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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — Definitive Edition — The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The Grove Street families have made a striking return to the gaming frontline in the latest revamp of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — Definitive Edition. Running alongside the urban and neon siblings, those being Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City, the trilogy has finally rebooted on next-gen hardware — and to say the nostalgia is real would only be an understatement, and to be honest, a discredit to one of Rockstar’s finest ever creations.

Of course, it has only been a day since the enhanced trilogy hit the digital shelves, and it’ll be another few weeks before it receives its physical counterpart. However, that hasn’t exactly stopped us from booting up the PlayStation 2 gem and bleeding its story dry for the billionth time. And from what we’ve seen so far — it’s definitely a mixed bag, and one we’re seriously eager to talk about a little more. So let’s dive right in. Here’s our take on the latest edition of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

5. “Grove Street, Home” (The Good)

Considering the fact we’ve been pleading for Rockstar to remake San Andreas for the best part of a decade now, we do have to put our hands up and say, despite its minor enhancements and flaws — it is still something we’ve wanted ever since the PlayStation 2 and Xbox generations fizzled out. Sure, it may not be a total reboot, but that’s half the charm. And by that, I mean, the fingers are still very much glued together — but they look a little more, say — shiny.

To be fair, Rockstar didn’t need to do a whole lot in order to pull up a thread of nostalgic vibes with the definitive edition. The fact that we can once again cycle down Grove Street as the sunset plunges into the faraway hills. That’s all it takes to convince us to embark on another rags to riches chapter, and we’re all for it. It just felt good to be home after over a decade of waiting idly by for Rockstar to give it its well-deserved spit shine. And so, for nostalgia alone — San Andreas is definitely worth coming back to in 2021.

4. “You picked the wrong house—” (The Bad)

Unfortunately, even with the nostalgia running high and Grove Street looking beautifully, I don’t know — wet — the game itself still manages to run into a few choppy cutscenes right off the bat. And by that, I mean the dialogue will basically cut out before the scene even comes to an end. You know how each mission would eventually fade to black once all the talks were over? Well, think that — but with a few words being cut halfway through the line.

It’s probably nitpicking at this point, though it does take the immersion away ever so slightly. Of course, we already knew the dialogue by heart before booting up the game — but that doesn’t stop it from spoiling the cinematics ever so slightly. Okay, so it isn’t with every mission, but it does happen a lot more than I would’ve expected — especially with the original game not having any cutouts whatsoever. However, it’s something that will more than likely get patched in the near future, so it’s hardly worth getting riled up over, to be fair.

3. Those faces, though (The Ugly)

Although you can clearly see the lengths Rockstar went through to give the primary roster a complete makeover without losing the original charm, we can’t help but notice that the vast majority of NPCs were given the rough end of the stick. As in, beaten to a pulp with a stick, spat on, and then rubbed over with a greasy sheet of baking paper. Unfortunately, that’s half of San Andreas, all bundled up into one slick collective.

On the surface, the cities are beautiful. Beautiful, for a game that came out in 2004, that is. Throw yourself a little deeper into the city suburbs and you’ll spot a few scrubbed textures and mismatched palettes. Go deeper than that, however, and you’ll eventually find yourself touring a cesspit full of pixels and unpolished pedestrians. Seeing that, sadly, makes us question Rockstar’s ability to scratch the finer details, no matter how small and insignificant they are to the overall structure of the game.

2. Checkpoints — finally (The Good)

Never in a million years did I think I’d be thankful for something as simple as a checkpoint in a video game. It’s something we’re so incredibly used to in this day and age, that coming into contact with a game without such a system is a rarity, and not something many developers tend to drop these days. And yet, draw back to 2004 and you’ll likely recall San Andreas not having them at all. If you died, or failed an objective — then you would have to start from scratch, at the hospital and with no weapons in your pocket — and ultimately have to travel all the way back to the mission blip.

Not anymore. Finally. As if Rockstar had finally figured out that people just didn’t like having to watch the same cutscenes over and over again, they made the snap decision to insert checkpoints. And while I understand that something as conventional as a checkpoint is a relatively small detail on a wider spectrum — it is something that makes failure far less tedious. We’re able to jump back in where we left off — without the hassle of having to revisit AmmuNation, suffer the slog of the return journey, and basically the entire mission before finally overcoming the obstacle that conquered us. A small thing — but a beneficial one, for sure.

1. There’s still something…missing? (The Bad)

All in all, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — Definitive Edition is a real blast from the past, compact with a few glossy tweaks and fresh features to help the flow of the story streaming without distraction. But with that said, there are still plenty of things that Rockstar need to give a once over if they plan on living up to the beloved chapter’s former reputation.

Other than the smudged pedestrians and spontaneous cinematic fade-outs, a few loose wires remain between the nooks and crannies of the experience. Frame drops, murderous pedestrians with a knack for killing, and a few other things, all of which tie together to form a tedious ball of thread that San Andreas could honestly do without. Remove the knot, however, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a trip down memory lane.

You can pick up your digital copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — Definitive Edition today on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC. If you’re subscribed to Game Pass then you can pick it up for free. The physical edition goes live on December 7th, 2021.

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