Nov 10, 2014
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alice O'Connor)
You might have noticed Steam downloading a sizeable update for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas over the weekend and wondered what that was about. A fancy secret tying into GTA V’s return to the west coast, perhaps? Not quite. The patch added support for XInput controllers like the Xbox 360 pad, which is nice, but also removed seventeen songs from various radio stations. No more angsting out and gunning it across Gant Bridge in the wrong lane listening to Killing in the Name, I’m afraid. It breaks old saves for some too, though a mod fixes that up.
Sep 5, 2014
Chris Livingston has already extolled the virtues of Grand Theft Auto 4's amazing #WatchDogsIV mod. For the uninitiated, it brings Watch Dogs style environment hacking into GTA's Liberty City. For a full round-up of what it enables, head on over to Chris's Mod of the Week post. For a small look into the type of chaos it supports, stay right here.
Being a child, the first thing I did on loading the game was to start a traffic jam:
So far, so Watch Dogs. But the Traffic Lights prompt reappears quickly after. I wonder...
Yup. Multiple prompts means multiple pile-ups, meaning I can stack this thing right up. Time to do that. Everybody, welcome to the jam.
What makes this so funny other than the obvious is that the cars in the crash accelerate every time I hit the prompt, pushing them deeper and deeper into the ultra-jam. Also, as you can see from the picture above, a man has spontaneously combusted.
That's probably not a good sign.
Nope, definitely not a good sign. We have reached peak jam. It is jam-a-geddon.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this tanked the game's framerate. My rig battled on regardless to bring you this dramatic re-enactment.
You can download #WatchDogsIV from here, and you probably should.
Like me, you've probably spent dozens of hours in Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City, but often wish there was some way to cause a little destruction and mayhem. Finally, there is! The #WatchDogsIV mod summons the sullen Aiden Pearce from Watch Dogs, and more importantly, brings along Aiden's awesome Phone of Hacking +4. Traffic lights, payphones, ATMs, security cameras, and those poles that shoot up out of the street: they're now yours for the hacking! The once utterly peaceful Liberty City is about to get flip-turned upside down.
Just about all the tricks up Aiden's futuristic trenchcoat sleeve are now at your disposal as you prowl the streets of Liberty City. Walk within range of a hackable object, and you'll get a little icon on your screen. Hold down the 'E' key, and the icon will be outlined. It works pretty much exactly as it does in Watch Dogs, right down to the little electrical tendrils that spread from Aiden's phone when he hacks something.
That public phone exploded! Thank god no one was using it for the last 10 years!
Naturally, triggering traffic lights is great fun, and dare I say it, causes even bigger and badder accidents than it does in Watch Dogs. You can also blow things up, though instead of steam fittings and electrical junctions, it's Liberty City's payphones that explode. (I know what you're thinking. Exploding payphones? That's utterly ridiculous: payphones don't even exist.) Those poles that pop out of the street work most of the time, and are great for keeping the cops off your tail when they come to investigate why everything is suddenly exploding.
Oh, LCPD. Will your humiliations ever end?
Speaking of the po-po, it seems like the entire Chicago policing system has been ported over from Watch Dogs. Commit a crime, and a nearby citizen may call the police on you. You'll hear the call taking place, and the eyewitness will be highlighted with an icon, allowing you to interfere before the 9-1-1 call is complete. If the call goes through, the police will be dispatched and your radar will show ctOS scanning for your location. The mod even has options to make the police better drivers and more accurate shooters, if you want to make things harder on yourself.
No more smashing cars yourself. There's an app for that.
There's more phone-foolery! You can now remotely activate car alarms like Aiden, though in Watch Dogs that was used to distract guards, and now it's mainly just useful for startling pedestrians. You can jump into security cameras, and use them to jump into other cameras, and set off other hackable objects while peering through the lens from a safe distance. And, while you can stop the trains, just like in Watch Dogs, there's not much point in doing so, just like in Watch Dogs. But, who needs to have a point? You have some new ways to terrorize the citizens of Liberty City, and that's its own reward.
Stop the train! No reason. Just wanted to see if I could do it. I could.
The mod makes you move like Aiden as well. When you walk, you'll stuff your hands in your pockets and keep your head down, which is the best way to avoid suspicion when you're a famous vigilante the entire city is after. There are new animations for giving you Aiden's awkward sprint, as well as his patented truncheon takedowns which can be performed on anyone you're standing near. There's also a blood-round-the-edges screen effect for when you take damage, which I guess was in Watch Dogs. I'm not sure. I was so good at that game I never took damage.
Beating you up for reasons that are unclear even to me!
I'm told that hacking an ATM will cause money to spray out of it, which will cause citizens to run over to collect it, which will naturally cause a huge fist-fight, which sounds quite amusing. I have to say, though, I drove around for ages and never spotted even a single ATM. You can also cause light fixtures to explode, scaring people, and overload soda machines, spilling cans everywhere. Basically, the mod lets you be a huge, destructive jerk in new and exciting ways, and that's what any good GTA IV mod should do.
Installation: Here's the page to download the mod, with a description of all its features and the control scheme. You'll need to use OpenIV to get the mod working, naturally. And, while the mod makes you run and act like Aiden, it doesn't make you look like Aiden. If you want his goofy trench coat and hat, you'll need to install a separate skin for it (I used this one).
Jul 21, 2014
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Alice O'Connor)
Races have consistently been my least favourite activity and mission style in Grand Theft Auto games, but here I am downloading Grand Theft Auto III so I can play a mod dedicated to the blighters. Liberty City Nights’ creator amibitiously describes it as “the best racing mod GTA III ever saw,” which also implies “the least horrible racing GTA III ever saw,” but that’s not why I’m interested. See, I’m interested in mods which try to recreate or crib from games and series which are no longer made, and Liberty City Nights is after the neon night racing of EA’s Need for Speed Underground subseries.
Jun 30, 2014
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.
Jun 3, 2014
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.
Mar 15, 2014
Announcement - Valve
Jan 7, 2014
Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
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.