Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the same old GTA3 under a different disguise and with some additional welcome tweaks to the gameplay (swimming!). It’s yet another upgrade rather than a sequel, and many of the core, underlying problems with the design remain. But, regardless of that, its still enjoyable.
Enjoyable, but not necessarily fun. I’ve spent a few hours with the game
already and I have yet to complete anything more than three missions. Instead, that time was spent exploring the streets of Los Santos, the seedy ghettos, the fancy attriums, the alleyways, the countrysides, the rivers, etc.
The worst aspect of the game, to me, is the fact that your explorations of this massive three-city complex are restricted by forced barriers* — yet again! — until you complete X number of missions. For me, the appeal of GTA always had more to do with the sandboxed nature of its world than the actual game. The “fun” came from exploring the well designed and well laid out cities and neighbourhoods, rather than from “playing” it. GTA appealed to my sense of exploration and discovery more than my playfulness and competitiveness.
And that’s fine.
And I’m sure there are people out there that feel completely different about
this, and it’s a credit to Rockstar’s design that it can appeal for such
vastly diverging reasons. To me, though, it’s a good experience, but it’s not inherently “fun”.
So, given the chance, I’ve been playing more Outrun 2 over the last couple of days than GTA. I severely doubt that I’ll play that as much and for as long as I will play GTA, but in the meantime it’s a nice, quick, fluffy experience. Fun in short bursts.
* The thing with the bridge barriers in San Andreas is that, with the addition of swimming, you can just cross via the river. BUT, seeing the pointlessness of the barriers with this ability, Rockstar saw fit to automatically raise your wanted level to four stars when you set foot on land you’re not supposed to be on. Which is about as non-sensical as invisible walls. Naturally, most of my time with GTA has been spent trying to circumvent this limitation and explore the other two towns. Every attempt has, so far, resulted in death… but I did make it close to a pay-n-spray once.
Screw the missions. I’ll set my own goals.
Seems like Rockstar thought the same thing all those years ago.