GTA San Andreas is rightly one of the most beloved titles in the history of video games and has had longevity unlike any other game from its time.
Even in 2021, where the game is now nearly 17-years-old, it is still discussed and enjoyed extensively.
GTA 3 might have been responsible for breaking the franchise into the mainstream. Vice City and San Andreas's combined efforts solidified the franchise's place in pop culture and history.
GTA San Andreas, in particular, went on to set the benchmark against which every other open-world game would be measured against for years.
While the game is undeniably great, it does have its fair number of issues that could've been ironed out. This article discusses some things that Rockstar Games should've done better in GTA San Andreas.
5 things that GTA San Andreas could've done better
1) A more consistent tone
Far from being the only game in the series with tone issues, GTA San Andreas is perhaps the most totally inconsistent out of all the mainline entries. The game seems to have an identity crisis of sorts when going through its 3-act like structure, with each act drastically different from the other.
The game attempts to be a serious crime drama about gang warfare, corrupt cops, and in-gang fighting. Simultaneously, it is also a light-hearted comedy about government conspiracies, aliens, and jetpacks. This blend between Scorcese and Michael Bay doesn't work out well.
GTA San Andreas truly feels like a game of two halves, with one trying to stay grounded while the other chucks grenades from a jetpack.
2) Too much padding
"Padding" in video games usually refers to content added to essentially extend the overall game time or give the illusion of a far deeper game. In GTA San Andreas' case, the padding exists to weirdly stretch the game out and fit in more plotlines that detract from the overall narrative.
For instance, CJ is sent into exile after a throwdown with the Ballas. After which, the player spends hours robbing stores with Catalina out. Not only that, but there is also a separate plotline that involves CJ essentially turning into a spy and combating government conspiracies.
All of which seems to distract the player from the main plotline involving Big Smoke, Grove Street, and Frank Tenpenny.
3) Far too many characters
This might be very low on the list of problems with GTA San Andreas, but it does seem to bother many new players. The franchise has always had many characters in a Guy Ritchie sort of way, but it doesn't exactly make for a cohesive plot.
In the game, players are first introduced to the Ballas and Grove Street rivalry and how C.R.A.S.H figures into all of it. Shortly after, IAA agents and Catalina pop up, adding chaos to the mix, and then Wu Zi Mu shows up to bring a healthy dose of Triads to GTA San Andreas.
While undoubtedly very entertaining, many characters could be removed from the game, and nothing would change in terms of plot and quality.
4) Better shooting
Before perhaps GTA 5, the franchise has always had a problem when it comes to combat. GTA may have been able to arrive at the perfect driving mechanics. It was yet to figure out gunplay and shooting mechanics.
GTA San Andreas might be an entertaining game overall, but its shooting mechanics could definitely use some re-work. For the most part, shooting can often devolve into simply spamming the shoot button until the enemy falls to the floor.
The lackluster sound design, mixed with the lack of any real challenges in covering placement, movement, or aiming, makes for a rather uninteresting experience. The rudimentary health system for enemies also doesn't count for as much as it can honestly harm the immersion at certain points in the game.
5) Mission Checkpoints
A fixture of old GTA titles has more to do with the design choices in older games where players had to start from scratch with each mission. When missions are as notoriously challenging as "Wrong Side of the Tracks," it isn't the failure of missions that hit quite as hard as having to do it all over again.
By that, it just doesn't mean doing the mission, but also going to the character who gave CJ the mission and starting from the top. Most times, players would have ended up miles away from the character's location, and having to travel all that distance is a pain unlike any other.
The lack of checkpoints and mission replays hits way harder now than it did back in 2004 and is one of the few places where GTA San Andreas shows its age.