Quite simply the best video game of the 00s.
Set in 1992 and in the middle of the Grand Theft Auto 3D Universe, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas offers simply the best video game experience to date. The game begins with the protagonist, Carl 'CJ' Johnson, returning from Liberty City to his hometown of Los Santos due to the death of his mother. His gang, Grove Street Families, has lost the majority of its power, and rival gangs the Ballas and Vagos have taken over. The story of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas follows CJ as he attempts to regain control and save his family.
San Andreas moves away from 70s (The Godfather) and 80s (Scarface) inspiration behind Grand Theft Auto: III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City respectively, towards 90s films. Menace II Society and Boys N the Hood have obviously influenced San Andreas, with a heavy focus on criminal gangs, rather than the traditional Grand Theft Auto crime families.
The plot is one of the main reasons why San Andreas is such a huge success. The vast storyline contains the most missions of any Grand Theft Auto game to date (105 missions, some 17 more than Grand Theft Auto: IV) and without giving away any spoilers, you'll be in for some real surprises during the story. The game also takes place over a huge area, the fictional state of San Andreas. The state is based on California and Nevada; it contains three large cities, Los Santos (based on Los Angeles), San Fierro (based on San Francisco) and Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas). There is also a large countryside area next to Los Santos called the Badlands, and a desert area next to Las Venturas called Bone County.
San Andreas still retains a huge cult following is because of the vast amount of side missions, odd jobs and collectables. Each main city offers its own type of collectable: Los Santos – Gang Graffiti Tags; San Fierro – Photo Opportunities; Las Venturas – Horseshoes. In addition to these, there are 50 oysters hidden underwater throughout the entire map. The player also has a wide variety of side missions to choose from: the various schools (driving, biking, boating and flying); the race-track stadiums; Quarry; Freight Train; Burglar. These are accompanied by the usual paramedic, fire-fighter, vigilante etc missions.
The protagonist, CJ, is also much more dynamic and unique than previous protagonists. Moving forward from previous Grand Theft Autos where players can unlock outfits, CJ has the choice of buying individual items of clothing from shops all over San Andreas. CJ can also consume food freely and visit the gym; his body shape will range from overweight, to skinny, to buff, all depending on the player's actions. Tattoos and haircuts are also introduced for the first time in the series.
To sum it up, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas builds on the traditional Grand Theft Auto gameplay that fans know and love, whilst massively improving other aspects with the introduction of a wide variety of side missions, odd jobs and customisability.