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GTA San Andreas: Hands on

Last September the gaming world was rocked by the release of the biggest selling game the UK had ever seen. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas broke all records, becoming the fastest selling title ever. And it was only on PS2.

Finally, after much speculation and foot tapping, Rockstar has released this monumental game, which features guns, ghettos and that all-important dose of car crime, on to Xbox and PC.

The first, most immediately noticeable change is with the game's graphics. While the PS2 version did an admirable job of displaying and faultlessly loading the deep, complex scenery, the PC version, as you'd expect, is capable of infinitely more detail.

This version can go up to a whopping 1600 resolution on capable equipment, but it's not just this. Draw distances are better, shadows are realtime and extra detail has been added - such as actual 3D-modelled engines under the break-away bonnets of cars, replacing the flat, blurry textures of old. There's so much more to see now.

The other big difference comes when you go to play the game. Our previous San Andreas exploits have been via the comfortably familiar route of a PS2 joypad. Using a mouse and keyboard changes things.

The benefit is in the aiming of your weapon, which is now more accurate when moving freely and gives a slight PC FPS feel. Except in the third-person, obviously.

Driving can take a bit of getting used to, though, and as for flying... well, let's just say we couldn't get off the ground for more than 10 seconds before we'd either careered back into the ground, off into a hill or into the side of a building. A calm, soothing flight across the three cities to get away from all the pain and violence simply didn't happen.

Still, for people who believe a mouse and keyboard control setup for a game like San Andreas is the work of the devil, there is the option of plugging in one of the many PC joypads.

Introduced into the PC and Xbox versions is the 30-second replay function, made possible by the presence of a hard drive within both machines.

As you may have guessed, this function allows you to watch your last 30 seconds of mayhem over and over again. You'll then be able to save these clips and show your gnarly stunts or gruesome acts of violence to your friends at a later date.

You can also save the in-game photos you take as jpg files, which can then be emailed to friends and posted on web forums.

Then there's the option to tinker with the game's playlist with a fully customisable soundtrack. - pick your favourite tunes and they're played back with the amusing DJ commentary interspersed.

A PC-exclusive feature is the option to view and save your character's stats to an HTML webpage, which can be either emailed to friends for offline viewing or uploaded to webspace and shown to the world.

While the PC version of GTA San Andreas is essentially the same game as that which many of you will have played before, it's not a simple re-release. Additions are few and differences subtle but this does have extras that may be enough to force a re-purchase from the game's biggest fans.

It's those who resisted the charms of the PS2 version in the first place who will be most rewarded in this instance, though. If you've yet to play San Andreas, this looks to be the ultimate version of it. It would seem good things really do come to those who wait.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is out for PC, Xbox and PS2 now

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