Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a sandbox-style action-adventure computer and video game developed by Rockstar North. It is the third 3D game in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise and fifth original game overall. Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in October 2004, the game has since been ported to the Xbox and Microsoft Windows, and has received wide acclaim and high sales figures on all three platforms. San Andreas was succeeded by Grand Theft Auto IV and was preceded by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
The game is set in the fictional state of San Andreas, comprising three metropolitan cities. Set in late 1992, San Andreas revolves around gang member Carl "CJ" Johnson returning home from Liberty City to Los Santos after learning of his mother's murder. CJ finds his family and his old gang, the Grove Street Families, in disarray. Over the course of the game, CJ gradually unravels the plot behind his mother's murder while reestablishing his gang and exploring his own business ventures. Like other games in the series, San Andreas is composed of elements from driving games and third-person shooters, and features "open-world" gameplay that gives the player more control over their playing experience. The game adds several features, such as gang wars, car customization, and character personalization.
Much like the previous entries in the Grand Theft Auto series, San Andreas's critical and commercial success has not been without controversy. The most notable controversy was over the explicit "Hot Coffee" sex minigame, which was disabled but left within the game's code. Its discovery led San Andreas to be re-rated briefly as an adult game and pulled from retailers' shelves.
San Andreas is structured similarly to the previous two games in the series. The core gameplay consists of elements of a third-person shooter and a driving game, affording the player a large, open environment in which to move around. On foot, the player's character is capable of walking, running, swimming (the first GTA game in which swimming is possible), climbing and jumping, as well as using weapons and various forms of hand to hand combat. Players can steal and drive a variety of vehicles, including automobiles, boats, airplanes, helicopters, trains, tanks, motorcycles and bikes. Players may also import vehicles rather than steal them.
The open, non-linear environment allows players to explore and choose how they wish to play the game. Although storyline missions are necessary to progress through the game and unlock certain cities and content, they are not required, as players can complete them at their own leisure. When not taking on a storyline mission, players can free-roam. However, creating havoc can attract unwanted and potentially fatal attention from the authorities. The more chaos caused, the stronger the response: police will handle "minor" infractions (attacking people, pointing guns at people, stealing cars, killing a few people, etc.), whereas SWAT teams, the FBI, and the military respond to higher wanted levels.
The player can also partake in a variety of optional side missions. The traditional side missions of the past games are included, such as dropping off taxi cab passengers, putting out fires, driving injured people to the hospital and fighting crime as a vigilante. New additions include robbery missions, pimping missions, truck and train driving missions requiring players to make deliveries on time, and driving/flying/boating/biking schools, which help players learn skills and techniques to use in their corresponding vehicles.
Unlike Vice City and GTA III, which needed loading screens when traveling between different districts of the city, San Andreas has no load times when the player is in transit (which is notable, given how much larger the in-game map is than in the previous games). The only loading screens in the game are for cut-scenes and interiors. Other differences between San Andreas and its predecessors include the switch from single-player to multiplayer Rampage missions (albeit not in the PC version), and the replacement of the 'hidden packages' with spray paint tags, hidden camera shots, horseshoes, and oysters to discover.
The camera, fighting, and targeting controls were reworked to incorporate concepts from another Rockstar game, Manhunt, including various stealth elements, as well as improved target crosshairs and a target health indicator which changes colors from green to red to black depending on the target's health. The PC version of the game implements mouse chording; the player has to hold the right mouse button to activate the crosshairs, and then click or hold at the left mouse button to shoot or use an item, such as a camera.
The player has a gunfight with members of the enemy gang, the Ballas (Windows version)
In addition, players can swim and climb walls for the first time in the series. The ability to swim has a great effect on the player as well, since water is no longer a viable barrier to the player and can no longer instantly kill the player (although it is possible to drown). For greater firepower, players can also wield dual firearms or perform a drive-by shooting with multiple gang members. Also, due to the immense size of San Andreas, a waypoint reticule on the HUD map can be set, aiding the player in reaching a destination.
The game's artificial intelligence was also improved. No longer can the player beat a pedestrian to death on a busy street in broad daylight and have bystanders not respond. While most pedestrians will flee or duck for cover, some armed civilians such as drug dealers and enemy gang members will attack CJ, and friendly gang members will shoot at and pursue his opponents. Cops will now chase non-player characters who are committing crimes, instead of just the player.