In the gangster underworld of GTA, both CJ and Big Smoke walk separate paths to find their success and failures.
Despite their differences, CJ and Big Smoke do have a lot in common. Both of them are funny, look at the bigger picture, and are great in combat situations.
They also run various criminal operations throughout the state of San Andreas. However, there are tragic undertones to their friendship-turned-rivalry.
While both are highly ambitious, CJ and Big Smoke could never see eye-to-eye. There are certain lines even someone like CJ wouldn't cross. Big Smoke, however, has no moral disputes over selling his own soul.
These major differences are what resulted in their fate at the end of GTA San Andreas.
Five ways CJ and Big Smoke differ from one another in GTA San Andreas
#5 - CJ is loyal to Grove Street; Big Smoke is not
Although CJ and Big Smoke grew up together, they were destined to drift apart. CJ's brother Sweet called him out for his lack of Grove Street representation. However, it turns out Big Smoke was the one he should've worried about.
Big Smoke eventually moved out of Grove Street and into Idlewood, and given this is Ballas territory, he's already showing his true colors.
Big Smoke is exactly what it says on his license plate - he's a two-bit snake.
While CJ remains loyal to Grove Street, Big Smoke is already in cahoots with the Ballas. He's even partly responsible for the death of CJ and Sweeet's mother.
It's a dagger to the heart of CJ (and GTA players), who thought they could trust Big Smoke.
#4 - CJ never deals with drugs; Big Smoke doesn’t mind
One of the major tenets of Grove Street Families is not selling hard drugs on their streets. Doing so will severely weaken their forces and it also ruins the lives of several friends and family.
While CJ is against the use of drugs, Big Smoke has no reservations about flooding their turf.
One of the main reasons Big Smoke betrayed his gang was because of their hardline anti-drug policy. Grove Street was already on the decline without the drug profits. Meanwhile, the Ballas had no qualms about selling crack on the streets.
It was an easy decision for Big Smoke to make. He didn't care about the consequences, which proved to be his eventual downfall when he became addicted to his own product.
CJ stays clean throughout the entire game, so GTA players don't have to worry about questionable actions.
#3 - CJ hates C.R.A.S.H. while Big Smoke convenes with them
While CJ is forced to work with C.R.A.S.H. (under threat of blackmail), Big Smoke is more than willing to do business with them. Early in the game, GTA players will notice Big Smoke already has frequent visits from these corrupt officers.
CJ has every reason to hate C.R.A.S.H. - they are partly responsible for the death of his mother. It's not a good look for a gangster to do some dirty work for law enforcement.
Big Smoke, on the other hand, relies on them for his criminal activities while CJ would never seek them out on his own.
Tenpenny sees both of them as disposable tools, ready to be discarded at any time. However, CJ knows this while Big Smoke doesn't seem to. The latter continues to work with a man whose stated mission is to eradicate gang activity. That includes Big Smoke and his operation.
#2 - CJ does the work himself; Big Smoke relies on others
Although Big Smoke is great with guns, he prefers to let others take care of his business. Even during the infamous Drive-Thru mission, he insists on finishing his food order instead of helping Grove Street against the Ballas.
By comparison, CJ carries a heavy load during GTA missions. Whether it's shooting or driving, he's responsible for the success or failure of any given mission.
While CJ does have assistance from allies, GTA players are expected to do most of the work for them.
Towards the climax of San Andreas, CJ single-handedly takes over the streets of Los Santos. GTA players can decide whether or not they have Grove Street members backing him up.
Meanwhile, Big Smoke lets his lieutenants handle drug operations as he rarely leaves the confines of this crack palace.
#1 - CJ has major allies; Big Smoke lacks companionship
By the end of San Andreas, GTA players can accumulate several allies. CJ has acquired everything from casinos to car dealerships and even has a government agent willing to pull a few strings for him.
Unfortunately, Big Smoke cannot say the same for himself.
While he did expand his drug empire before GTA players crushed it, Big Smoke barely lived a life of luxury. He is alone in the depths of his drug factory, with only the company of his crack supply and his fellow criminals.
At the beginning of the game, Big Smoke had CJ, Sweet, and Ryder - it was Grove Street for life (until it wasn't). By the end, he is all by himself and GTA players often pity his tragic situation.
In GTA, great power carries a huge cost and Big Smoke was simply unable to afford it.
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Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.