Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Locked and Loaded in San Andreas

We take a look at the reworked weapons system in the next GTA. Plus: new firearms, vehicles and side missions!
Author: Kyle Sutton
Published: September 8, 2004
Now, if you'll recall, our last massive update on Rockstar North's next ambitious addition to its groundbreaking franchise, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, covered the basics of robbing estates and getting away with it. To get away with such a heist, as well as be a success on the streets as a whole, you'll need to be packing heat... weapon heat, that is. Taking a hint what was done in its gruesome Manhunt, the development team has gone ahead and reworked the gunplay mechanic from the ground up. While some target controls will feel comfortably familiar, others will take adjusting, resulting in a far more intricate and effective weapons scheme

Working with the Weaponry
When in need to draw your weapon, a simple click of the R1 button, as in previous GTAs, will once again engage the targeting system. If you choose to, you can randomly fire off your gun with the use of the Circle button, though continue to hold down R1 and an array of new options will open up to you. To eliminate the closest threat, our main man, Carl Johnson, will first aim at the most hostile of enemies while avoiding those who put you in no danger. If perhaps no enemies were present, the next nearest target would then be centered on within a 90-degree range. And when no target is even present, CJ goes into a free aim mode, complete with a reticule in the center of the screens and adjusted analog controls: left stick for moving a strafing, right stick for toying with the camera. In addition, if multiple enemies have approached CJ, you can always resort to the usual controls to rapidly cycle through locked-on targets with the R2 and L2 buttons. Take note that when in target mode, L1 becomes you new trigger button, ensuring that intuitiveness stays intact.

But what good is a revamped targeting system if you don't have any weapons? CJ will, of course, have a large arsenal of firearms at his disposal, but what has freshened up the concept is that each now has a skill level associated with it. If CJ sticks with a certain gun, his proficiency with it can be developed, to the point where several aspects of gunplay can be upgraded or even unlocked. Frequent use will reduce the time it takes to reload, spice up CJ's fire rate, better his accuracy (crouching helps too), and even allow him to have an improved stance, faster strafing and the ability to move backwards and fire simultaneously, abilities that would normally be inaccessible. The holy grail of the unlockables that come with skill, though? Dual weapons. No, you're not dreaming.

To employ these swift techniques, Rockstar obviously had to toss in a set of new weapons to satisfy your itchy trigger finger. One firearm they did confirm is the Desert Eagle (better known as DEAGLE), made with pure countryside lovin'. Save the sniper rifle, this smoking handgun packs the most stopping power per round in the entire game. As you can imagine, CJ will have a heck of a time getting a grip on this sucker when he first tries to use it. Stay persistent with it, though, and his proficiency will slowly but surely increase with it. And you though the Colt Python was as good as it could get.

Firearms are good and all, but nothing beats the satisfaction of beating the stuffing out of some chump with a melee weapon. Classic hand-to-hand implements as well as a handful of new ones will be featured in the game, and as with firearms, the mechanics of melee combat have received a hefty renovation as well. Opponents can now be locked-on upon, enables to CJ to circle them if he pleases, and Square will now block oncoming attacks. And instead of just standard, repetitive swings with that bat or golf club, a number of different attacks can now be performed, with separate animations for the strikes of each and every weapon. Definitely a fresh splash of water onto the visage of melee combat.

One of the first to employ these new techniques is the garden shovel, a series new. This versatile tool will usually be found in someone's backyard and can be quite useful. So whether CJ's in need of digging up some dirt or, you know, bashing someone's face in, the shovel's got you covered.

And Away We Go
With the countryside of San Andreas being as vast as can be, you're bound to come across some varied landscapes and terrain. For one, these environmental aspects are going to be as beautiful as ever, thanks to Rockstar North's "procedural rendering" technique that actually draws in the foliage around you. Differing terrain have been properly tagged, thus each area will contain specific plants (dozens, according to R*), underbrush and grass, all to be properly fleshed out, giving nature in the game an almost life-like appeal. Heck, the moon even goes through monthly cycles, going through life-like phases as each in-game day progresses.

Aside from the eye candy, you're bound to come across rugged terrain in the country, one of these being the game's single largest landmark: Mount Chiliad. Assuming you manage to ascend this monster, you'll actually be able to participate in a mountain bike race down the mountain. Biking rookies ought to wait, but if you have developed CJ's cycling skills, you may just stand a chance. Competitors will no doubt play rough, trying to run you off your wheels and profit off of your mistakes. You could get all old-school on their asses by bunnyhopping during the race, but seeing as this is one steep descent, it may not be the best of ideas. Bear the tricks of opposing racers and make it to the bottom first, and it's off to the mountain biking championship. See how well those days of BMX riding in Los Santos paid off? Other off-road races will include 4x4s and motocross on the Sanchez.

As you can see, mountain bikes are one of the new forms of transportation (but more likely racing) in the game, and several other concepts come right with it. In desperation or just for a laugh, CJ can actually jack a lawnmower. Not the best way to lose the fuzz, but it sure beats fleeing on foot.

For more of a vehicle-infused adrenaline rush, there's the fully-functional bulldozer. To control such a monster, new steering physics have been implemented for a realistic replication in it, with front and back wheel steering locked. Close to, if not as, terrorizing as a tank, the Dozer can flip cars when reeking havoc on the sidewalk, thanks to the right analog stick control of the plow. On that note, note that a whole new selection of objects can now be destroyed, including milk crates, picket fences, small and medium sized plants, outdoor furniture - pretty much anything that looks ripe for termination with the bulldozer. Don't think you're the only maniac in town, though - fellow San Andreas whackos may even cause vehicle mayhem in the city!

If flying is your thing, enter the new range of airborne vehicles. This is one massive state, so it's only natural to want to take to the skies in a plane to get from point A in Los Santos to point B in Las Venturas. Everyone's favorite Dodo sports full wings and better handling this time around, even featuring an altimeter, appearing in the bottom left-hand corner. More maneuverable planes include the new crop duster, a two-winged biplane good for pulling off in-air tricks like barrel rolls, hammerheads and loops. And who said you couldn't get tricky in the sky?

With so much new and improved vehicle goodness, you'd have to imagine that they'd have at least some mission germaneness. Such is the case with RU Haul, a shipping company in the hills west of Los Santos. To put a little extra green in his wallet, CJ is able to do a little cargo towing for the company, all in a classic 18-wheeler. We all know the Grand Theft Auto series already has steering mechanics down pat, so this king of the road will certainly be a challenge to man properly. On those tight corners, the trailer can disconnect, yet CJ is able to reconnect it and continue on his merry way to a set destination. Time is of the essence when working an RU Haul job, and if you're late, CJ's fee will be halved. With that said, know there is a surprisingly large amount of money to be made in this business. CJ may start out making a few thousand working lower-level projects, but tens of thousands can be his in jobs that involve hauling cargo that's not exactly, what you might say, "legal." When not in the midst of a side mission, though, these 18-wheel tankers make for extremely effective explosives. Taking out a wave of enemies can be as easy as speeding one of these suckers towards them, diving out and launching a rocket into the ticking time bomb. Enjoy the aftermath!

It's no mystery that California is notorious for its wild fires, and seeing as San Andreas is a take on the great Western state, this problem is prominent in the game as well. The parched parts of San Andreas can be ignited with ease, and CJ may at times be the accidental or intentional instigator of a fire with use of a Molotov cocktail or detonating vehicle. As in earlier GTA installments, car explosions will transfer from one to the next, so the buildings and forests are always at a risk of being potential hazard grounds. If the normally responsive San Andreas Fire Department misses a call and CJ chooses to be a hero, he can fight the flames with the use of a fire extinguisher. These useful canisters are typically hanging in the local Burger Shot or Cluckin Bell fast food joint, and when acquired, they can cool off a licking fire if aimed at the bottom of the flame. Could we be seeing the fire extinguisher as a potential weapon as well? Very possible.

That's all for this update. We'll keep you on top of every last morsel of [i]Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
as Rockstar North shuffles more goodies our way. Keep it here!