Member Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas?

Member the games you used to play? We member. The basement at the Hardcore Gamer office has a section known as the Crust Room, with an old grey couch and a big old CRT TV. All the classic systems are down there collecting dust, so in an effort to improve the cleanliness of our work space, we dust off these old consoles every so often and put an old game through its paces, just to make sure everything stays in working order. We even have a beige computer with a floppy disk drive.

Grand Theft Auto is a series that always flew under the radar until the third installment raised all sorts of controversy due to its ability to allow the player to utilize the services of prostitutes to replenish health and then kill them to get a refund. GTAIII was a great game and drove the Tipper Gores of the world into a massive conniption fit, but the adult content was actually tame compared to the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas which came out just a few years later. San Andreas has players take control over Carl “CJ” Johnson as he returns to his home in San Andreas to bury his mom after spending five years in Liberty City, apparently trying to get a fresh start away from the trouble he was involved with back home.

San Andreas is the made up state where this game takes place, which contains fictionalized versions of Los Angeles (Los Santos), San Francisco (San Fierro), and Las Vegas (Las Venturas). The year is 1992, and while San Andreas is a fictional place it draws a lot of influence from real life events. These include the Hispanic gangs and the war between the Bloods and Crips, the LAPD Rampart scandal, the 1992 LA riots, and the effects of the crack epidemic from the previous decade. Just as Vice City was influenced by Scarface and Miami Vice, San Andreas draws influence from cinema as well. Some films that showed influence in San Andreas were Menace II Society, New Jack City, and Boyz n the Hood, with the last one influencing CJ in that he is patterned off some of the characters that are trying to stay out of gang violence but end up involved anyway due to their circumstances.

This aspect of CJ helps make him a more likable protagonist. While definitely not a hero in the traditional sense as every GTA protagonist is involved in some amount of criminal activity, this helps establish him as someone who may do many bad things but not be a bad person at his core. Other characters in the game, such as Samuel L. Jackson’s Officer Tenpenny (his badge is the one that says Bad Motherfxxxxr on it), serve as a contrast to CJ as someone who is supposedly one of the good guys but as crooked as an Illinois politician. The dichotomy of good and bad in everyone isn’t anything new but it was always something I appreciated about GTA games.

Unlike the previous Grand Theft Autos of the console generation, San Andreas allows a lot of freedom for customizing CJ. Clothing was a big part of it, and CJ was not required to always represent Grove Street with the proper colors. In the early stages of the game I was more in character, trying to make CJ look like a badass but that got boring pretty quickly. For a while CJ was running around in boots, leopard cowboy hat, star shaped sunglasses, heart covered underwear, and some ridiculous looking shirt. The weapon of choice for this get up was an average sized purple phallic object found in the locker room at the police station which was a great way to bludgeon people to death. Besides clothing, CJ could get his hair styled and tattoos, and his body shape was subject to change. He could starve himself enough to fit into Kate Moss’s clothing, hit the gym and get ridiculously jacked and roided up, or he could gorge himself at Cluckin’ Bell and have the body of a Greek god, if the god in question was Obeseus, who rules over lard, gluttony, and all things cellulite (Editor’s note: you cannot make up Greek gods).

San Andreas was quite an ambitious game and tried to expand it beyond what its predecessors have done. The character customization things like eating food and going on dates made CJ seem more real than Tommy Vercetti or weird nameless dude (though there are some that call him… Claude) but what an aspect that Rockstar expanded on in San Andreas was the scope of the map. The playable area of San Andreas was enormous, though some could argue it was perhaps too big for its own good. While being huge, a good portion of it really had a lot of nothing going on, though the vast woodland area did start some rumors of a sasquatch hiding out, which led to a silly achievement some years later in the Undead Nightmare expansion to Red Dead Redemption.

Grand Theft Auto has been no stranger to controversy and San Andreas was no exception. There is a portion where CJ gets invited in his girl’s place for coffee and the camera sways back and forth outside the house implying there was some sex going on inside. In June of 2005 a modder was able to take the camera inside the house where there was a very unerotic sex minigame, with this patch known as Hot Coffee. This apparently crossed the line and caused a massive outcry that reached high ranking politicians when apparently there weren’t enough real problems in the world to worry about. The game’s rating was changed to Adults Only, meaning most retailers wouldn’t carry it. Rockstar reissued the game with the code removed so Hot Coffee couldn’t be accessed. This was commendable for Rockstar, as the Mature-rated game centered on gang warfare, drug dealing, obscene language and extreme violence wouldn’t be corrupting America’s youth by including visual sex happening after a date, which happens to be one of the more socially acceptable activities the player can take part of in San Andreas, besides going to the gym and eating fast food.

Want to member some more games? Well too bad, you can’t. This feature is still too new to have a link to all previous entries, er, entry. Okay, we’ll give you a link to last month’s but that really isn’t the same thing. Look here in future installments for a link to all previous Member articles.