Content of the article: "A quick look at GTA: San Andreas, from someone with no nostalgia for the series"
So I ran into San Andreas as part of the in-progress second part of my library-whittling-down project, and I figured it deserved it's own post, considering the importance I know the game holds for many.
To preface: when the 3D GTA boom started, I was 9 years old, and as someone whose parents didn't let them play T-rated games until they were 12, actually playing any of the PS2-era GTA games was totally out of the question. (Hell, when 4 came out I was 16, and I still wasn't allowed to play it…) My standout childhood memory of the series is going to a friend's house and watching him play what must have been Vice City, and being horrified at how much he seemed to enjoy hitting people with his car. I was an innocent child.
So, San Andreas. I usually only give games an hour or so before I decide how I feel about them, but I gave San Andreas two, and probably would have given it more had I not, well, I'll get to it. What's most relevant here is that while I've never played a GTA game before, I have played Saint's Row 2, and if you've played both games you probably know where this is going. San Andreas felt extremely familiar, though the general control clunkiness and the circa-2004 graphics made it easy to remember that this game did in fact come first. It was easy to lean into that familiarity; I absolutely loved Saint's Row 2, after all.
Obviously 2 hours wasn't enough to explore the whole world (hell, I didn't get out of the starting area) or get very into the story, but it was enough for me to be charmed by the main cast and by the general tone. The radio commercials and the general background chatter while walking around gave the world so much flavor, especially for a game this old. I didn't get to a point where much side content opened up, outside of the gyms, but I was looking forward to getting there, since I could tell just by looking at the map that there would be loads to do soon enough.
Downsides? There are a lot of basic QoL features I tend to take for granted that smack me in the face when I play games from the 6th console generation or older; things like the existence of a static save point, especially. The controls are honestly not as bad as I expected, but they're still a bit clunky and awkward, and I ran into a fair few bugs despite heavily modding the game with fanmade fixes before I played it.
The thing that actually got me to stop playing, though: call me sensitive, or an SJW, or whatever, but there's some stuff here that's just aged… very poorly. Obviously GTA isn't exactly the sort of franchise you go to if you're afraid of being offended, but I'm generally pretty hard to bother. Having a whole quest based on how hilarious prison rape is was a bit over the line for me, though. Not saying anything against anyone who has no problem looking past that, or who can accept it as a relic of 2004, but for me, knowing this sort of thing is probably not a one-time problem, it was enough to make me stop.
For the ranking system I put in my last post, I gave San Andreas a 3/5. I'm not averse to returning to it in the future, especially knowing how beloved it is; I really do want to see what everyone else loves about it so much. But for now, I don't really see what I'd get out of this game that I couldn't get playing Saint's Row or, hell, maybe just trying GTA V some day instead. I absolutely recognize that it was pivotal in popularizing a genre I love, and its value there cannot be understated, but for me, 14 years later, that isn't enough to make me fall in love with it.
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