience much in Vice City, was the desire to re-visit cool locations, like the desert, or even to start new games over and over, after finishing the main mission. This is the mark of a truly great game: when you just want it to go on and on! They could easily make this game twice the size and twice as long...and people would wait years to get their hands on it!
As CJ would say: "Welcome to America!"
P.S. Regarding the issue of video game violence, I often play this game, just to RELEASE pent-up aggression!