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Ready to feel old? Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is 16 years old. If you're anything like me (in your mid-to-late 20s), San Andreas was a transformative experience that you sacrificed countless hours to. I remember spending weekends, evenings, and even the occasional stolen hour before school started sat cross-legged in front of the TV, PlayStation 2 pad in hand running around Los Santos slapping enemies around the face with a massive dildo.
Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have been playing around with San Andreas at the tender age of ten. On the other hand, all my friends were playing it... and judging by the continued love and adoration for the open-world crime game from people my age, you lot were playing it too. It was just one of those things - like how we all seemed to silently agree one day that calling up strangers from the internet and getting in a car with them was actually a good idea.
It's been a long 16 years, and a lot has changed. People grow up and form new opinions about all kinds of things in life, and that's fine - but it seems to me that San Andreas has remained a constant for most of us. I can't think of a single person that woke up one day as an adult and decided they were wrong to spend so much time playing San Andreas. It remains, in the eyes of all of us, a stone-cold classic - an all-timer whose vast and rich open world feels as miraculous today as it did 16 years ago.
Yes, it doesn't look as good as GTA V and the world is less populated, but the spirit is there. Rockstar used what they had and created a world that felt truly alive. GTA III and GTA Vice City were impressive, sure, but San Andreas took the lessons learned by its predecessors and ran with them. The scale and detail of San Andreas was so far beyond anything most of us had played at the time, and honestly continued to soar above a lot of what we'd go on to play after.
San Andreas became the yardstick by which we measured future Grand Theft Auto games, for sure, but also any open-world game. The missions, characters, music, vehicles, weapons, secrets, writing and acting were on another level. You have to remember this was years before gaming really started to try and put more into dialogue, performances, and story. I don't know if San Andreas is the reason video games really started to grow up, but it certainly helped.
Of course, we have to ask; do you dare to remake a game like San Andreas? My immediate answer, and I think most of you would agree, is "yes" - but that comes with caveats. If we were bringing a game like this into next-gen, the only things you'd really need to touch are the visuals, and maybe add some more songs to the excellent soundtrack.
Look at what Activision and Vicarious Visions did with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. It handles the same and feels the same, but looks like a modern release. That's what we'd need from San Andreas on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, because anything more risks tinkering with the delicate alchemy Rockstar achieved all those years ago.
You might argue that if all a remake is doing is giving the game a fresh coat of paint, then there's not really much point. Why not just go back and play the original game? I feel you, but I would make two main arguments. The first is that if you've looked at any of the (cancelled) fan projects or remakes that breathe new life into San Andreas, you'll know how gorgeous a modern take on the classic would look. Don't tell me you wouldn't play the crap out of that.
The second, slightly more important argument is that I feel there are probably some folk out there - folk of all ages - that might be put off trying San Andreas because of the way it looks. Yes, that's silly and yes, they're missing out, but if it all it takes to introduce an entirely new generation to one of the most formative games of our generation is a few graphical upgrades? I'd say that's a pretty solid deal.
16 years ago Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas changed my life in so many ways by connecting me to new friends, new music, and showing me how special video games could be when they're at they're very best. It's one of the finest and most important games of the era, and the more fools that stumble into the wrong house, the better.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm nipping out for Two number 9s, a number 9 large, a number 6 with extra dip, a number 7, two number 45s, one with cheese, and a large soda.
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