Style your man
Fried Chicken and Watermelon
This isn’t to say that San Andreas lacks a sense of humor. It doesn’t. The game’s probably funnier than Vice City, especially if you think the predecessor leaned too heavily on parodying the 80s. A lot of the humor is darker, though, especially in Los Santos, and since you’re playing a black character in a black gang this time out, the racial context is so singularly focused that you’ve got to wonder if you should be laughing at some of this stuff. Vice City made fun of everybody from Jewish lawyers to Gary Coleman, so everything was so absurd you couldn’t take it seriously. Now the funny moments revolve around black gang stereotypes like smoking crack, constant dropping of N-bombs and motherf---ers, cruising in low riders, and so on. One mission even centers on gang members heading out for drive-thru fried chicken. On the other hand, this theme doesn’t stereotype black youth any more than flicks like Menace II Society. At least some of the old cornball Rockstar stuff is present—there’s a hotel called the Vank Hoff, the San Fierro Packers football team is sponsored by a fudge company, and a diamond merchant called de Koch (as in “Give her…”) is advertising on the radio. Overall, I certainly wasn’t offended, although at times I did miss the more lighthearted tone of Vice City.
I didn’t miss the smaller scope (although its hard to call Vice City small by any measuring stick) of the earlier game. As I noted above, San Andreas encompasses three cities and the countryside between them. CJ starts in Los Santos—which, incidentally, seems to be as big as Vice City all by itself—doing drive-bys, beating up crack dealers, spray-painting over rival gang tags, racing low riders and recruiting busters. Then he has to move on to the countryside, where he occupies his time in exile by running weed, burning dope fields, and playing Bonnie and Clyde with a babe named Catalina. Next it’s off to San Fierro, a city by the bay filled with pimps who must be murdered, porta-potties that must be overturned, and shipments of cash that must be intercepted. CJ finally ventures to Las Venturas, a Vegas lookalike complete with neon-splashed strip and loads of casinos, before a last stop in Las Santos just in time for a race riot and the settling of old scores.
Mission structure is similar to that of Vice City, with lots of racing, package delivering, and assassinating, along with the familiar ambulance, taxi, vigilante, and fire-truck escapades, weapon rampages (including some co-op ones), and half-hidden mini-games like pool, dancing, and basketball. The new and varied terrain makes almost everything seem fresh, however, and stealth has been added in a missions that revolve around breaking and entering. Rockstar also hasn’t included as many frustrating, multi-objective, timed missions. I didn’t find anything here on the same scale as Autocide, for example, although perhaps the three or four hundred hours I spent with Vice City colored my impressions of the difficulty.