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Hey GamePro, Leave San Andreas Alone
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 17, 2005   |   Episode 81 (Show Archive)  

   

At least there's one thing we can expect from Rockstar, great Grand Theft Auto cover art!
One of the things we hate to do is write articles about how magazines scored popular games. When it comes right down to it, no matter who you are or what magazine you're writing for, a review is nothing more than an opinion and we should accept it as their point of view (no matter how wrong it is). But sometimes a magazine can't let something go, they keep on it almost as if they are trying to make a point or prove to everybody else that they have been right all along.

GamePro, America's least-offensive game magazine, has been making sure to point out all of the bad things about San Andreas nearly every month since the game was released October of 2004. Month after month they find something to pick apart about the best selling game of the year, to the point now where it feels more like carping than anything productive. So what's going on GamePro? What's your problem with the world of San Andreas?

When Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was first released GamePro didn't seem to like it as much as all the other sites and magazines. Instead they nitpicked the title; they found ways of discouraging those who may have been inclined to call it the best game of the year. In GamePro's original review they suggested that, "in examining the latest entry in the amoral series, one fact is clear: though the game is absolutely enormous, it just isn't as effortlessly innovative as its brilliant predecessor, GTA: Vice City."

Unfortunately this was only the start for GamePro and their passive aggressive comments towards Rockstar's latest console gang-simulator. "So what if Rockstar is churning out the same formulaic game time and time again - the fans still love it," GamePro said in their February 2005 issue. Two months later in April they echoed their charge by saying that "although it doesn't necessarily break new ground, San Andreas nevertheless brings all that was fun in previous Grand Theft Auto games."

The bad taste San Andreas left in GamePro's mouth may have even gone as far as to flavor the magazine's opinion of the other Grand Theft Auto games. When it came down to covering the Xbox and PC version, GamePro had very little real estate open to them, and their reviews were nothing more than a comparison of the technical aspects (graphics, sound, etc.). The same thing appears to be happening with Rockstar's first PSP Grand Theft Auto title, Liberty City

Okay okay ... Nintendo Power is the least-offensive video game magazine!
Stories. Each month GamePro has spent very little time looking at the game (or even supplying screen shots), even though most people agree that it's going to be one of the biggest games of the portables early life.

It's been nearly a year since San Andreas landed in store shelves, yet GamePro is still on patrol to make sure everybody knows what they didn't like about this GTA sequel. In a special Xbox 360-related feature (called, "Countdown to 360"), GamePro decides to point out the seven things wrong with Rockstar's popular franchise. They mention the graphics, they talk about wasted voice talent, they complain about the fact that it's an M-Rated adventure, heck, they even have trouble with the fact that you're essentially rooting for a bad guy ... jeez, what is this, a kids magazine?

But it's that reoccurring thread that is their number one "Sin" of Grand Theft Auto: "Vice City could be accurately described as an expansion of Grand Theft Auto III, while San Andreas's minor tweaks and aesthetic makeovers make it a marginal improvement at best." A marginal improvement, AT BEST?? It's almost as if the editors of GamePro had completely forgotten about the specifics of the game in the year it has been out. Perhaps it's time for them to take a refresher course on just what made San Andreas one of the best games of last year. Because I know GamePro is a fan of lists, I have decided to number a few of the points GamePro seems to be missing ...


As far as I'm concerned San Andreas is everything Peter Molineaux promised us in Fable, except even more exciting!
1) The Size DOES Matter: In each of GamePro's reviews (and critisims) they have always made sure to comment on how large the game is. They talk about the fact that it is three-times larger than Vice City, generally filled with amazing forests, deserts, and cityscapes. But they forget about the atmosphere, they forget about how diverse everything is. This is the type of game where it would have been easy to cut corners, but instead each of the houses look different, no building looks alike, and the people in each community are unique. The game's varied locales really does add a lot to the game, especially when you're racing through dirt paths, picking up cars next to the ocean, or even flying a jet from one side of the state to the other. The pure size of the game opens up a lot of possibilities that GamePro seems to have simply glossed over.

2) It Features RPG Elements: One aspect of the game that is completely ignored by GamePro is the character experience system that is new to the series. Instead

Granted it's the worst thing about San Andreas, but it's still cool that you can play basketball in this virtual world!
of starting out as a great fighter, marksman, or driver, your character will improve over time ... just like in every role-playing game you've ever played. Knowing that you're working to improve different aspects of your character adds some urgency to the game; it gives you something to work on when you're not off working on missions and having the cops chase you. Watching your character change in front of you is a satisfying experience, and in a lot of ways it's everything Peter Molineaux promised for his somewhat disappointing Fable game.

3) There's Just So Much to Do: You can complain that the formula hasn't been changed, but a lot of what made GTA great has been improved and added to. Now there are dozens or new mini-games and side quests to keep you interested, including some two-player stuff. You can finally go skydiving, you're now able to swim, there are all kinds of new vehicles to man, plenty of casino games to play, and a whole new world to explore. And did we mention that the world is HUGE, so exploring it will probably take you months? There's almost too much to do in San Andreas! It may look like the same Grand Theft Auto from screen shots, but once you get your butt out of Los Santos you will find a varied world that features something for everybody.

Of course, I'm not the only one that sees a clear difference between Vice City and San Andreas. When IGN reviewed the game last year they said that "[San Andreas]

To some people riding around with this guy is way more fun than shooting down aliens in Halo!
has a production value that's second to none, boasts a faithfulness to '90s source material with an eerie accuracy, and provides more hours of entertainment than all the previous Grand Theft Autos combined. In short, it's a terrific unending masterpiece of a game -- and one that will never fall victim to an over-exaggeration of its lofty status. It's the defining piece of software for Sony's successful sophomore system, and it's almost impossible to imagine a PlayStation 2 library without it." Their review didn't browbeat the game for keeping a theme that has worked well for them.

GameSpot agreed, "Usually, when a game tries to do a million different things, it's an overambitious hodge-podge that can't manage to get its different parts down cold. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has you doing many, many more things than any previous GTA game, and while some of them do work a little better than others, the strength of all these different gameplay elements--too many to count--makes for a powerful package that does not disappoint, despite the extremely high standards that Grand Theft Auto established and that San Andreas needed to live up to."

As a fan of the series I am not concerned by what other people think of the game, by now I am pretty accustomed to people having moral problems with the series. Grand Theft Auto is not for everybody; like the movies it's based on - the Godfather, Scarface, Menace II Society, etc. - its entertainment

Yes GTA is about the life of criminals, but it's not like Mario, Zelda, and Tony Hawk stay within the bounds of the law!
that is targeted at a specific audience. What seems unnecessary is the uninformed potshots they make at the game, all while ignoring other games with glaring imperfections. When was the last time you heard GamePro complain about Halo 2's terrible single-player campaign, the one that offers one of the all time worst endings you'll ever see?

I'm not here to complain about somebody's review or even their final score, but maybe it's time for GamePrp to end the passive aggressive comments aimed at Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It's time to stop adding sarcastic comments anywhere you can and come up with some ways YOU think they could have improved on San Andreas. Don't be the magazine that unloads on GTA in an article about the Xbox 360 (a system the game is not even announced for)., if you're going to complain about the game at least have the decency to keep it relevant. I suppose this is the kind of thing you should expect from a magazine that said that "everybody" was disappointed by Soul Calibur II and that Resident Evil 4 was too long.
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