Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the fifth video game in the Grand Theft Auto series. Rockstar Entertainment released San Andreas for PlayStation 2 on October 26, 2004 in North America and on October 29, 2004 in Europe and Australia. In a press release issued near the end of 2004, it was announced that the game will be released for PC and Xbox, on June 7, 2005 in North America and June 10, 2005 in Europe.
History and speculation
Following the success of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, many gamers online highly anticipated a third Grand Theft Auto game on the PlayStation 2 in late 2003. Most theories were shot down when Rockstar had given no announcement of a new game by summer of that year. The first hint at there even being a new installment was on October 30, 2003, when Take-Two Interactive announced that an untitled "GTA5" game was set for release in the "latter half of the fiscal fourth quarter 2004"  (http://ps2.ign.com/articles/457/457293p1.html). By this time, pundits online had two theories about the plot of the game; it would either be based in the city of San Andreas, California (based on Los Angeles) in the modern day, or in Sin City, Nevada (based on Las Vegas) in the 1970s, as both would be ideal regarding new innovative ways to commit crimes, and new storylines that could grow.
On December 17, and December 21, 2003, Take-Two had registered 10 GTA-related trademarks (GTA5, GTA6, GTA: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, GTA: Sin City, Grand Theft Auto: Sin City, GTA: Bogota, Grand Theft Auto: Bogota, GTA: Tokyo, and Grand Theft Auto: Tokyo)  (http://ps2.ign.com/articles/462/462261p1.html). After the information was divulged on January 12, 2004, it seemed likely that most of the titles were either red herrings or possible future incarnations of the franchise.
On March 1, 2004, Take-Two announced in a press conference that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas would be released Tuesday, October 19, 2004 in the US, and three days later, October 22, in Europe  (http://wire.ign.com/articles/495/495833p1.html) and October 29 for Australia. However, on September 9, 2004 Take-two announced in its third quarter financial results for 2004 that the release date of the PlayStation 2 version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas would be pushed back to October 26, 2004 in North America and October 29, 2004 for Europe and November 15, 2004 in Australia to allow for additional pre-release testing. In the same release, Take-Two announced a PC version would be due in the third quarter of fiscal 2005.
In December 2004, Take-Two issued a press release with a statement that nearly everyone expected, though most didn't think it would come so soon after the PS2 release: An Xbox version is on the way, due to be launched simultaneously with the PC release on June 7, 2005.
The Calaveras Enterprise newspaper reported on November 3, 2004 that the Merchants' Association in the real-life town of San Andreas, California has become alarmed about the popularity of the video game, but has conceded that there is little it can do. Also, it turns out there is a retired pastor named Carl Johnson in the real San Andreas (Carl Johnson is the name of the main character in the game).
Information about the game began circulating in magazines and on websites on May 11, 2004, including that San Andreas is not just one city, but a whole state, encompassing three metropolises (Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas, based on Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, respectively), and the countryside in between. Intercity travel is facilitated not only by a huge freeway system (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens_6104357.html?page=8) but also by airports and passenger trains (the Brown Streak Railroad (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=44)), both of which have vehicles that can be operated by the player. In interviews, Rockstar's designers have reported that the map is between four and six times the size of the area in Vice City.
The game is set in the early 1990s. The game has a soundtrack of period artists, as Vice City did, as well as "classic" rap and rock stations and a country station.
The player controls main character Carl 'CJ' Johnson (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=7), a man returning to Los Santos after five years residing in Liberty City. Carl left Los Santos after being blamed for the death of his younger brother, Brian, by his older brother, Sean (nicknamed "Sweet"). The murder of his mother causes him to return for her funeral. CJ returns to find disarray in his family and in his old gang, the Grove Street Families (named for their home territory, Grove Street), which prompts him to stay. Sweet, CJ, and their sister Kendl are constantly at odds, while the leadership of the gang, Sweet, and longtime family friends Big Smoke and Ryder are in shambles, full of quarreling, and being held down by the other local gangs. Carl is also influenced to stay by a trio of hard-nosed corrupt beat cops, Officers Tenpenny, Pulaski and Hernandez, collectively referred to as 'C.R.A.S.H.'(Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums), as they target him as one of the members of the gang. CJ and Sweet begin the first arc of the game's plot by attempting to reunite the Grove Street Families with their crack-tainted splinter groups, the Seville Boulevard Families and the Temple Drive Families. CJ's ultimate goal is to bring back the prestige of his family, his gang, his neighborhood, and his life.
San Andreas world
Los Santos features landmarks reminiscent of the Watts Towers  (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=7), the Los Angeles Convention Center  (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=49), the Capitol Tower  (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=55), and Grauman's Chinese Theater  (http://media.ps2.ign.com/media/611/611957/img_2276577.html). The city has several important areas, including the gang-ridden Grove (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=54) - based on the NWA-era Compton, Inglewood, and East LA, busy downtown (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=55), wealthy Rodeo (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=46), and glitzy Vinewood (complete with giant VINEWOOD sign in the hills (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens_6104357.html?page=4)).
San Fierro features Rockstar's interpretations of the Haight-Ashbury district ("Hashbury"), the gay Castro district ("Queens"), Chinatown, and the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as the city's prominent cable cars and hilly terrain. Several other familiar landmarks have been recreated from the Embarcadero clock tower and the "Big Pointy" Transamerica Pyramid to Lombard Street, and Scottish landmarks such as the Forth Rail Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge.
In Las Venturas, the player is able to visit and even take over casinos. One is able to play various casino games such as poker, roulette, and slot machines. Off-track betting parlors are also available in the game's other regions. In addition to gambling, strip clubs are also prevalent in Las Venturas. Many real Las Vegas Strip casinos are faithfully interpreted on Las Ventura's Strip, including the Excalibur Hotel and Casino ("Come-a-Lot"), the Sphinx and pyramid of the Luxor Hotel ("The Camel's Toe"), and the Pioneer Club ( (http://www.agilitynut.com/vegas.html)), with Vegas Vic replaced by GTA character Avery Carrington.
Between the cities is an expansive countryside, broadening into a vast desert near Las Venturas. Players can climb Mount Chiliad, a half mile-tall mountain casting a vast shadow, parachute from various peaks and skyscrapers, and visit 12 rural towns and villages, a massive dam, a microwave dish, and many other geographical features.
TransFender is a fictitious car modification shop in San Andreas. TransFender ranges in a wide variety of mods for a vehicle from nitro to hydraulics. Most car mods are strictly visual because they only add aesthetic appeal, as opposed to those which improve the performance. Many, but not all, vehicles can be modified in GTA:SA. Common modifications include nitrous tanks, hydraulics, and paintjobs. Vehicles can be divided into four categories: Cars that can be modified but are not low-rider cars can only be modified at a TransFender, low-rider cars can only be modified at Loco Low Co., street racing types are modified at Arch Angel Wheels, and unmodifiable cars (most emergency vehicles and some off-road vehicles) cannot be modified at either. One mission requires the player to visit a low-rider mod-shop.
Sprunk is a fictitious soda pop company in the game. In the game, you can buy sprunk for $1 to increase health, if you drink too much, the fat goes up. Sprunk is basically a parody of the popular lemon-lime drink Sprite. Sprunk cans resemble grenades, owing to the marketing tagline given for the beverage, which says it has an "explosive, bursting" flavor.
Many new features have been included in the game. New vehicles include bicycles (which feature a new control scheme)  (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=32), trucks with detachable trailers, police motorcycles (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=24), operable tow trucks, combine harvesters, quad bikes, airplanes, VTOL jets, passenger trains, and even a jet pack. The player can now swim (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=57) and take over boats by climbing in from the water, and can climb up and over short walls and fences. For greater firepower, players can wield dual firearms (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=27) or perform a drive-by shooting with several gang members (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=8). The camera, fighting, and targeting controls were reworked with concepts from another Rockstar game, Manhunt, including improved target crosshairs that change colours from green to red, depending on the target's health.
Rockstar has emphasized the personalization of the main character. CJ can now get haircuts (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=68) and tattoos (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=37), and the clothes he chooses (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=69) (which you can buy at some of the game's many clothing stores) have more effect on NPCs' reactions than the clothing in Vice City. He also must eat to stay healthy, obtaining food from fast food restaurants such as Cluckin' Bell (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=10), street vendors, diners, bars and nightclubs. The balance of food and exercise has an effect on his muscularity and appearance (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=13). If CJ eats too much in a short period, he will get sick and throw up, but if he fails to eat he will become less muscular and, eventually, will lose health. He has skills in areas such as driving, pistol shooting, stamina, and lung capacity that improve through use in the game, and he can learn three different styles of unarmed combat at the gyms in each of the game's three cities. In addition to the customization of CJ's own appearance, extensive customization options are also available in many cars. This includes body kits (custom fenders, paint, etc), hydraulics, nitrous boosters, and bass speakers.
A new activity that continues the Grand Theft Auto series' tradition of controversy is home invasion (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/preview_6104797.html). Under cover of night, CJ is able to sneak into a residence (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=62) and cart off valuables (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=61) or shake down the occupants (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/screens.html?page=63).
The player can also voluntarily enable CJ to conduct dialogue with a number of pedestrians in the game, including drug dealers, prospective girlfriends, and fellow gang members. CJ's level of respect among his fellow Grove Street gang members varies according to his actions, as do his relationships with his girlfriends. Rockstar claims that CJ has a total of about 4200 lines of spoken dialogue (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/preview_6111263.html).
A two-player cooperative mode has also been added. Two-player icons are found in some places in the San Andreas world. Setting foot on one of these icons and pressing a button on a second controller starts up a series of special objectives similar to a 'rampage' in previous GTA games. Two human players will be able to go in a car or on foot. Both the players are required to remain on the same screen and within a close proximity of one another.
New minigames include basketball, pool, rhythm-based challenges involving dancing and hydraulic vehicles, and video game machines that pay homage to classic arcade games like Gyruss, Defender and Gradius, in addition to the aforementioned methods of gambling.
Another improvement to the game is the AI. No longer can the player beat a pedestrian to death on a busy street in broad daylight and have bystanders not do anything: while most pedestrians will flee or duck for cover, some armed civilians and enemy gang members will attack CJ, and friendly gang members will shoot at and pursue his opponents. The previously mentioned home invasions will be more difficult than one would expect because the occupants will resist, and in some cases draw weapons.
Main article: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Soundtrack
With the Grand Theft Auto series, the soundtrack always plays a large part in the game. The tunes set the theme, and the theme is the early 1990s on the west coast. The standalone version of the soundtrack was released on November 23, 2004.
- Carl 'CJ' Johnson: Young Maylay (Chris Bellard)
CJ is the main character in the game. He is a senior member of the Grove Street Families (GSF). He left them for Liberty City, but went back to Los Santos because of his recently murdered mother.
- Sean 'Sweet' Johnson: Faizon Love
Sweet is CJ's brother. He is the head of the Grove Street Families (GSF). He blames CJ for the murder of their little brother Brian Johnson. He stays loyal to the Grove Street Families until the end of the game.
- Kendl Johnson: Yo Yo
Kendl is CJ and Sweet's sister. Her boyfriend is Cesar Vialpando, a member of the Varios Los Aztecas. Like CJ and Sweet, she stays loyal to the Grove Street Families until the end of the game.
- Melvin 'Big Smoke' Harris: Clifton Powell
Big Smoke is a senior member of the Grove Street Families in the early part of the game. Later on he gets caught along with Ryder working with the Ballas and C.R.A.S.H. In the final mission he gets killed by CJ in his drug factory.
- Lance 'Ryder' Wilson: MC Eiht
Ryder is a senior member of the Grove Street Families in the early part of the game. Later on he gets caught along with Big Smoke working with the Ballas and C.R.A.S.H. He gets killed by CJ in a boat chase.
- Jeffrey 'OG Loc' Cross: Jonathan Anderson
OG Loc is an amateur rapper who becomes a famous "gangsta" rapper with the help of CJ. He orders CJ to ruin Madd Dogg's career by killing his manager and stealing his rhyme book. Later in the game, when CJ and Madd Dogg become friends, he gets sued by Madd Dogg's record label. Ironically, none of Tone Loc's songs are in the game.
- Madd Dogg: Ice T
Madd Dogg is Los Santos biggest and most famous rapper. His career gets ruined by CJ in an attempt to help OG Loc. He attempts to commit suicide in Las Venturas but gets saved by CJ.
- Cesar Vialpando: Clifton Collins, Jr.
Cesar Vialpando is Kendl's boyfriend. He is a member of the Hispanic street gang the Varios Los Aztecas. He helps CJ and the Grove Street Families get back to the top and stays loyal until the end of the game. He is also an excellent lowrider and driver. On the Badlands phase of gameplay, he gets CJ into a lot of grief by introducing him to Catalina.
- Officer Frank Tenpenny: Samuel L. Jackson
Officer Frank Tenpenny is a corrupt policeman of the L.S.P.D. and also the head of C.R.A.S.H. He works with the Ballas primarily.
- Officer Eddie Pulaski: Chris Penn
Officer Pulaski is Frank Tenpenny's partner in crime. They kill Officer Hernandez for revealing information to the authorities.
- Officer Hernandez: Armando Riesco
Officer Hernandez is a member of C.R.A.S.H.
- Catalina: Cynthia Farrell
Catalina is Cesar's cousin who lives in Angel Pine. Catalina and CJ go on a crime spree in the countryside in the middle part of the game. She breaks up with CJ and finds herself a new boyfriend, "Claude", the silent and unnamed from GTA3. Catalina and Claude go together to Liberty City, where GTA3 starts.
- The Truth: Peter Fonda
The Truth is an old hippie who lives in San Fierro. He and CJ become friends in the middle part of the game. His vehicle is a hippie bus he calls "The Mothership". The Truth is well aware of the conspiracies around him.
- Mike Toreno: James Woods
Mike Toreno is an undercover CIA agent who disguises himself as a drug dealer. He helps CJ later in the game from his ranch in Tierra Robada. He gives CJ difficult missions like learnig how to fly and stealing a six million dollar jet.
- Wu Zi Mu ('Woozie'): James Yaegashi
Woozie is the blind leader of the Mountain Cloud Boys triad situated in San Fierro and in Las Venturas. He is called by his fellow triads the "Lucky Mole" because he is blessed with good fortune. He can drive fast race cars despite his blindness. He also owns the Four Dragons Casino in Las Venturas.
- Zero: David Cross
Zero is a computer geek who owns his own RC shop in san Fierro. He is an expert when it comes to computers and RC toys. His archenemy is Berkley, the owner of Top Fun.
- Maccer: Shaun Ryder
Maccer is a British musician and Kent Paul's partner. He has an uncontrolable tendency to pleasure himself.
- Ken Rosenberg: Bill Fichtner
Ken Rosenburg is the man in the middle of the Las Venturas Mafia war. In the game his companions are Maccer, Kent Paul and a parrot. He helps CJ in Las Venturas. In GTA: Vice City, he was Tommy Vercetti's lawyer.
- Salvatore Leone: Frank Vincent
Don Salvatore Leone is the head of the Leone family of the Mafia. He eliminated the other Mafia families, the Sindaccos and the Forellis, with the help of CJ. He also appears as a major character in GTA3.
- Maria La Torra: Debi Mazar
Maria LaTorra is Salvatore's girlfriend. She works as a waiter in Caligulas Palace. She also appears in GTA3.
Six days before its release, a leaked edition of the game, along with its manual and its cover, were published illegally, DVD images of which are still available via a number of P2P networks. Similarly, around the time of release of the game in the UK, a leaked PAL version of the game was published.
Myths and Easter eggs
San Andreas is distinct from the first two PlayStation 2 GTA games in its easter eggs and player-propagated myths. Shortly after the release of the game, several message boards sprouted claims of alleged Bigfoot sightings, and a several alleged photographs (http://www.freewebs.com/bluehell/monkeymanphotos.htm) were released, all of which have now all been proven to have been either faked or the result of mistaken identity. After the initial claim, many other people came to its defense, and many fan communities were divided on the claim's truth.
The mysterious map
There is a "restricted area" in the desert at the Area 69 military base, which is a parody of the real world Area 51. This led to more speculation in the fan community about UFOs and aliens. A large map of San Andreas, found in Mike Toreno's home and in a diner called the "Li'l Probe Inn," has markers scattered randomly across the state. Fans initially thought the map was a key to the UFO appearances; however, Rockstar claims the map means nothing.
Another rumor, the so-called ghost cars, brought much hope to the fan base. Ghost cars are cars that spawn in a regular position and have damage that cannot be repaired, unlike normal cars. There is also a "ghost car" in the remote Back o Beyond region which rolls downhill without any visible driver. Coincidentally, the location of the ghost cars coincides with one of the markers on the Toreno map.
Weeks after the myths had begun, and search teams formed, an e-mail message (http://gta-sa.abeeda.com/viewtopic.php?t=185&highlight=mouthoff) was received from "[email protected]" and posted on several fan forums. Many questioned the authenticity of the letter, but upon further inspection, it did indeed seem to be from Rockstar Games.
After the initial letter, it is assumed that the address received many letters from fans, as it soon switched to an automated response system. The first automated return letters had a minor typo in it which led many fans to believe it was not an official Rockstar employee. Shortly after these claims were made the address owner soon issued a new return letter that validated new claims, but denied some of the ones in previous letters. This pattern continued, and some speculate that it is just a plot of Rockstar to create more publicity among the fan community.
The most important claim of the letter was that Bigfoot was false, and is not present in the game. Having been the shining light of the many search teams, many fans were dismayed. However, the letter mentioned that there was something in the woods.
Many rumours of a "piggsy" (from Rockstar's Manhunt) or Leatherface-type character (from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) soon sprung up. Many of these claims were unsupported by video or picture evidence, and soon lost credibility with the community. The most popular picture of a masked man holding a chainsaw in one hand turned out to be nothing more than a picture of the main character wearing a gimp suit and a hockey mask.
The letters also detailed the idea of UFO landings in the game's desert. Though this is often thought to be plausible by fans, no reports or claims have been made. There are also flying orbs that frequent the San Andreas skies. Many fans claim these to be Rockstar's implementation of UFOs, while others claim that it is just a quickly-made rendering of an airplane, minimalized to save game memory. It is easy to catch up with these orbs and see a close up in a plane. Rockstar has not said anything about the orbs, and its intentions with them are still unclear.
Some fans soon found objects within the game's textures (http://gta-sa.abeeda.com/viewtopic.php?t=710&highlight=dinosaur), such as deer and what they claim to be dinosaur skins. This would support one of the early claims that fans made in the very beginning of the game, of animals in the woods and an appearance of a dinosaur. Oddly enough, with the disproof of bigfoot, many of these people took back their claims, saying that they may have been mistaken.
There are also the commonplace Rockstar Easter eggs, such as hits at competitor games, or the classic signs. These and other myths in the game have brought a new level of life to the GTA games. Many fans have stated the new level of reality of the game. Currently many search parties sites (http://gta-sa.abeeda.com/index.php) are on the web with further information.
Like all GTA games on the PS2, San Andreas contains an "underworld", an in-game limbo popularly dubbed "Oblivion", or "Blue Hell", though it is not always blue. The name is derived from the fact that if you go in unprepared, you will most likely find yourself falling for some time before you reappear above the city. Many objects have been found within "Blue Hell", such an incomplete model of Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto 3, and secret interior spaces.
Many in-game pedestrians die in what seem to be bizarre suicides, although these may be due to oversights in the scripting of the pedestrians' movement rather than intentional Easter eggs. For example, a photographer will take a picture and then drown themselves. In what some call a hint at DMA's Lemmings, pedestrians will sometimes appear on a ledge and walk off to their deaths.
A corporate building called "ZomboTech" in San Fierro is a joking reference to the Umbrella Corporation from the Resident Evil franchise. This has started unconfirmed rumours of zombies late at night in San Fierro. Another popular but unconfirmed myth is that CJ's mother and other ghosts may appear in photos taken in graveyards. Though no ghosts have been proven to exist in the game, there are "ghostly" occurances. For example, the cemetery in Los Santos mysteriously becomes covered in graffiti at night. The graffiti ("Grove Street 4 Life") disappears once the sun comes up.
The January 2005 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly included a story on the San Andreas rumors. The CEO of Rockstar, Terry Donovan, denied the existence of Bigfoot: "There is no Bigfoot, just like in real life." Rockstar also denied the existence of CJ's mother's ghost, as well as miscellaneous rumors. In the next issue of EGM, a subscriber sent in a photograph of such a mythical creature appearing on his game in the countryside. The magazine called the creature a Yeti instead of Bigfoot.
Following the Epsilon Program website and related "clues", players have been looking over San Andreas for the Epsliom cult and its meeting locations. They have found pedestrians who talk about Kifflom (the Epsilon Program's "deity") in San Andreas, such as a barber and backpackers. It has yet to be proven that these comments are intended for any purpose other than adding flavor to pedestrian dialogue.
Easter Egg And Secrets Lists
- Easter Egg List without Photographs (http://www.gtaforums.com/index.php?showtopic=174800&st=0)
- Easter Egg List With Photographs (http://www.freewebs.com/grovestreet123/index.htm)
- Five-Star Confirmation List (http://fivestarstuff.com/list.htm)
- GameSpot's weekly previews (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/previews.html)
- IGN's coverage, including several feature articles (http://ps2.ign.com//objects/611/611957.html)
- Internet Movie Database entry - includes GTA: San Andreas voice actors (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0402224/)
- GameFAQs page on GTA:SA (http://www.gamefaqs.com/console/ps2/game/36831.html)
- Wiki of GTA:SA Cheats (http://riters.com/GtaSaCheats/)