GTA goes to the country!

The latest screenshots of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have taken a distinct turn for The Wurzels, with a whole farm-full of countryside action, including combine harvesters, quads, sit-on lawnmowers and lumberjack shirt-wearing yokels. It's like a virtual home from home.

While the main action in San Andreas takes place in the game's three cities of Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturra, between those urban sprawls are large countryside areas packed with their own peculiar take on GTA. We're expecting to see the game's rural locales in action in the near future - expect further updates shortly.

Meanwhile, Rockstar have released yet more details on the mechanics of San Andreas, covering everything from weapons to downhill mountain biking. Here's a round-up of the latest info-burst:

  • Alternative weapons in San Andreas
  • While we're promised a new range of handheld weapons in San Andreas, perhaps of more use is the fact that you'll now be able to lock on to opponents while wielding a weapon, enabling players to circle enemies. You can also block by hitting Square while each weapons features a variety of different attacks.
  • Countryside weapon: the shovel
  • If you find yourself sans weapon in the countryside, you'll often be able to find a large shovel in people's back gardens. As well as being useful for thwonking people over the head, it also comes in handy for digging shallow graves.
  • The crop duster
  • Since San Andreas is so large, planes play a much larger role in the game - once you tire of travelling between cities by road, flying becomes the preferable and much speedier option. There's a whole range of new airborne vehicles for CJ to fly, including a new dodo and a crop duster biplane (in which you can do barrel rolls, hammerheads and loops).
  • Downhill mountain biking
  • If you manage to hike all the way up to the top of the massive Mount Chiliad (or ride up on a bike) then you'll find a race starting at the top for you to participate in. Covering a torturous, winding track down the side of the mountain at extremely high speeds, this downhill race is the ultimate in cycling tests. Since the mountain bike has a number of gears (chosen automatically), it has a much higher top speed than the BMX CJ grew up riding in East Los Santos. Bunnyhopping is still possible but you're much better off just riding around obstacles, as going airborne at this altitude can be a tad dangerous.
  • Working bulldozer
  • The dozer has massive amounts of torque to drive it forward and can plough through almost anything. The plough itself can be raised up and down (with the right analogue stick) to flip cars, terrorise pedestrians and cause general chaos and destruction.
  • Fires in San Andreas
  • Since the state - like its real-life counterpart California - can be so dry, fires can quickly spread out of control. Any bit of flame can easily flare up and cover a large area in almost no time. CJ can, and will, start fires from time to time, throwing Molotov cocktails or detonating cars. As your damaged car explodes, the fire can quickly spread to other nearby cars and objects. Buildings can go up just as rapidly as dry kindling out in the forests. When the fire is raging right in your line of escape you'll be thankful that the San Andreas Fire Department are usually on the scene pretty quickly but there are times when they fail to show up. Luckily CJ himself can now use fire extinguishers to fight fires and clear his path.
  • Weapons in San Andreas
  • The gunplay mechanic has been completely reworked and, while R1 will remain the button that engages the targeting system and you can still fire your weapon randomly by pressing Circle at any point, a brand new Manhunt-style targeting control scheme has been implemented. The effect is that the game feels more like a classic third-person shooter and, using both sticks, the player can quickly get a bead on any target they like without using the auto-lock targeting system. Like many other aspects of the game, weapons will have a skill level associated with them, and CJ's proficiency with a particular gun can be developed over time. As you use a weapon more and more frequently, you'll be able to improve your reload time, fire rate, accuracy, weapon stance and movement as well as your ability to use dual weapons.
  • Countryside firearm: Desert Eagle
  • This massive handgun packs more stopping power per round than any weapon except for the sniper rifles. When CJ first starts using it, he can barely hold on to it when squeezing the trigger but it's easily one of the most lethal new guns in CJ's arsenal.
  • Haulin' gas
  • RU Haul is a shipping company based in the rolling hills west of Los Santos. The owner is always on the lookout for extra drivers and will stump up cash for towing some cargo: there's always work here for CJ if he wants it. To haul the goods, CJ will be driving a classic 18-wheeler, the largest road vehicle in the game. Deliveries pay cash but you have to be on time or your fee will be halved. It's also worth bearing in mind that gas-filled tankers make great rolling bombs: any time you want to take out a group of guys in an area, speed the tanker towards the group and dive out of the cab before lighting up the truck with a rocket launcher.
  • Moon phases
  • The moon now goes through phases in San Andreas. The game keeps track of the days you've spent in the world and even knows what day of the week it is. As night falls in the San Andreas countryside, the sky is clearer compared to how it looks from the cities and the moon is brighter too.
  • Music
  • While Rockstar are still yet to announce any artists or track listings for San Andreas, they have announced that Interscope Records have signed up to provide the early-'90s soundtrack.

    Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will be released for PS2 on 22 October