Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
2004 | PS2, Xbox, PC
The largest and most staggeringly ambitious of all the GTA games, taking place over the course of three enormous islands and enabling you to make the protagonist, CJ Johnson, look like a fatty by cramming his stomach full of burgers and allowing him to waddle downtown in just a pair of briefs. All things that have been repeated numerous times now, of course, but it’s impossible to convey just how futuristic this game seemed in the simpler times of 2004. Many don't see it as the best GTA - too much empty space, and diving into a pizzeria in the middle of a firefight for a health-refilling snack was beyond ludicrous - but the first visit to GTA’s West Coast was a real eye-opener for anyone who thought Rockstar would sit back on their asses and let the competition catch up.
Kent Paul and Rosenberg
These two rats are running out of places to hide. Having gained a reputation for causing trouble in Vice City during the '80s, they hop on over to the West Coast, where Cockney loudmouth Paul takes over management duties for band Gurning Monkeys. Rosenberg, meanwhile, implicates himself in the affairs of the rival Mafia gangs’ dealings in Las Venturas’ casinos. Having had to fake their own death to escape the wrath of the Leone family, it would seem that all three cities are off-limits to these bozos, and if they’re smart, they’ll keep away - but do they look smart to you?
As with Vercetti six years before, CJ’s fortunes improve dramatically during the course of San Andreas’ storyline - from a down and out street punk to a millionaire casino baron. But although CJ may well be brushing his teeth with liquid gold by the end of 1992, it remains to be seen what kind of a man he’s evolved into over the last fifteen years. While the storyline alludes to Carl being in danger of forgetting where he came from, he’s a more empathetic character than Vercetti, and it’s difficult to imagine power corrupting him in the same way it might GTA’s other kingpins.