Thankfully, you'll at least have someone to watch your back while you wrestle with the controls. Once he earns enough "respect" by pulling jobs and winning turf, CJ can recruit a small army of gang members off the street. They're rock-stupid, but they can help you pull off drive-by shootings, and they absorb bullets real good when you're fighting multiple opponents.
While that's the bulk of the game, there's much more to do, and that'sSan Andreas' real triumph. If driving gets old, for example, you can hijack a harrier jet. And when you get tired of flying it around, you can bail out at 40,000 feet, parachute onto a mountaintop, ride a bicycle down to a river, swim to the nearest boat and steal it. You can play pool, gamble, cultivate a romantic relationship or just get fat eating pizza. There are even a handful of two-player challenges, a first for the series. San Andreas is your oyster, and its dozens of minigames, all integrated smoothly into the landscape and storyline, give you plenty of ways to crack it open.
In terms of presentation and production values, San Andreas is a mixed bag. Sure, its graphics are ugly and chunky (although there's plenty of detail if you look closely), but each of the game's locales nicely captures the look of its real-world counterpart. San Andreas' cast (which includes Charlie Murphy, David Cross, James Woods and Samuel L. Jackson) turns in top-notch performances, the script is brilliant and off-kilter and the 11 in-game radio stations blare licensed rock, rap and country songs.
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