Soapbox: GTA: San Andreas remains an open world classic

Soap box GTA San Andreas PS2 1

The rumor that Rockstar is remastering PlayStation 2’s Grand Theft Auto game trilogy for PlayStation 5 and PS4 last week had a profound impact on me: I just had to go back to the fictional state of San Andreas. My story with the open world of 2004 is both fortuitous and a little embarrassing in fact: despite asking for a copy for my birthday and Christmas, my mom refused to buy the game she had read so much in the past. tabloids. It wasn’t until a few years later that, in a strange twist of fate, I stumbled upon an abandoned DVD by the side of the road. It was, by the grace of God, a copy of San Andreas – scratched and scratched, but pretty much playable.

Although I don’t remember the campaign as well as I did discovering the record, it certainly appealed to my “life sim” sensibility. As a huge fan of franchises like Shenmue, I’ve always enjoyed this ‘slice of life’ style gameplay, and although GTA: San Andreas is unsurprisingly rude and portrays a lifestyle I couldn’t be further from I enjoyed role-playing items like going to the gym and eating at fast food restaurants. Although I hesitate to call it unprecedented – games like The Sims were also popular back then – the idea of ​​a sandbox where you could go anywhere and do anything was still relatively nascent at that time, and GTA: San Andreas still impresses today.

GTA San Andreas PS2 2 soap box

I downloaded the PS2 Classics version to my PS5 last week just to fuel my hype for the impending remasters. Aside from adding trophies – and, in GTA’s case, removing some songs – these actually work on a PS2 emulator, so I was expecting stretched 480p graphics to fit my big screen TV. . There’s a distinctive look that all PS2 games have these days: it’s dirty, hazy, and a bit drab – but San Andreas still impresses with its chunky animation cycles and attention to detail.

I was actually more worried about the gameplay than the graphics, but after playing GTA 5 a lot lately, it’s amazing how well it holds up. Don’t get me wrong, the movement is jerky and the camera tends to go completely AWOL, but in terms of the control scheme it is virtually identical to its contemporary – in fact the only major difference is the acceleration mapping and vehicle braking. to the face buttons, as these are obviously by default the triggers of more modern incarnations of the DualShock controller.

The writing is fantastic overall: the characters are, admittedly, cartoonish – but they all have personality and there are plenty of gags to laugh about. There are some scenes that I think wouldn’t work in a modern context – at the start there is a mission where you chase a flamboyant homosexual who I think shows the age of the game – but CJ is a protagonist that you really feel like you can defend. , and San Andreas feels like a living place where stories overlap and you just witness the highlights. That’s always been one of Rockstar’s strengths – they build open worlds that not only look alive, but you always feel like you’re just interrupting characters going about their business.

Soap box GTA San Andreas PS2 3

The shooter is simplistic and cumbersome, but it’s not much different from GTA 5 with its lock-on functionality – the only major difference is that free aim is much more restricted, so you can’t go for long-range shots. the head as easily. There is also no traditional cover system in the game – which was introduced with GTA 4 – although you can crouch down to improve aiming accuracy and hide between walls. The missions are surprisingly grandiose, including one where you shoot a gang on top of a train.

It’s the variety that really amazes. Along with all the side activities, like the aforementioned gym, you can also participate in heists and lowrider contests – it’s obscene how much there is on a single PS2 DVD. The checkpoint system is pretty much nonexistent – you can skip routes when you retry failed objectives, but you basically have to replay them from scratch if you make a small mistake – and that’s something I think Rockstar is doing. needs to improve for rumored remasters. But even if it doesn’t really respect your time, the plot rhythms are interesting enough to force you to pull through.

GTA San Andreas PS2 4 soap box

I’m surprised how well GTA: San Andreas looks after all this time. It doesn’t look or play as well as GTA 5, of course, but many of the same systems exist here. Obviously, the likes of GTA 3 and GTA: Vice City need a bigger upgrade – they don’t even use the second analog stick, after all – but the visuals and some mission design quirks set. aside, GTA: San Andreas compares to modern open world games. It’s not without quirks, of course, but that’s part of what makes it such a landmark title – it’s over 15 years old and still feels like he’s ahead in so many ways.

What memories do you have from GTA: San Andreas? Do you plan to replay this classic if the remasters turn out to be real? Follow the damn train in the comments section below.

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