Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Xbox)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, September 19, 2005

Graphics: 8.00
Sound: 9.50
Gameplay: 10.00
Replays: 9.50

Xbox owners have had to endure months of waiting, but that wait is finally over. San Andreas is finally out for the Xbox, and although many gamers probably borrowed their friend’s PS2’s to put some time in on it, those who only own an Xbox should go and pick it up now. But what about those who already own the PS2 original? Those gamers should realize the enhancements are minor and decide on their own.

The game certainly does look better when compared to its Playstation 2 counterpart. Character models and lighting have definitely been improved, which is a big plus. However, the game doesn’t stack up to some of the top Xbox games graphically. But, this isn’t necessarily that important. Because San Andreas has a bigger sense of scale than almost any other game out there. The entire game is basically one big state, and everything flows very well. The countryside in between city areas is interesting, and it can take a long time to move from one area to the other. If there’s one flaw though (and this would obviously be a limitation of the Xbox), it’s that sometimes when you’re moving fast you get to an area in the environment before it has finished streaming.

San Andreas’ amazing sound work remains intact on the Xbox, and the support for Dolby surround sound only further enhances it. Voice actors do a great and believable job and draw you further into the game atmosphere, while the banter of random bystanders will sometimes make you laugh. Once again, Rockstar must be commended for having an excellent selection of songs included in the game, as well as interesting radio commercials. But once again, Xbox owners can include a custom soundtrack. A cool feature is that they can actually make this operate as a radio station, with in-game commercials added in between songs and everything. This is definitely a cool feature and it would be great if this trend continued.

From the standpoint of someone who has played the Playstation 2 version to death, the controls still feel a bit more natural on the aforementioned system. But, they do manage to transfer quite nicely over to the Xbox. Once you get used to using X as the handbrake and the black and white buttons to change weapons, you’ll be killing rival gang members and taking out cop cars in no time.

Most gamers know this by now, but for those who don’t, you step into the shoes of Carl (CJ) Johnson. He arrives back in his Grove Street hood to discover all kind of things are out of whack, and quickly begins taking jobs from his buddies. San Andreas has a ton of variety, one mission you’ll be dancing, and the next you’ll be helping with drive by shootings. It keeps the game fresh and keeps the player immensely interested.

So, what else is new in the Xbox version? The biggest plus would definitely be that the load times are much shorter when compared to the PS2 edition. Especially in indoor areas, load times are now barely noticeable, it’s just great. Also, Rockstar has added a replay feature, which allows you to replay the last 30 seconds of gameplay. This is a pretty cool little feature and a nice addition.

Yes, the differences between the PS2 and Xbox versions of San Andreas are fairly minor. But for people who only own an Xbox, this game is a must buy, no doubts about it. For those who already have played the hell out of the Playstation 2 version, just realize the differences are fairly minor, and base your decision on that. But nevertheless, San Andreas is a great game, no matter which system you pick it up for. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next.

Overall Rating: 9.50

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