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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to GTA: San Andreas review June 2005, UK edition">GTA san andreas







Every week, we publish a classic PC Gamer review from the '90s or early 2000s. This week, Ben Griffin provides context and commentary followed by the full, original text of our GTA: San Andreas review, published in the July 2005 issue of PC Gamer UK. More classic reviews here.



We're enjoying the height of summer now, but as temperatures plummet and skies darken, Rockstar promise respite from Autumnal misery: GTA 5 on PC. With improved framerates. And increased resolution. And cats! It took no time at all for resident GTA enthusiast, Andy Kelly, to go all CSI on its launch trailer (hammerhead sharks: confirmed).



In light of that, I've decided to delve almost a decade into the past and unearth PC Gamer's San Andreas review. At 94%, it's our highest-rated Grand Theft Auto ever, beating out Vice City by a whole 1%. Why? How? Well, as our reviewer Ross Atherton puts it, the game is, "at once a giant, living playground and a smoothly contoured story. San Andreas still manages to be coherent despite giving the player the opportunity to ditch and pick up the storyline at will."



Pouring over these admittedly rough screens, I'm reminded of a time when a sprawling playing space meant necessary compromise. It was accepted back then look at Morrowind and True Crime. Open world? You'll have a blast, sure, but expect glitches and graphical issues. Since San Andreas the bar's been raised. Even in a game as mind-bogglingly massive as GTA V, we don't expect so much as a stretched texture. And, thanks to Euphoria, we're treated to some of the most convincing physics of any videogame, open world or otherwise.



Nine years on, San Andreas doesn't have great graphics. It doesn't have great physics. It doesn't even have cats. What it does have, though, is a sublime silly streak. It's a bouncing playground filled with sights and delights, whether that's bombing through Red Country on a jet-pack, crop dusting with Guns 'N Roses on the radio, or pumping iron at the local gym. With a staggering amount to see and do, wrapped in in Rockstar's trademark cultural satire, we strongly recommended it then and we strongly recommend it now.

GTA: San Andreas review

Welcome to GTA as it was always meant to be.



Forget the fact that GTA San Andreas started life as a PlayStation 2 game. The ugly caterpillar has become a beautiful (if foul-mouthed) butterfly. The fifth in a series that since its 2D birth on PC (back in 1997) has celebrated despicable gangsters and drive-by/-thru/-into and -over crime. San Andreas reaches new lows of depraved morality, senseless violence and alpha-male aggression. But it s the fact that it s one of the best games ever made that has already propelled it to console ultra-success.



GTA 3 struggled to make the technical leap to PC with its code intact, but months of finger-crossing and animal sacrifices to nameless gods have paid off. San Andreas runs like a dream, with the excellent mouse and keyboard control system of Vice City, extended visual range and atmospheric effects.



Like its two more recent predecessors, San Andreas puts you in the shoes of a central character about to embark on a life of crime. However, CJ aka Carl Johnson is no career mobster in the mould of Vice City s Tommy Vercetti. In fact, he s been away from the hood for five years to try and escape the gang violence endemic in his home city of Los Santos. He s brought back by his mother s untimely death. Hooking up with his brother Sweet and old friends, CJ is inevitably drawn back into the world he had left behind; a world of guns, drugs, territory, casual violence and respect .



Respect is actually a measured factor which is raised by performing notorious criminal acts. High respect means you can reinforce CJ with extra gang members when attempting to take over enemy territory. Although, initially, CJ doesn t even get respect from his brother. It s a good system, which draws you further into the game. As you complete missions, you start to gain the grudging respect of those around you. Eventually they adore you. San Andreas is no conventional RPG, but there s a definite feeling of character progression in this game.





Or is it an RPG? CJ has several other stats which have subtle but noticeable effects on the game. Driving, cycling, stamina, motorcycling, flying, pistol, rifle... every mode of transport and every type of weapon has an associated skill which increases as you employ it.



Better gun skills mean more accuracy with that weapon, while a higher motorbike skill means you won t fall off as easily if you nick a car or lamp-post. There are even scales for fat, muscle and sex appeal, variously dictated by what and how much you eat; your work in the gym; what you wear; your haircut and your tattoos. Some of this is frippery, but it ll also affect whether you can attract girlfriends (and their subsequent side missions), how much damage you withstand (fatties can take more lead, apparently) and some people s responses to you. Like so much in San Andreas, these statistics are carefully woven into the game s structure.



If you thought that Vice City s twin islands offered a huge playground, prepare your mind for a boggling. San Andreas offers a whole new world of largeness. There are three cities: Los Santos, a version of Los Angeles and your home town; San Fierro, standing in for San Francisco; and Las Venturas, a dusty, neon-bright Las Vegas squatting in the desert. Not only is each vast in its own right, but the intervening space is expansive and packed. After the first ten hours or so, you re encouraged out of Los Santos and introduced to a world of hicks, country music, tractors and remote, winding roads. The game s sense of place is so distinct that, as black CJ, you actually feel out of place in the small towns that dot the countryside.



As you get sucked further into the nefarious scheming of the corrupt cops excellently voiced by Samuel L Jackson and Chris Penn, you re dragged through the rolling countryside and north into San Fierro, all the time meeting and working for bizarre and intriguing characters. With a much more memorable layout than the first city, it s an even more exciting place to be, and you ll be rushing back and forth between the cities too, through the countryside. Eventually you ll progress to Las Venturas and then back to Los Santos to tie up the loose ends of the story.





Throughout the game, the variety of the 100-plus missions never fails to delight. Steal a combine harvester. Infiltrate a secret army base. Chase down thieves on quad bikes. Rob a bank. Shoot down remote-controlled planes with a minigun. Rescue a bunch of stoned English rockers from the desert. Fly a plane to Liberty City to carry out a hit. From the simple to the devilish, from the grimly criminal to the comedic, from the sublime to the ridiculous, San Andreas retains the power to surprise and entertain throughout its lengthy structure.



Not just in terms of the missions, either: you ll be infiltrating, burgling, flying, following, swimming, and shooting as a passenger as well as the more usual shooting and driving. My only quibble is that CJ never questions the reasoning behind the hundreds of casualties he s asked to inflict. Kill that man? Aiight, sums up his usual response, and at times it s hard to empathise with such a cold-blooded hero.



As in the previous two GTA games, you can invest your cash in properties, some of which will provide an income once you ve established a business there, and others which just act as new save points. These special locations often require you to complete a series of missions, offering yet another avenue to pursue. At any given time you ll have between one and half a dozen mission paths on offer, for you to take up in any order you want, or ignore completely in favour of a spot of pimping, exploring, police-baiting, male grooming or just riding around.



At once a giant, living playground and a smoothly contoured story, San Andreas still manages to be coherent despite giving the player the opportunity to ditch and pick up the storyline at will. The world doesn t have to depend on cutscenes for consistency, because there s always something going on, even if just in the background, to provide colour, life and atmosphere. The radio stations, legendary in GTA 3 and Vice City, are back with a dozen to choose from. As ever, Rockstar s cultural references are spot-on, and anyone older than their mid-20s will be powerfully reminded of their youth with the likes of Public Enemy, Primal Scream and Guns N Roses. The interludes and chat shows are superbly scripted, if not quite as bizarrely hilarious as Vice City s. Again, the PC version enables us to supply MP3s and have them played on a dedicated radio channel.





San Andreas does the simple things well. Just stand on any given street, and within seconds you ll see little tableaux developing. Pedestrians bump into each other, pass comments at you and others, and get run over. If you re in an unfriendly hood, thugs wearing enemy gang colours will swagger up, offering threats, and eventually attack.



Just existing is more gripping than before. Your wanted level is again represented by stars, but here just one star will have the cops shooting and crashing cars like their doughnuts depended on it. Wanted stars are harder to get rid of, and even civilians will react angrily if you nudge their cars. As a result, you can t afford to be too carefree while cruising the streets. This, combined in particular with Los Santos gritty, often run-down atmosphere, makes the overall experience quite different to Vice City s cartoon world. Actions have consequences seems to be the moral message.



That s not to say that San Andreas is humourless: quite the opposite. From the missions and cutscenes, to incidental dialogue and even tiny signs in obscure shops, you ll see Rockstar s trademark comedy style, ranging from the juvenile to the very explicit. San Andreas isn t afraid to say anything. Minor graphical scars left from its painful transformation into a PC game do nothing to dull San Andreas inner beauty. The best of the series, and already a contender for game of the year.
Shacknews - Robert Workman
The Electronic Entertainment Expo is conference that is known for high points that shake up the gaming world, along with low points that can't be shaken from memory. Not to say all the conferences are triumphant or memorable, but each stood out in their own way.

Here are some of our favorite highlights over the years from the big event, and maybe we'll add on a few more after next week.
Announcement - Valve
The Rockstar Publisher Weekend continues today with great deals on Rockstar titles! From now through Monday* pick up titles up to 80% off!

Today's Daily Deal features the Grand Theft Auto IV up to 80% off!

*All discounts end Monday, March 17th at 10AM Pacific Time.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Following its release on iOS in December, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is now out for Android and Kindle doodads too, priced at $6.99. Until phones get powerful enough to run Grand Theft Auto V in another decade, pottering around the city of San Andreas as CJ will have to do.
Shacknews - Steve Watts
As promised, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has hit iOS devices today. It's available for $6.99 on iPhone 4s, iPad 2 and later, and Rockstar promises it will be coming soon to Android, Kindle, and Windows Phone.
Shacknews - Andrew Yoon
Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Following the successful release of GTA3 and Vice City, Rockstar Games has announced a mobile port of San Andreas. Coming next month on "select" iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows devices, the upcoming portable version of the game will include full controller support, including Made for iOS controller capability introduced in iOS 7.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to GTA 5 PC release: all the evidence so far">GTA 5







Hordes of postmen fill the street, armies of retail staff scurry through their fluorescent aisles, and the world's console-owning population have simultaneously phoned in a variety of minor ailments. Grand Theft Auto V has launched and, by all reports, it's A Big Deal. Unless you own a PC, that is, in which case, it's a Tuesday.



What hope do we have of joining GTA 5's triumvirate of crims and, more importantly, when? Rockstar's sandbox of car chases and petty violence began its life on PC, but without an official announcement, is it safe to assume that we'll ever have a chance to holiday in the latest Los Santos? Let's delve into the murky lake of internet rumour, and fish out any facts we can find.







Leaky Lists



A publisher can use its own roving bands of guerilla PRs to whip employees into a cowed silence. The same isn't true of external partners and retailers. All sorts of GTA 5 info has oozed from the retail counters, from an early look at the map, to copies of the game itself. That may lend credibility to a number of online retail listings for a PC release.



Amazon France kicked things off at the start of the year, by taking taking pre-orders for a boxed PC copy. Then, in May, German retailers sprang to action, with both Amazon Germany and GamesOnly posting their own speculative PC pre-orders. Interestingly, GamesOnly briefly posted early details of the console versions' special edition. They were right on the money.



Does that validate the listings? Not really. Sometimes it's less about responding to information, as it is about anticipating that information. Yes, retailers will often have forewarning of announcements, but that's not the only reason they'd promote an unannounced game. Right now, Amazon UK has a landing page for Grand Theft Auto 5 PC. It quietly exists on their website, collecting the email addresses of potential customers and soaking up lovely SEO points. The need to be in the best position if/when a PC version is announced skews how much we can extrapolate from their actions.







Immoral Code



Here's the most recent piece of 'evidence'. A config file has appeared that, allegedly, was taken from a pirated copy of GTA 5's Xbox 360 version. The XML code makes reference to both PC and Orbis, the PS4's operating system. The full file is up on PasteBin, but here are the relevant PC mentions:



Image source: DualShockers



Config code found within the game? On the surface it seems like a solid lead, but it assumes that every line of every file is created from scratch. It seems more likely that this is a standard template, which would of course contain references to a PC build - along with any other platforms Rockstar might be internally experimenting on. Moreover, the presence of a PC build isn't in and of itself confirmation of a PC release. It's just an indicator that, as with most games, PCs were used as part of the game's development.



That's not to say this discovery is completely without merit. But, as above, there are too many possible caveats for it to be a firm indicator of Rockstar's release strategy.







Unreliable Informant



Last month, Chris Evans, the senior director of investor relations at Nvidia, said the following during an earnings call:



"The PC market is evolving. As entry level laptops face pressure from tablets. Yet sales of specialty PCs like gaming systems and work stations continue to grow. The disparity reflects how consumers use these different classes of PCs. Many consumers look for PC as a general purpose device they can use for browsing, email, social media video. But much of this can be better served by a tablet. In contrast, gamers are preparing their systems for a strong roster of games coming this fall, including blockbuster franchises, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin’s Creed IV."



The need to prepare driver updates and tailor hardware profiles means that GPU manufacturers like Nvidia can forge strong relationships with developers. If GTA 5 is heading to PC, they'd likely know about it. And here we have a senior director directly linking the game's Autumn release with the need to 'prepare systems'. It seemed like solid intel.



Unfortunately, it wasn't. Nvidia's senior PR manager Bryan Del Rizzo later released a statement, clarifying what Evans said:



“Please note, during our Thursday’s earnings call, our investor relations team provided a list of important games that gamers are looking forward to on PC this fall, and included Grand Theft Auto V on that list. This statement was made with the intent of expressing enthusiasm for the games industry in general, and was not intended to represent specific knowledge possessed by NVIDIA. NVIDIA does not have information on any possible PC version release of Grand Theft Auto or its availability. We deeply regret the error.”



Even if you're the suspicious type, and assume the latter statement was the company covering its tracks, the timetable doesn't make sense. It's too close to today's console release, and too soon for the Rockstar marketing train to leave its station. At best, we can anticipate an announcement before the end of the year. But if the game is coming, it'll be 2014 at the earliest.



On the next page: promising leads, historical trends, and direct information from Rockstar. Why GTA 5 is almost certainly coming to PC.









One Last Job



Back in July, Rockstar Leeds advertised for a new Graphic Programmer. The job description should be of particular interest:



"Rockstar Leeds are currently looking for a talented graphics programmer to help bring our latest titles to the PC platform. Working together with the other Rockstar studios, you will be responsible for maintaining the studio’s uncompromising quality bar, delivering the highest quality PC experience possible."



The phrase "help bring our latest titles to the PC platform" sounds pretty unambiguous. While there's an outside chance it refers to new games from existing series, Rockstar Leeds have form in taking on porting duties on older games. Their last project was was the PC version of LA Noire.



GTA 4, incidentally, was ported by Rockstar Toronto, who also collaborated with Rockstar Vancouver on Max Payne 3 before the two studios were merged. If this new plus-sized Toronto has shifted towards development of new games, Leeds would be the natural choice for heading up the company's PC porting duties. What "latest title" will they be working on? GTA 5 seems the only sensible choice.







Strength in Numbers



While we're making assumptions about Rockstar's internal workings, let's talk about its history. One of the strongest indicators of a post-console PC version is that the GTA series keeps doing them. As T.J. methodically charted, the gap between the launch console and PC release has stayed relatively stable, hovering at just over the 6 month mark. The gap between announcements is less consistent: in fact, it's growing. GTA is trending towards keeping PC - and potentially next-gen console owners - in the dark for longer. It's almost as if delaying the reveal of a more powerful version is a good way of maximising profits across multiple platforms... is what a cynic might say.



There's a chance you spent the entirety of that last paragraph shouting "RED DEAD REDEMPTION" at the screen. Fair enough, the outstanding recreation of the last days of the wild west is unusual among Rockstar titles of similar scope and scale in that it never came to PC. It is, however, the exception rather than the rule. Both LA Noire and Max Payne 3 found their way to us, proving that despite RDR's absence, there's no institutional shift away from the platform within Rockstar.



During a 2011 community Q&A post on Rockstar's Newswire, they hinted at why that particular game didn't cross over, and also used their subsequent PC ports as evidence that "we can finally put to rest any misconceptions that we’ve ‘abandoned the PC platform'." The post went on to state:



"We do know that, yes, there is just one title absent from our PC release plans – that game of course being Red Dead Redemption, and of course we’re well aware that some fans have been asking for it. All we can say is that whenever it is viable (technically, developmentally and business-wise) for us to release a game for PC (or any other particular platform) – we will and we usually do; unfortunately, that is just not the case 100% of the time for all platforms."



Layers of corporate obfuscation aside, it suggests that RDR was held back because of a specific issue with the Rockstar San Diego game. Whether it was technical, developmental, or business-wise-al, none of those factors are likely to apply to the publisher's most successful series from their flagship development team.







Lasting Infamy



While I'm quoting Rockstar, let's take a look at an understated line from CVG's giant interview with Rockstar North president Leslie Benzies on the subject of GTA Online. When asked if there was a definitive end to the game's online portion, he said, "probably not. Because we want it to last forever."



"We'll stop when we've simulated life - and then that will be the end! No, people have to keep going. There should never be an, "Oh, I've reached the end." We've got to have goals, and we've got to have stepping stones, but there should never really be an end."







GTA Online is a persistent, updating, 16-player version of GTA 5. Given that, and Rockstar's stated commitment to make it a lasting experience, why would you restrict it to the tail-end of a console's life-cycle? It seems natural that Rockstar are going to want it to live on in a more stable, long-term environment. Yes, that could apply to next-gen consoles, too. But it's a description that fits the PC like a glove.



Later on in the interview, Benzies states, "we'll get the current gen version out first and see what happens in the future." Which, if nothing else, proves that you don't get to be the president of a major developer without being able to coyly dodge questions about an unannounced release.



There's the evidence, all that remains is how you interpret it. What do you think of GTA 5's PC release chances?
Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

The PC version of Grand Theft Auto 4 is unquestionably the best version of the game. Why? Mods. The still-active modding community has added a number of incredible features to Rockstar's open world. iCEnhancer, for example, makes the game look awfully pretty.

Rockstar has yet to announce a PC version of GTA 5, much to the chagrin of PC gamers everywhere. Of course, the modding community isn't going to sit still. In fact, someone's already working on retrofitting one of the sequel's new features back into Liberty City.

In GTA 5, you'll be able to switch between any of the three main characters at any time, no matter where they are in the city. GTA X Scripting (via Destructoid) is attempting to introduce that feature into GTA 4, by having 1, 2, and 3 hot-keyed to three different playable characters: Niko, Johnny, and Luis--the latter two being the stars of the Episodes from Liberty City DLC expansions.

When not being controlled, the two other characters will "wander around" and even evade the cops. It's an interesting tweak, one that will give PC gamers just the smallest taste of GTA 5.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories gets a PC mod-port">Vice City Stories







Y'know what's cool about PC gaming? Besides the absurd graphics and the pinpoint accuracy afforded to us by our peripherals and, well, everything? It's the fact that even games never intended for PC eventually make their way to us anyway. That's what's happened with the formerly PlayStation-only Vice City Stories, which is today playable by PC folks thanks to a new mod, currently in beta testing.



The mod, codenamed "Blue Hesper," aims to transplant the entire game into a PC install of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They're not quite there yet, but a lot of engine tweaks have been made, and most of the first chapter is available for completion.



The 768 MB of nostalgia-stirrer's now downloadable at ModDB. All you'll need is a clean, modless install of San Andreas on your system. Let us know if you give this a try—I'd like to know how my boy Vic Vance is doing.



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Former GTA dev vowed never to work on a violent game again">Grand Theft Auto: Vice Cities







An emerging theme in the games industry is developers engaging the idea that games may be disproportionately violent or too derivative. Deus Ex creator Warren Spector spoke out about the latter recently, launching off the reveal trailer for the new Wolfenstein: A New Order. Joining the conversation now is Jeremy Pope, a veteran of Rockstar Games and former production manager for Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and Max Payne. In an interview with GamesIndustry International, Pope explains why he will never work on a violent game again.

“I would always kind of defend the games we were making and I was pretty proud of being involved,” he said, “but then when I would visit my grandmother in highly religious Alabama and have to explain what I do for a living, I didn't feel so great about explaining to them that I was a part of 'that game' they've been hearing about."

Pope says his decision to avoid violent games is about working on projects he can "feel a bit better about," but doesn't disparage Rockstar's accomplishments.

"I definitely want to make a point of saying that I actually love Rockstar's games," he said.

In the wide-ranging interview, Pope discusses the perception of games in the mainstream news media and how gaming is so often used as a convenient scapegoat for political topics like gun violence.

“We had the same problem 10 years ago and it still persists today,” Pope says about the NRA blaming games for high-profile gun violence. “We don't really have a great ambassador, if you will… And then you see the NRA has one guy who goes up on a podium and gives a talk, and whether you agree with it or not there is a clear single voice and something to react to.”

Check out the full interview here.
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