5 gameplay features in GTA San Andreas that were ahead of its time

Analyzing gameplay features of GTA San Andreas (Image via Sportskeeda)
Analyzing gameplay features of GTA San Andreas (Image via Sportskeeda)

Rockstar Games changed the landscape of the gaming industry with the release of Grand Theft Auto (GTA) III in 2001. What followed was a series of incredible titles that dominated the action-adventure genre. One of the highly regarded entries in the franchise is Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Despite being released in 2004, the game was packed with features that no other developer could replicate with the same conviction.

From in-depth character customization to an extremely large map, there were numerous path-breaking features in Rockstar's 2004 release. Out of all, here is a list of five gameplay features in GTA San Andreas that were simply pioneering.


Lived-in world and four more gameplay features in GTA San Andreas that were ahead of its time

1) The huge state of San Andreas

The 3D universe map of the state of San Andreas (Image via GTA Wiki)
The 3D universe map of the state of San Andreas (Image via GTA Wiki)

GTA San Andreas is one of the few games of its time that incorporated such a large map. The state of San Andreas was a sprawling landmass with varying biomes that kept the gameplay experience fresh. Players can freely traverse across the map to any of its three cities:

  • Los Santos - based on Los Angeles
  • San Fierro - based on San Francisco
  • Las Venturas - based on Las Vegas

Besides these bustling metropolises, the game also featured a countryside where players spend a decent amount of time during the main story. Having such an expansive map full of intricate detail was unprecedented at that time.


2) In-depth character customization

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Character customization is a feature that lets players add a personal touch to the game's protagonist. While one could alter Tommy Vercetti's apparel in GTA Vice City, San Andreas elevated this mechanic to the next level. Players could now shop for apparel in various styles and price ranges at stores such as Binco and Didier Sachs.

Additionally, excessive eating would visually affect Carl Johnson's (CJ) body, while going to the gym would help achieve a muscular look. Players also had the freedom of altering his hairstyle and grooming facial hair by visiting a salon.


3) Lived-in world

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Not only was the state of San Andreas huge, it was inhabited by NPCs that were as close to being alive as possible at the time. CJ had the ability to interact positively or negatively with characters like regular citizens and gang members. According to Rockstar Games, they had recorded close to 4,200 lines of dialogue for CJ.

Many games fail to create worlds with a lived-in feel even today. However, Rockstar had nearly perfected the formula even with the technological limitations present in 2004.


4) Car customization

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Vehicle customization is one of the most popular aspects in GTA Online. With the advanced technology, the game can offer an extensive catalog of vehicular upgrades to the playerbase. Rockstar even launched a new License Plate Creator website recently. However, years before Grand Theft Auto V and Online, players could customize cars in GTA San Andreas.

Paint Jobs, roofs, side skirts, spoilers, and wheels are just some car customization options available in the game. No other game included similar gameplay features on such a big scale at the time of San Andreas' release.


5) Skill progression

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Rockstar Games went above and beyond regarding character customization in GTA San Andreas. Not only could CJ's appearance be altered, players could also enhance several skills such as swimming, lung capacity, stamina, weapon handling, driving, and more by practicing regularly.

Moreover, players could learn different fighting styles in the various gyms across the state of San Andreas. This added further depth to the game's progression system, unheard of in previous titles.

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Edited by Sijo Samuel Paul
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