And in This Corner…
More options are available when you have to fight, too. Enemy attacks can now be blocked, and you can pull off combo moves learned in the gym to throw flurries of punches, charge rival bangers, and so on. These tactics usually aren’t as useful as simply whaling away the old-fashioned style, although they can be helpful in a pinch. Using weapons is easier now as well, as you gain in experience every time you fire a gat. After a fair bit of killing, you move up to the Gangster and Hitman levels, and are able to use the targeting icon on farther away enemies and even hone in on heads without fail. The only issue with combat is the lingering problem with the lock-on system not always targeting the right opponents. It’s still more difficult than it should be to lock on to the bad guy you want to pound, and far too easy to lock onto a dead guy at your feet.
There are only two areas where San Andreas falls flat, and I’m still debating their impact. First is the graphics. The PS2 is starting to show its age these days, and Rockstar can only get so much out of the three-year-old platform. Overall, though, this is still a better-looking game than Vice City. The art department has tossed in nifty frills like heat waves radiating off the pavement on hot days, and countryside foliage that contrasts with everything else in the game, so I can’t complain.
Second is the sound. While the in-game dialogue is better than ever, despite a cast that includes far more unknowns than the star-studded Vice City (unknowns play CJ and most of the key parts, with the only big names being Samuel L. Jackson and James Woods in supporting roles), I find the music lacking. Part of this is a scattered focus in comparison with Vice City. Where that game could hone in on the 80s and make fun of the era’s pop and new wave, its sequel had to be more diverse because 90s music wasn’t as iconic. There’s a great selection of tunes on the nine music stations in the game (deejayed by slumming celebs like Axl Rose and George Clinton, although the themes are so all over the place that nothing stands out. There’s something for everyone in the selection of classic rock, 70s funk, hip-hop, country, and so forth, but not enough to satisfy anybody. I loved some great individual tunes, like Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause,” and, of course, Guns ‘n’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle,” though I spent a lot more time surfing the dial and listening to GTA alumnus Lazlow on the talk-radio channel here than I did in Vice City.