Tales From the Hood
If you listen to some pundits, games and movies are going to come together any day now. The game industry is dwarfing Hollywood at the cash register, established actors donít seem to have a problem voicing videogame characters, and game design is becoming more and more cinematic. Just give it a few more years, some say, and the revolution will be complete.
Or maybe the time is now. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas makes a good case that games have already outstripped movies, because the characterization and story set in the West Coast gang underworld in the early 1990s create an experience that is a hell of a lot more gripping than anything Iíve seen on the silver screen in years. And Rockstar hasnít just done it again. Even though San Andreas uses the same graphic engine and car-jacking conventions as its two most recent predecessors, this is a lot more than a sequel to Vice City with gangbangers and NWA replacing the mob and Flock of Seagulls. While the developer has written a tremendous new chapter in the controversial history of the GTA franchise, it has also reimagined the series. So many different roleplaying options have been added and the size of the game world has been increased so dramatically that I felt that Iíd really stepped into somebody elseís high-tops while playing.
Banginí in the Grove
Plot is the biggest reason why San Andreas is so bewitching. You play Carl ďCJĒ Johnson, who returns to his home neighborhood of Ganton (think Compton) in the city of Los Santos (think Los Angeles) in 1992 after the murder of his mother. Heís been living the straight life in Liberty City for the past five years, so heís grown out of touch with his brother, Sweet, and the rest of his crew in the Grove Street OGs, like Big Smoke and the perpetually dust-smoking Ryder. Despite CJís years out of the life, the death of his moms and the lure of being home with his friends encourages him to stick around. Of course, it isnít all friendly reunions. Thereís a crooked cop to deal with named Tenpenny, crack dealers encroaching on the Grove Streeters turf, a gang war brewing with the Ballas, and the prospect of being forced to live in the sticks for a while, or even relocate to Los Santosí sister cities, San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Ventura (Las Vegas).
Like I said above, this ainít Vice City. The attitude here is more serious, the characters more grim. Where Vice City played off old episodes of Miami Vice, which were far too rooted in Don Johnson smirks and pastel suits to be gritty, San Andreas takes as its inspiration the gangsta movies of the early 90s like Boyz N The Hood, New Jack City, Menace II Society, and Juice. Vice City lampooned the 80s through clothing styles, music, and goofy missions that were played solely for laughs, like the entire series of late-game stunts running the porn studio. That isnít the case here. One of the very first missions features a crack house, with an addict so messed up on the pipe that heís become the dealerís slave.