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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Preview (Australian Exclusive)

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| Action in Gaming | Posted: Aug 2, 2004 4:00 am

GTA is one gaming series that has managed to please its fans ever since the day of its first release up until the latest GTA: Vice City. Quite a lot has changed in GTA since the early days, however the core addictive and outrageous gameplay has remained making it one of the most successful and recognisable games in existence. One could be excused for thinking that, with its so far unrivaled gameplay, new additions to the series only feature very small changes from game to game as the formula is already very successful, however in the case of GTA: San Andreas, this doesn't seem to be the case at all. Rockstar have gone all out and plan to make San Andreas the most authentic implementation yet, and today we cover some of the features that make this so.

If there was one aspect with the previous GTA titles that didn't quite add up, it was the character customisation. Sure, you could put on different clothes and whatnot, but this just didn't quite cut it, your character still looked the same every time you played the game. San Andreas is all about character customisation, atleast compared to the previous GTA titles, and this time around Carl Johnson, the main character, can be customised with much greater depth. One of the cooler aspects to this new feature set is the ability to ink CJ up with some Tattoos of your choosing, and the way players go about this is treated as you would expect - in typical GTA fashion, you find a tattoo parlor within the city, select your design and you're set. The available tattoo's will change depending on your gang affiliation status, but will also include generic choices from the 1990's LA era as well.

"We wanted people to be in complete control of their characters.  If they didn't like the way he dressed, they could earn enough money to buy new clothes.  The tattoo feature works the same way, only the motivation is different.  If you were in a gang, you'd get a gang tattoo showing that."  - Leslie Benzies

The Rockstar production team worked closely with Mister Cartoon, a legendary LA-based tattoo artist, to develop the look for in-game tattoos. This allows San Andreas to focus on tattoo design for different gangs and regions, for example, the inks for Los Santos residents are often guns, gang names and girls and are heavy and black, whilst in San Fierro you'd be more likely to find Aztec signs and drug iconography etc. It is evident that the tattoo design of gang members is perhaps even more important than finger prints in certain cases - the LAPD maintain a database of gang members including photographs of their unique tattoos, which serves as a reliable means of identification, so there is little doubt this feature will serve a similar purpose in GTA: San Andreas as well.

So with this level of customization, there is no longer only one Carl Johnson, each and every gamer will have his or her chance to make CJ into what it is you want - a first for the GTA series.

Another aspect which needed some attention in the previous GTA titles was the camera control. Whilst most of the time camera placement was fine, a rigid camera in such an action packed game isn't exactly ideal. San Andreas will put an end to this by granting gamers complete control on the in-game camera by simply using the right analog stick, on foot and inside a car. This is, of course, an optional feature that can be disregarded whenever desirable, however for the gamers out there wanting more control in their GTA gaming sessions, this is your ticket. For example, you can now strafe one way with the left analog stick, and look another with the right analog stick, giving much greater control to the gamers who want it.

In weapons mode, the right analog stick is also very useful as it allows you to target all ranged weapons, which means they no longer have to stay in a fixed position. This also means you can move around with the left analog stick and still aim with your right analog stick - something that the GTA series badly needed and will receive in GTA: San Andreas.

As you drive around in your favorite ride you'll find that the cars get dirty - not only yours but also the other cars in the game. Car washing is a luxury many live without in San Andreas, so don't be surprised to find a lot of filthy cars around the streets, not to mention broken windows, bullet holes etc. Unlike the previous GTA games, San Andreas will better reflect its environment with objects such as cars, it seemed in every other version the only damage caused to cars was done by you, however this is now not the case; if you're ready to steal somebody else's ride, be prepared to pick up a genuine piece of crap. If you must keep your car clean however then you can do it, as San Andreas now also features car washes throughout the city. Ok, so a dirty car really isn't much of an issue, but it is features like this that makes GTA what it is today, that extra level of choice and control gives GTA a unique touch and I'm sure this aspect of the game, the dirty cars, will add even more unique charm.

Typically, in GTA, different gangs could be identified by their outfits and location, however in GTA: San Andreas, this has been tweaked considerably. In the previous titles, gang members did little more than hang around chill out, with maybe the occasional outburst here and there, however in San Andreas, there is much more detail in their actions. Players will now see gang members drinking and smoking, greeting each other with their gang signs, and naturally, talking to one another. This will create a much more authentic feel to the game compared to the previous titles, where it felt more like you were the only one doing anything, now you can expect to see the A.I. controlled computer characters interact much more.

Play your cards right and they'll also have your back when you're being chased by the police or a rival gang. Should you be attacked by a rival gang, or by the police on your home turf, you can fully expect backup from your fellow gang members without hesitation. Not only does this act as a form of protection, but it also poses as an interesting strategy to defeat your foes - lure them into your turf and watch the gun fight proceed. However, there is also a catch - you must remember that rival gangs have their own home turf too, so you can expect the same treatment should you pop in uninvited, whether it be on foot or in a car. San Andreas will be quite flexible regarding this matter however, if you come in on a rival gang's turf they won't attack the same way every time - you may find an all out assault in one instance, but in another, they may only send out a few members to take care of you at a time. On the other hand, they may not even come after you as a group at all, so it is very much a "lucky draw" when it comes to moving in rival territories - but probably one you could best do without altogether where ever possible.

"We spent a lot of time getting that level of interaction right, and making it unique. We wanted to convey very clearly that the gangs had a certain way of communicating, very definite mannerisms, and yet had to create signs and language all our own that was faithful to the world we're trying to depict. It was challenging, but it adds a startling level of detail to the game." Said Leslie Benzies.

So there you have it, our first look at GTA: San Andreas, already showing some very impressive signs to further push the series into success. There is no doubt that customization, control and choice are the three main influences behind many of the new additions to the GTA series, not only will gamers be able to make their own character, but they will now also have much greater control, from the camera view to the in-game alliances and affiliations. Make sure to check out our image gallery for Australian exclusive GTA: San Andreas media and check back here at 3DAvenue often as we find out more about the world of GTA: San Andreas in the coming weeks.

 

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