Have Some Classic Violent Fun with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Since its inception, the Grand Theft Auto series has gained both controversy and phenomenal success for Rockstar Games and now GTA III, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas have all been made available to Mac users via the Mac App Store.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is the most recent title currently available and is arguably the greatest chapter in the entire GTA series, but is still over eight years old itself. How well does this aging game hold up in 2011? Let’s take a look!

Parental Discretion Is Advised

Carl's home is populated primarily by criminals, drug addicts and fellow gang-members

Carl's home is populated primarily by criminals, drug addicts and fellow gang-members

GTA: San Andreas is most definitely not for children or those who may be offended by the glorification of violence and criminality. The storyline shows petty criminal Carl Johnson’s return to his family home after a five year absence following the murder of his mother. Carl soon becomes embroiled in the gang-underworld, with guns, cars and the level of obscenity turned up to ten.

Gameplay begins with our protagonist at his mother’s house and there are several cut scenes setting out the various characters and intertwined sub-plots, with multiple missions soon available. But, and this is probably the single biggest reason for the Grand Theft Auto series’ success, the user is not limited to following the usual style linear gameplay which one expects from a video game, with a genuinely mind-boggling choice of mini-games, towns and countryside all open to explore.

Big Wide World

There's much fun to be had with GTA: San Andreas' various vehicles

There's much fun to be had with GTA: San Andreas' various vehicles

For those of us who would never dream of doing such a thing in real life, there is a catharsis felt when stealing a car and driving it recklessly in an across town cop chase and many hours can be spent playing aimlessly like this, just enjoying the expansive scenery available to the curious gamer. It’s the little touches which make the user experience so special. For instance, Carl can ride his bicycle, steal a car or walk to the nearby gym where a series of exercises are available. He can go to get some fast food, have a haircut or visit a tattoo parlor.

Potential girlfriends can be taken out on dates, drug dealers can be robbed and killed, police can be targeted at whim (though with violent repercussions), in addition to a plethora of shops, clubs and interactive characters. To be frank, if Rockstar Games had seen fit to provide the user with this wide world of open play alone and not added a compelling storyline, GTA: San Andreas would still be a win, the fact that they have will place it into many users’ top ten.

Upon delving into the storyline proper and moving past the opening series of missions designed to introduce the playing style, CJ is pitted against rival gang members, petty criminals and police, all out to further their own aims. The mini-games can occasionally frustrate or become repetitive, but this minor point cannot detract from the entertainment brought by the full package. Without wanting to ruin the point of the storyline, if CJ manages to avoid police attention and move up the ranks to become a prominent gangster, the user is rewarded with the opportunity to drive new vehicles, visit new locations and interact with new characters, adding to the vastness felt when playing for the first time.

Soundtrack

GTA is accompanied by a truly remarkable soundtrack

GTA is accompanied by a truly remarkable soundtrack

It may be a mistake to discuss GTA: San Andreas without at least touching upon the great accompanying soundtrack. Each vehicle contains a choice of radio station and each subsequent radio station has a depth of content and style, with hilarious advertisements and cynical parodies directed toward modern consumer culture, mainstream media and politicians. Each genre is catered to and it is possible to move from Guns N Roses to NWA, the Stone Roses to classic Country and Western.

Graphics Glitch Issues

While GTA: San Andreas seems to be an overwhelming success for most Mac owners, there are a significant number of users complaining of slowdown, graphical glitches and stuttering. I also experienced these issues when reviewing the game on a recent model MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM. However, though Rockstar’s support neglected to respond to my queries and Internet searches proved fruitless, after some time spent tinkering with OS X and game settings, I found a way of fixing this issue on my machines. Please be aware that this is only tested on two Mac’s, one running Snow Leopard and one with OS X Lion, so your results may vary:

Changing Power Saving Settings solved the graphical issues, at least for me

Changing Power Saving Settings solved the graphical issues, at least for me

Simply navigate to your Mac’s Energy Saver settings pane located within System Preferences and untick the option for ‘put hard disk to sleep when possible’. Fingers crossed, this should do the trick for you too.

One assumes that Rockstar Games will soon patch an update to address this matter and I have read unconfirmed reports that a patch is indeed in the works. Regardless, once the above steps were taken, the game ran very well indeed on both the aforementioned MacBook Pro and an early Core 2 Duo White MacBook and I was able to increase my graphics quality significantly without slowdown, even when leaving a few applications open in the background.

Conclusion

If you don't feel like following the storyline, just Google some cheats and have a blast!

If you don't feel like following the storyline, just Google some cheats and have a blast!

Some games are hyped beyond belief and when revisiting them at a later date, prove to be unworthy of such high praise; GTA: San Andreas is not one of these games. Though the graphics are not at the cutting edge anymore, GTA: San Andreas still bests many titles currently on the Mac App Store. Without the troublesome graphical glitches, this game would warrant an even higher score but with those still not officially resolved on date of writing, they are enough to warrant caution, at least for now.

Bugs aside, users who enjoyed the game on its release can revisit and have some fun causing carnage, while those who missed out the first time can find out what all the fuss was about. Providing you are not offended by the occasionally extreme (but often tounge-in-cheek) violence, cursing and misogyny and can take the game on its many merits, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas should prove to be a title which will keep you playing for many hours to come.


Summary

A unashamedly violent and compelling glimpse into a criminal underworld, GTA: San Andreas still has the capacity to entertain almost eight years since it's first release.

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