Catchy audio has always been a staple of the Grand Theft Auto games since the franchise debuted on the PC and PlayStation. But while the early games in the series relied on sound to create atmosphere and to help compensate for hardware limitations, audio has become an even more integral part of the GTA experience since the series hit the PlayStation 2. While speech, sound effects, and music still serve to establish atmosphere in the franchise, they now play an essential part in telling the unique stories in each game and drawing you into the gritty world that Rockstar has created. The audio in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas raises the bar yet again by adding an interactive and dynamic element to the experience that's never been seen in the series. For our final look at the game before it ships next week, we examine what you can look forward to hearing in Rockstar's upcoming sequel.
While GTAIII and GTA: Vice City both featured notable audio, thanks to strong voice acting and unique soundtracks, they pale in comparison to what's being crammed into San Andreas. Part of this is due to the dynamic nature of the main character, CJ. While you were playing with characters whose personalities were immutable in the previous entries in the series, you'll be able to affect how CJ evolves over the course of the game. To give you a rough idea of what to expect as you play, CJ has many different moods that he articulates through more than 4,200 comments. This number excludes the more than 3,500 scripted comments and lines in the over two hours of motion-captured cutscenes. That may seem like a bit much, but all those lines are needed to give CJ's personality its individuality.
Depending on how you choose to develop CJ's character as you play through the game, his demeanor and commentary will change. For example, there's fat CJ, pissed-off CJ, wisecracking CJ, and sweet-talking CJ, to name just a few. These different sides of his personality will play out over the course game as it adjusts your conversation style to match the situation. Unlike with Tommy Vercetti, who would respond only when he felt like it, the frequency and nature of CJ's dialogue is under your control. Anytime he's spoken to (which is often), CJ has the choice of responding by tapping left on the D pad for a negative response and right on the D pad for a positive response.
This feature wouldn't be much good if CJ didn't have people to talk to, but of course he will--a whole state full of them. You'll find more than 300 different kinds of pedestrians in the game, with 60,000 different comments. The colorful residents of San Andreas like to talk to CJ about all sorts of things. And, of course, everyone is a critic. You'll find that every pedestrian walking the streets and country roads of the state has an opinion about CJ, and they'll frequently comment on most aspects of his appearance--everything from his choice of clothing, haircut, and tattoos to his physical fitness. Their comments range from fawning to blistering and everything in between, and they'll even turn their heads to make sure that CJ hears their snide remark.
However, all the jabber in the game isn't about CJ. San Andreas is a state, after all, and people have lives. The locals are not limited to just taunting CJ or throwing out random observations. Citizens and illegal aliens of the state can and will, for the first time, talk to each other about their lives. These conversations can happen anywhere and anytime. Observant players can pick up interesting details about life in other parts of San Andreas, like Hashbury or Angel Pine, from the conversations that happen on street corners around the state. If you listen carefully, you'll find that there's all sorts of information that will come your way.
Over the past few months we've given you a taste of what to expect from Rockstar's third PlayStation 2 installment in its juggernaut franchise. But we've shown you just a bare framework of this massive sandbox of a game. If you're a fan of the series, and it looks like there might be a few of you out there, you can be cheered by the fact that the wait is nearly over. And if you're just curious about what the all hype is about, this is as good a time as any to check in on the GTA phenomenon. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ships early next week exclusively for the PlayStation 2. For exclusive media on just how the citizenry throws down with the verbiage, check out our media page.