The original Grand Theft Auto franchise had two cities - Liberty City and Vice City - and the state of San Andreas. San Andreas is a Fictional Counterpart for California, with some elements from Nevada. It has three major cities: Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas. It also has nearly a dozen small towns, and loads of land in between them.The game puts the player in the shoes of Carl "CJ" Johnson, a good guy, relatively speaking, a first for the series. CJ is a gangster from the Grove Street Families who left the city of Los Santos, San Andreas after his brother Brian was killed, but is returning home after a five-year stint in Liberty City to bury his murdered mother, Beverly.Shortly after arriving, C.R.A.S.H. officers Frank Tenpenny and Eddie Pulaski pick him up and plant evidence implicating him for the murder of Ralph Pendlebury, another cop whom the unit offed before he can expose their corrupt dealings. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's also the mystery of the green roadster which performed the drive-by on Beverly Johnson, as well as corrupt elements within the GSF that want a slice of the burgeoning coke trade. Saving Grove Street, and ultimately Los Santos, from the machinations of C.R.A.S.H. will take CJ all over the state of San Andreas, where he'll have to rub elbows with Chinese casino owners, rap moguls, Mexican gangbangers - as well quite a few familiar faces.San Andreas's reception was like pretty much every other 3D Grand Theft Auto game. In other words, it was received with a hell of a lot of love from gamers. For many, San Andreas has gone down in gaming history as one of the best of its era. While not without controversy (the Hot Coffee Minigame scandal was especially idiotic), it enjoyed overwhelmingly positive reviews by critics and fans alike, and has made millions in sales. San Andreas is still widely considered to be one of the best games in the series, and to this day, many will call it one of the best games of all time. One reason for this is because of its absolutely huge sandbox area — three full cities and numerous towns and countryside areas, as opposed to other games which were positively claustrophobic by comparison.Fans of the game may want to check out this Let's Play told almost entirely from CJ's perspective, which fleshes out the story and fills in some plotholes.Rockstar returned to San Andreas in 2013 with Grand Theft Auto V, however this reimagined version only depicts Los Santos and surrounding countryside, though GTA: San Andreas' use of small rural towns is retained. Some elements of the original Los Santos remain, such as the Vinewood analog for Hollywood, and some shoutouts to the original game. Technically speaking, the sandbox play area for the game is actually much larger than GTA: San Andreas, though players have also noted that, conversely, it also feels smaller at the same time (perhaps due to there being only one distinct city in the new game). Grand Theft Auto IV, meanwhile, gave Las Venturas a cameo in one of its in-game TV commercials, suggesting it still exists and could someday be featured in another game, along with San Fierro.
Adaptation Distillation: The third-generation games are prequels of the original game and each other, and San Andreas combines the best elements of all the games that came before (large sandbox, gang respect, plethora of vehicles, contrast of gritty working-class environments/glossy upper class estates, not to mention a protagonist that actually knows how to swim) to make a thoroughly satisfying game.
Mike Toreno, who's pretty nice for a drug-runner and government agent shoulder-deep in eldritch information.
Same can be said for CJ, who comes off as a centered, caring guy despite lacking qualms to commit crimes throughout the game.
Big Smoke, whose cheerful and chummy nature denote his criminal tendencies. Especially his treachery and cocaine-dealing habits.
And also Woozie, the leader of the San Fierro Triad, who despite being a crime boss is depicted as very sympathetic and likable. So much so one expects Woozie to Face-Heel Turn on CJ, but he never does.
Alas, Poor Villain: In the finale, CJ feels nothing but remorse over having to kill Big Smoke.
Big Smoke: When I'm gone, everyone's gonna remember my name... BIG SMOKE! CJ: Damn. What a waste...
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Ballas attempt to do this in "Drive-Thru", but are stopped by the Grove Street O Gs (save for Smoke). Later, the Ballas actually manage to assault Grove Street during "House Party", with Ryder leaving to gather up Smoke and some homies as backup, but Sweet, CJ and the remaining homies manage to drive the Ballas back. Both missions foreshadow the fact that Smoke and Ryder are not as loyal as they seem to be.
"The Green Sabre". Smoke and Ryder are soon revealed to have sold the Families out to Tenpenny and the Ballas. Before long, Sweet and the homies are ambushed at the Mulholland Intersection. CJ arrives just as Sweet gets hit. Once the police arrive, the Johnson brothers are arrested, and all of the territory Grove Street has at this point is lost.
After returning to Grove Street following your adventures in the other two sections of San Andreas, your first task is to liberate it from the Ballas, and later you have to retake a significant amount of territory to unlock the final mission.
Ambition Is Evil: Subverted. Kendl identifies a lack of ambition as being CJ's major character flaw and most of the game is spent curing him of it. (On the other hand, most of the endeavors CJ's newfound ambition leads him into are criminal, so...hmmm...)
Played straight with Big Smoke and Ryder, whose greed and ambition is what drove them to betray Grove Street and start setting up a major drug-dealing operation in Los Santos.
Anachronism Stew: Not overtly, but noticeable in some of the sights and sounds around San Andreas.
Some of the songs playing on the radio, like "It Was A Good Day" by Ice Cube are released after 1992, which is when the game takes place.
Certain cars, especially high-end ones, were based on real-life cars produced long after 1992, such as the Bullet, which is based on the 2005 Ford GT.
Which in turn was an almost exact copy design-wise of the Ford GT40, but undoubtedly chosen with the new car's release.
Bit less obvious, but Sweet's attitude towards drugs and the purpose of gangs would be much more fitting in the early half of The Eighties, when the crack epidemic was just starting. Crack also brought massive income, which led to more powerful firearms on the streets. The gangs that refuse to touch crack, such as the Families, the Aztecas and the Mountain Cloud Triads, would probably not have survived The Eighties.
Anti-Hero: You, the rest of Grove Street (well, Sweet at least), Cesar and Woozie.
Anti-Villain: Of the Big Bad Triumvirate, Hernandez is the least malevolent (it also helps that he had to endure much of Tenpenny and Pulaski's bullying just because he's Mexican). His only interaction with CJ is a call early in the game, warning him not to leave Los Santos. He also eventually gives in to his conscience and tries to turn his partners in, and saves CJ from Pulaski in the desert near the end of the game.
Area 51: Parodied with Area 69, which CJ breaks into to acquire a jetpack. Trying to enter the area will earn you an instant five-star wanted level, and if you fly over, you will be brought down by SAM sites and Hydra fighter jets.
Artificial Stupidity: Unless they're firing out of a car, any NPC assistance you have is often more of a liability. They're generally only competent when they're scripted to be busy while you're doing some other objective.
The Hydra's hover mode. Trying to strafe ground targets is extremely difficult because the Hydra uses the camera controls for its additional functions, preventing you from righting the camera. The trio of sluggish response, split attention and proximity to ground clutter ends many joyrides with a boom.
In Las Venturas, you can steal a passenger jet. More impressive will be landing this unwieldy beast intact. You also can't save it in any garage because the thing is so big that it needs its own dedicated hangar in Las Venturas.
Ax-Crazy: Cesar describes his cousin Catalina as "really intense". As CJ finds out, this is a massiveUnderstatement.
Back-to-Back Badasses: Sweet and CJ get to do this in a mission near the end of the game, which is essentially a two man army against a horde of Ballas.
Badass: When the game starts, CJ is straight busta, but if you're playing right he becomes the baddest man in San Andreas by the end.
Also Sweet, Big Smoke and Ryder are this.
Catalina, despite of being an Ax-Crazy, also qualifies.
And T-Bone Mendez. He's a psycho, but definitely qualifies as well.
Bald of Evil: Officer Tenpenny has a shaved head. CJ can have his head shaved if the player chooses to do so, making it Bald of Awesome.
Beef Gate: Initially, CJ is restricted to Los Santos and Red County; since he is the only GTAIII-era protagonist of the series who can actually swim, there is nothing preventing the player from entering the other regions before they are unlocked, but there is a penalty of a four-star wanted level if you do. Specifically, San Fierro, Whetstone and Flint County are inaccessible prior to completing "The Green Sabre" and Tierra Robada, Bone County and Las Venturas cannot be entered before completing "Yay-ka-boom-boom".
Wu Zi Mu, or "Woozie", is a laid-back, friendly, unassuming Chinese businessman who enjoys playing video games, racing cars, and golf despite being blind. He's also the boss of the Mountain Cloud Triads. When he found his men wiped out by the the Vietnamese Da Nang Boys, he rushes into the fray with a machine pistol and guns down everyone he can find, all the while threatening to to make their blood "flow like wine". CJ remains on his good side throughout the game, averting a potential Face-Heel Turn.
CJ himself is usually a pretty nice guy — for a gangbanger, though this may have something to do with having worked a legitimate job for the Leones in Liberty City for five years. But do not talk bad about his family, especially his sister Kendl. Or their late mother. Just ask Pulaski.
British English: On rare occasions the fact the GTA games are actually made by a British company becomes evident. For example, the news radio station includes news reports referencing "the drugs trade"; Americans tend to singularize the word "drug" in that phrase, while the Brits use "drugs" in all uses.
During an early mission in which CJ has to whack a Families member who has been snitching to the Ballas, the subtitles advise you to kill the "grass".
Also true of certain jokes, for example Helena Wankstein's name being a reference to the British insult "wank stain" and the asset "Wang Cars" being a semi-homophone of "wankers". On the other hand, "wang" is also a slang term for penis, so it works either way.
Cluckin' Bell = Cockney rhyming slang for "fucking hell".
On-screen instructions frequently use the word "whilst". It's not a very common word in America, and it certainly doesn't fit the game's ghetto aesthetic.
Blatant Lies: At one point, you're told to go buy an abandoned air strip. You're also told to offer the owner a dollar, and if he doesn't accept, shoot him. There's no actual way to do that in the game — you need $80,000 to buy it, period. The scene comes off as a remnant of an intended mission.
Boring, but Practical: Bikes. They're not the fast vehicles in the game by far (when riding up a hill, you can go faster on foot), give zero protection against bullets and you can't listen to your radio on one, but they're very easy to level up (which makes it harder for you to fall from it) and, with maxed out endurance or the unlimited sprint, they can still reach a decent speed. Where they truly shine is agility: it's far easier to lose a pursuer on a bike by going where he can't follow you rather than trying to outrun him.
Bottomless Bladder: This game, more than any GTA before or since, pays great attention to personal matters — keeping fit and requiring CJ to eat occasionally, with penalties associated with eating too much or too little (or being not fit enough). But bathroom breaks are never factored in (which is probably a good thing).
Broken Bridge: At the beginning of the game, the bridges had been damaged by an earthquake. Double subverted in that, although you can swim, boat, or fly across, you will get a four star wanted level for even trying, and you can't do too much at those points anyway.
Burger Fool: OG Loc's parole officer lined him up for a job at Burger Shot as a "Hygiene Technician" (fancy talk for janitor). His uniform, and that of everyone else who works there, includes an oversized burger hat, which, needless to say, looks ridiculous. Not to mention the chicken hat that is part of the uniform at Cluckin' Bell.
Buried Alive: The mission "Deconstruction," a conga line of Disproportionate Retribution, ends with pushing the foreman, who is hiding in a porta-potty, into a hole - and then filling the hole with cement.
The first mission requires you to use a bike. If you "acquire" something else, the game ceases to show the people you are meant to follow on your minimap and the Ballas car continues to chase and shoot you no matter where you go.
Many missions force you to use a specific, mission-critical vehicle, often for no good reason. It gets to the point that some NPCs will sit in an overturned, burning car while yelling at you to get back in until they die a fiery death and you fail.
There are also many, many occasions in the game where the vehicle you arrive in for a mission will disappear and be replaced by one provided for the mission. A fact worth noting before you take your expensive, tripped out car to meet Woozie or Toreno for their next mission. This can be avoided (to a point) by parking your car further away.
There are also missions where CJ is forced to use a specific weapon, despite others in his inventory (often replacing them). For example, in "Freefall" it doesn't matter if he has a mini-gun, CJ is forced to make do with a dinky 9mm pistol in the shootout. It happens inside a plane, though, so keeping the caliber down is somewhat justified if the game runs on Vinewood Physics. The penultimate Los Santos mission is particularly bad about this, because it will give you an infinite-ammo AK-47 and then take it (and all the ammo you might have had) once it's over.
One point of criticism leveled at the game is that a number of missions require C.J. to commit outright murder (including that of at least one innocent bystander, in this case a woman who happens to be unlucky enough to be the date of a man C.J. is assigned to assassinate), without the ability to Take a Third Option, which make it hard to sympathize with the character. While "following the script" is hardly unusual in a linear game, it does to a degree go against the sandbox philosophy of GTA.
Despite the above, the game does subvert the trope as, once the game reaches a certain point, the player is free to abandon the storyline and take part in any number of purely optional activities.
Call Forward: Players of GTA 3 know how Claude and Catalina's relationship will turn out.
Captain Obvious: In the "WCTR" show "The Tight End Zone", Derrick Thackery frequently states blatantly obvious facts about football ("If you score more points than the other team, you win."), but in a twist, they're treated like insightful wisdom by his stupid call-in guests.
Casting Gag: CJ, voiced by then-aspiring rapper Young Maylay, claims he's not part the rap game during one of OG Loc's missions.
The DJ of the classic rock radio station is Tommy "The Nightmare" Smith, an arrogant, aging has-been rocker whose former bandmates have gone on to greater fame while his own career has dwindled. He's still convinced that he's the most important musician ever, and gets angry when people point out he's living in the past. He's voiced by Axl Rose.
Central Theme: The betrayal and revenge theme found in the first two games is expanded upon. Loyalty to your homies drives most, if not all the plot.
Chain Link Fence: This works surprisingly well, since you can vault fences but it generally doesn't occur to the cops. They can still shoot you, though...
Chekhov's Gun: When CJ asks about his mother's murder, Big Smoke mentions in passing that a Green Sabre was seen at the scene of the shooting. A green Sabre shows up in a later mission when CJ finds out that Smoke and Ryder are working with C.R.A.S.H. and the Ballas.
The Chick: Kendl, Carl's sister and Cesar's girlfriend (and later fiancee). She's smart enough to not let herself become a Distressed Damsel, but she does stay on the sidelines.
Chunky Salsa Rule: Medics from the ambulances can often revive dead people, unless their heads have been blown off.
Clean Up The Town: A large part of the story involves CJ and his homies (Sweet, anyway) trying to clean up their crack-ridden 'hood.
Cloudcuckoolander: The Truth is weird. Mike Toreno can come across like this, too, although he's much more balanced than most cuckoolanders.
Cluster F-Bomb: This was the first GTA game to have prominent use of the word "fuck" in it, and fuck, does it get used a lot.
365 times counting its variants and not counting random pedestrians/drivers curses and the in-game radio.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: All of the street gangs. The Grove Street Families are green, the Ballas are purple, the Aztecas are aqua, and the Vagos are yellow-orange.
Conspiracy Theorist: The Truth again. Subverted by Toreno indicating that any well-known conspiracy theories are, in fact, true. In short, Hitler never died, Germany (not the U.S.) nuked Japan, and Bill Clinton was a Soviet plant.
Critical Existence Failure: Played straight with cars, motorcycles, boats and helicopters; you can damage these vehicles as much as you want with no effect on their performance whatsoever, up until the moment they catastrophically explode. The engine will release smoke as a damage meter of sorts, and fire means it's going to explode in the next ten seconds.
Averted with fixed-wing aircraft; taking damage to the wings or rudder can cause the stabilizer fins to snap off, resulting in a nigh-uncontrollable plane. They are also a lot more fragile than other vehicles; hitting any solid object will usually make them catch fire, if not destroy them outright. If you run into a solid wall, that's all she wrote.
And vehicles do not handle properly if their tires are damaged. It is common for tires to be shot out, or damaged by spike belts. Several missions become noticeably easier if the player thinks to have CJ shoot out an enemy vehicle's tires before a chase begins.
Played straight with CJ, of course. Unless you fall from a great height without a parachute, that is. And even then, if the paramedic and vigilante side-missions are completed (giving CJ extra health and armor) it's possible for him to survive even these falls.
Cutscene Incompetence: CJ is constantly pushed around by Tenpenny in their cutscene encounters throughout the game. This might make sense in the beginning, when you haven't had the time to train, but it's ridiculous when you have maxed out muscle and enough weapons to fill an armory, in addition to fighting the Mafia, US Army, secret government agencies, and thousands upon thousands of gangsters of all kinds (and no doubt many police officers). There's a cutscene in Las Venturas when Tenpenny punches CJ in the stomach, flooring him, even though CJ should logically be able to take Tenpenny in a straight fight with full muscle.
The Let's Play has CJ pretending to be pushed around by C.R.A.S.H. in order to take them down.
Cutting the Knot: One mission tasks you with swimming after a fleeing target, then destroying his hijacked boat. Alternatively, grab your sniper rifle and pop him in the back a few times while he's still in the water. Problem solved.
Another mission tasks CJ with stealing four bundles of dynamite within a set time limit. Or CJ can shoot the man at the detonator, making the timer disappear.
Damage-Sponge Boss: In a vehicle example, Pulaski's car has truly insane durability, able to shrug off ten times the amount of firepower a normal car could take. Its wheels, however, are as weak as normal, making the chase part rather easy if you thought ahead. In an NPC example, Big Smoke is almost as tough as the above car, with body armor providing a rather weak justification for it.
Danger Takes A Back Seat: T-Bone Mendez pulls a variation of this on CJ, trying to scare him into admitting he's a double agent. It doesn't work.
Dead Foot Leadfoot: Almost always averted when you shoot a civilian dead while he or she is still in a car; this is par course for all Grand Theft Auto III-era games. However, shoot a cop chasing you in his squad car, and a glitch may occur, causing his lifeless/headless body to continue giving chase until you pull it out and jack the car.
Leanne: Staying in Venturas: it used to be a patch of desert, then it was a mob town. Now, it is the corporate headquarters of America. Richard explains from the streets.
Richard: That's right, Leanne. It used to be a patch of desert, then it was a mob town. Now, it is the corporate headquarters of America. Back to you in the studio.
Diabolus ex Machina: In a meta-example, this can happen as a result of certain gameplay mechanics. For example, since planes may occasionally glitch into crash-landings, it is possible, but unlikely, to get hit by a plane during a mission.
Disability Superpower: Played with and averted with Woozie. His underlings say that he has incredible luck, but it's mostly just them allowing him to win. Later, at his casino, someone comes in and drops two chips on the table, saying that they have a problem; Woozie immediately says that one of them is fake, and CJ thinks it's this, allowing him to identify fakes by the sound — but Woozie dismissively explains that he just took a guess because why else would someone would only drop two chips on the table and sound so worried.
Disc One Nuke: If you look underneath the two bridges right behind Grove Street (to the immediate east of it on the map), you can find a submachine gun and some body armor, long before unlocking Ammu-Nation. This makes the earlier missions a lot easier.
Disney Death: Mike Toreno appears to die around the time Carl turns on Jizzy, but later reappears to give you missions.
Disproportionate Retribution: The mission "Deconstruction". This mission appears to disturb a lot of players as it seems out of character for the violent, yet sympathetic CJ, as he buries a guy alive because his crew insulted his sister.
Downer Beginning: The game starts with CJ (who left Los Santos for five years after Brian's murder) returning home to bury his murdered mother, which is grim enough. As soon as he arrives, he's picked up by Tenpenny and Pulaski, who steal all his money, frame him for a cop killing they committed, and dump him in the middle of Ballas turf. And when CJ does make it to the cemetery at Vinewood, he finds that his other brother, Sweet, is pissed at him for leaving and that his old gang is in shambles.
Every other AI-controlled vehicle in the game. Oh, you're trying to get patients to the hospital? Let me just run this red light and sideswipe you. Not to mention the fact that a fender-bender can turn into demolition derby when the guy you hit decides to kill you for it.
Drugs Are Bad: The Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters ain't down with that shit, at least the hard ones such as crack cocaine — weed is ok, apparently.. CJ comes around to this realization when he sees that even a badass like Big Bear can be made into a bitch for rock. You can encounter drug dealers through out the game, and they will ask you if you want some rock. Even if you say yes, CJ, in no uncertain terms, tells the guy to take his business elsewhere. Also, each dealer carries $2000 without exception, more money than the vast majority of Los Santos missions provide. In the early chapters, waging your own personal war on drugs is to your extreme advantage.
Dual Wielding: If CJ gets his weapon skill up to Hitman with the Pistol, Sawn-Off Shotgun, or Micro-SMG, he can pack one in each hand for double the devastation. You will lose accuracy when doing this, but when Rule of Cool is in full effect like this you simply won't care. This also makes the AmmuNation shooting range challenge slightly easier.
Averted earlier in the game; after getting Grove Street back on its feet, Sweet finally acknowledges Carl after taking every prior opportunity to chastise him for running away years ago:
Sweet: Man, Ryder, leave CJ alone! He practically turned the Families 'round all by himself.
Dude, Where's My Reward?: A lot of missions only reward you with "Respect," rather than money. Tenpenny's missions don't even give you that.
Dumb Muscle: Jizzy specifically refers to CJ as this repeatedly (apparently the game is assuming you've been spending some time at the gym). He's wrong, but CJ was trying to get on his good side so he could snap at him behind his back.
Dummied Out: The sex minigame had to be removed in order to avoid an AO rating, but deleting the code for it would've required delaying the game by a few months to fix the girlfriend system. So Rockstar, to meet their release date, simply buried it under layers of code. The result, after a modder re-enabled the minigame, was the Hot Coffee scandal. The "Second Edition" version, however, did get rid of the code. Also, lots of other stuff was coded, but never implemented. A Game Mod by Deezire restores a crap ton of content, including cutscene dialogue that fills in so many plot holes you'll wonder why the hell Rockstar never bothered to activate it.
Easter Egg: So, so many. Including a sign in an exotic location reading: "No Easter Eggs here, go away." Also many audio Easter eggs on the various radio stations.
Ear Worm: In-game examples! One of CJ's idle animations is to start singing a song from the player's current favorite radio station. This can lead to anything from him quoting Snoop Dogg, to him starting to belt out Rod Stewart and catching himself. invoked
El Spanish O: In one mission, Big Smoke is trying to negotiate with some Mexican gangsters before he loses his patience and demands...
Big Smoke: Cough-io - up el weedo — before I blow your brains out all over the patio!
Elvis Impersonator: Several hundred wandering the streets of Las Venturas. And they are played by different ethnicities! The hispanic ones just do really awful Elvis impersonations, but the black ones would more accurately be called "Little Richard impersonators" and act accordingly. Amusingly, the game keeps track of the number of Elvis impersonators you've killed on the stats screen. Uh huh.
An Entrepreneur Is You: Carl goes from being poor in Ganton with only his late mother's house and the clothes on his back, to building a criminal empire across San Andreas.
Et Tu, Brute?: Did anyone not see Big Smoke and Ryder selling out to Tenpenny and Pulaski from a mile away?
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The Johnson siblings dearly love their mother Beverly, so much so her murder prompted Carl to return home in the first place. Officer Pulaski finds out how much CJ loves his mama — the hard way.
Even Evil Has Standards: The Grove Street Families, the Varrio Los Aztecas and the Mountain Cloud Boys do bad things, but all of them strongly oppose the sale of hard drugs.
Evil Versus Evil: All the time in this game. Several major characters, like CJ, Toreno, Ryder, etc., usually commits acts rather extreme, but their enemies are far worse.
Exploited Immunity: Being the first game in the series where the player can swim, CJ can evade pursuit by jumping into water. The pursuers will jump in after him, but they have Super Drowning Skills.
Eyepatch of Power: You can have CJ wear an eyepatch as soon as you get access to the Binco in Ganton. Having one of his eyes covered up doesn't negatively affect him a bit.
Face-Heel Turn: Big Smoke and Ryder. Subverted in that they were never faces in the first place.Arguably, Ryder was, very early in the game. At least he was shooting with you and Sweet. Alternatively, at least he was pretending to shoot with you and Sweet. Perhaps it is a matter of Heel Heelier Turn.
Averted with several characters (specifically Toreno, Cesar and Woozie) who are depicted as having the potential to betray CJ but who never actually do.
Driving school isn't hard per se, though certainly some of the tricks you need to pull off take practice. What makes getting all gold truly difficult is the fact that they not only expect you to do these tricks, but to do them so perfectly that you stop in exactly the right position facing exactly the right way. Flight school is similar, except the timer is even more unforgiving and you're trying to fly vehicles which have, at best, awkward controls. Thankfully, you only need bronzes for the 100% Completion reward.
Once you get far enough that you can start taking over gang territories for Grove Street, it becomes almost trivially easy to collect thousands of rounds of SMG and automatic rifle ammunition. So naturally, once you've finished the missions for that area, you lose all your guns and all the territory you took over becomes enemy property.
Certain missions will automatically equip you with a specific type of weapon at key moments. You have no control over this, so even if you had been carrying a stronger weapon than what the game gives you, you're forced to use the weaker weapon.
Famous-Named Foreigner: While not foreign, Eddie Pulaski is supposed to be a Polish-American - obviously named after Casimir Pulaski, featured in many American place names.
Flanderization: Catalina is a total adrenaline junkie, unlike in GTA III. Of course, since this is a prequel, one could argue that by the time GTA III rolls around she's undergone Character Development.
In "Cleaning the Hood", while Carl sarcastically greets Ballas pushers to take them out, take a close look at the background. You can actually see a Balla getting some head from a hooker.
Because San Andreas is a living environment, it's not uncommon for CJ to encounter NPCs engaging in non-sequitur-silled conversations, police chases, fights, shootings, vehicular accidents, plane crashes, and general insanity going on completely separate from what the player is doing...
Game-Breaking Bug: The infamous Madd Dogg glitch. A glitch in a mission where you had to save him from his own suicide attempt by positioning a truck full of hay under him before he could jump off a building would become Unwinnable because he would jump off the building before the cutscene ended. This glitch also made the gameUnwinnable, and this is compounded by the fact that no one is certain what triggers this glitch; it seems to be completely random. Many suggestions have been made, the most commonly accepted "cause" being that it's caused by cheating extremely often, or using common cheats. This is discredited, since many people who never cheated once the entire game still had the glitch occur, while some that cheated extensively never saw it. One cause is the "pedestrians riot" cheat (which cannot be turned off), causing everyone to become hostile to each other. This mission is affected because Madd Dogg's character attempts to run to the nearest NPC to fight them, and in doing so, runs off the roof and dies. This is made even worse by it being one of the last missions in the game, meaning that if you get this glitch, you're screwed and have to start all over and pray you don't get the glitch again. Though, mercifully, it seems as though it never happens in two new games in a row.
Also, if you attempt to play basketball in Madd Dogg's mansion, all basketballs on the world map will be deleted from the game, meaning you can't play it again in that particular save. This one is minor, since basketball is not needed for 100% Completion, but another glitch involving the mansion that you should worry about involves saving there, which corrupts your file.
There's one in the Woozie mission "Mountain Cloud Boys" (reported to occur in at least the PC and PS2 versions). After you take Woozie around the block to the ambush Triad meeting, once you get out of the car and the cutscene plays, you won't be able to control CJ, the camera, or do anything except go to the pause menu. Fortunately, you can defuse this one by stopping at the target before Woozie stops talking about the Vietnamese gang, thus preventing the cutscene from running.
One of Zero's missions involving using a radio-controlled toy airplane to kill a team of couriers is rendered next to impossible by a glitch that depletes the plane's fuel at a steady rate instead of only being used when CJ hits the gas, which means there's no way to conserve fuel; on the PS2 version, it's basically impossible to finish Zero's missions without cheating.
One of the missions early on in Los Santos requires you to impress a DJ with your dancing skills via button rhythm mini-game. Playing on an HDTV makes the game almost impossible to complete due to input lag or the controls simply not responding to any button pressing. Since the game was released in a time where HDTV was still a new format, the game wasn't exactly optimized for it.
Though not a game ender, there is a glitch where if you take one of the hookers into a Transfender body shop, instead of the standard "nothing happens except the car shaking", you will see the hooker bend over to give CJ oral sex.
CJ is not a nice man, but in the cutscenes at least he's more of an Anti-Hero who cares about family and neighborhood and will not cross some moral lines. None of this prevents you from... say, beating old women to death with a baseball bat or going on a rampage just for kicks. Nor will anyone treat CJ differently for doing such things.
In early cutscenes, Ryder will constantly criticize CJ over his driving skills. While reckless driving is a GTA tradition, he'll still give you shit even if you've never so much as scratched a car.
Early on, Tenpenny and Pulaski force CJ into doing their dirty work on threat of framing him for a cop-killing they committed. You can do worse than that over the course of the game, going so far as to kill hundreds of cops, agents and soldiers, but the worst you'll ever get is a brief stay in jail and confiscation of weapons (and even that can be circumvented if you have a relationship with Barbara, herself a cop). It also helps that the officer Tenpenny ordered killed was on the verge of exposing internal corruption within the LSPD, and is thus of a greater concern for him.
You can take over gang territories by killing a few of the local members then taking out a few waves. Not only do the missions not recognize this fact, they will actively change territories back and force you to take them over again, facing much heavier resistance than is common for those regions.
At several times in the story, CJ will mention that he has very little money, and sometimes that he is in desperate need of cash. This despite the fact that, without cheating, a player may have earned one dollar short of a billion via various side-missions and gambling at the off-track betting center.
Also, after finishing the race with Claude, Catalina hands him the papers for an old garage, instead of the pinkslip for Claude's car. C.J is pissed and whines about how he feels cheated out of a cool car (acquireable through other means) and has to own a "crappy" safe house in a ridiculously convenient location with a spacious garage. His sister at least chews him out over this.
In the second to last mission, Carl will mock Big Smoke for wearing body armor, even though any self-respecting player probably came into the place wearing some, not to mention the fact that there's an armor pickup in the room. Of course, CJ came
Gang Bangers: The Groves, the Ballas and the Varrios Los Aztecas.
Gayngster: OG Loc. You first encounter him fresh off the prison, and he wants to kill his prison boyfriend for spreading rumors about their tryst, though of course he's in complete denial. Instead, you end up killing the boyfriend. OG Loc later does a radio interview where he stresses his macho-ness. Of course, it was a "prison thing".
Gotta Catch 'Em All: Gang tags in Los Santos, pictures in San Fierro, horseshoes in Las Venturas, oysters everywhere on the map. Getting the tags make weapons appear in the Johnson house, pictures also give you free weapons at the Doherty garage, oysters give you sex appeal and horseshoes rig the casino games in your favor, but there's a reason why all that stuff is listed in Guide Dang It below...
One of the most common questions seems to be: "Where do I find this 'Euros' car for the export list?" And rightfully so, since it only spawns in one specific location and only when it is wanted for the export list (and you need to know what it looks like, to boot). Fortunately the exporting of cars is optional for completing the storyline of the game, but for those playing for the coveted "100% completion" awards, you gotta grin and bear it. Or find a walkthrough.
There are a ton of collectibles in this game. CJ has to find 70 photo locations, spray 100 gang tags, track down 50 oysters, and find 50 horseshoes. The San Andreas map is so huge and complex, and many of these items/jump sites are in hidden locations, that the only practical way to find them all is with a walkthrough or guidebook (although subverted by the Brady Games official strategy guide that gives incorrect locations or unhelpful directions for many of these). The photo locations, at least, do have one helpful way of tracking them (if you know about it); they glow in the dark. The others offer no such help. The only plus is that, oysters aside, all of these collectibles are limited to one section of the map.
Oh and there are also 70 hidden unique stunt jumps, too, though these aren't required for 100% completion. Many of these jumps are obvious (why else would a jump ramp be placed in the middle of trailer park?) but some - especially those that require the player to jump off a cliff or some such (one jump actually requires CJ to launch a car from Red County, hope it flies high and fast enough to cross a bay, and land on the San Fierro Airport tarmac), are not intuitive and need a manual to locate/become aware of.
And without a guidebook, many players likely complete the storyline portion of the game unaware of things like the hidden courier challenges, the bicycle and motorbike challenges, the mountain biking races, and the two triathlons that are only accessible on certain days of the week! Although also not needed for 100% completion, several of the women available for dating are not located in obvious places, either (one is hidden in a park in San Fierro that CJ is not required to visit for any mission or item pick-up).
As noted above, the Brady Games manual is rife with errors and inaccuracies. One of the most glaring is that the book features pick-up locations for adrenaline power boosts - even though none actually exist within the game itself!
Guns Akimbo: You can dual-wield the standard pistol (although not the Desert Eagle or the silenced version), the sawed-off shotgun, and the two machine-pistols after you max out your skill with each respective weapon.
Hard-Coded Hostility: The game gives us a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation: Los Aztecas will always mob and eventually attack both you and other Grove Street members outside of missions if given a chance, no matter how close CJ's bond with their leader, Cesar Vialpando, is.
Helicopter Blender: The mission "Reuniting the Families" ends with both versions of this trope: a police helicopter tilts forward, threatening to slice up the protagonists' vehicle, and a police officer on the hood of said vehicle ends up minced in the process. Additionally, if you yourself gain control of a helicopter, you can practice this trope on any random passersby you run across, just as you can in any other GTA game with helicopters.
Heroic Fire Rescue: CJ has to enter a burning house to rescue a girl. From fire he caused in the first place.
Hot Coffee Minigame: The Trope Namer. The original release of the game had a Dummied Out sex mini-game that played out when dates ended in "coffee". Given the graphics engine, CJ is dating blocky Uncanny Valley girls — the game is about as saucy as banging Legomen together. When moders re-activated the game a scandal errupted and denials were issued, as mocked by Penny Arcade.
House Music: One of the radio stations is "San Fierro Underground", which plays house.
100% Heroism Rating: There are various character ratings (fat, muscle, sex appeal, and respect), which affect how NPCs react in your presence. You can even say something back, determined by hitting Y or N. However, no amount of sex appeal or respect will completely stop people from telling CJ he smells bad.
I Can See My House from Here: If you're getting chased by a ghetto bird (police chopper), one of the gunners may shout this. The other gunner tells him to shut up, acutely embarrassed.
Idle Animation: CJ will randomly start singing a song from the last radio station you listened to if he's standing still for a while. Amusingly, CJ's not so hot at recalling the lyrics.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Throughout the game, you'll get in shootouts with all kinds of gangbangers, cops, "redneck survivalists", pedestrians, military, drug dealers, the Italian mob, the Russian mob, federal agents, federal agents who might be aliens, and not a single goddamn one of them can score a hit more than once per every ten bullets expended at the very most. Of course, due to the GTA games infamously wonky targeting system, neither can CJ sometimes.
Inappropriate Hunger: Big Smoke eats the whole gang's takeout while being shot at by the Ballas. Of course, this is meant to foreshadow the fact that Smoke has been with the Ballas all along. When called out on it, Smoke replies:
Big Smoke: If you can eat your food while everyone else is losing theirs and blaming you, you straight, homie.
Gameplay-wise, to get fat or even get a lot of energy for working out, you often need to eat several of the largest combo available.
Infinity+1 Sword: The minigun is the ultimate weapon in the game. It kills people by the truckloads in seconds, destroys vehicles just as fast, and the game's manual aiming system makes it incredibly effective at taking down helicoptors as well.
Meanwhile, the Hydra is the Infinity+1 Sword for vehicles. It flies faster than any other aircraft, it can easily take off and land from most any surface thanks to its vertical take-off system, it can hover around like a helicopter to destroy ground targets, and it can drop countermeasures to ward off missiles fired from AA weapons or other Hydras as well.
Officer Tenpenny was clearly designed with the knowledge that Samuel L. Jackson was going to be his voice actor, because he looks exactly like Samuel L. Jackson.
Likewise, Zero looks exactly like his voice actor, David Cross. And Jizzy B. looks just like his voice actor, Charlie Murphy. And James Woods, the voice of Mike Toreno, could easily play the role in a live action adaptation.
Cesar Vialpando is clearly modeled on Clifton Collins, Jr.
I'll Take Two Beers Too: There is a mission where you and your homies get drive-thru. One of your homies, Big Smoke, orders an absurdly long list of foods while the others order casually. And then, when everyone else is busy trying to keep a rival gang from invading your neighborhood, Smoke eats all the food, even the stuff he didn't order. Of course, after you know he's betraying you, that scene can look much different.
It's All About Me: Tenpenny, in his dying breath, claims that only he can set San Andreas in the right direction.
So is Pulaski, repeatedly making racist remarks, insulting CJ, and making vulgar statements about his family.
Oh, and not far behind is Tenpenny. He's a jerkass especially in his first meeting with CJ in Los Santos.
And adding one more to the list, Catalina. Dear God, she's an extreme jerkass.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sweet refuses to give Carl his due respect and is willing to keep the family in poverty to get back at Tenpenny, but on a better day he's quite a caring brother. It also helps that at his worst he's going to stop at nothing (including Carl's success) to get back on the man who tore both his family and as his circle of comrades with murder, abuse, and the allure of power and riches (as what he had successfully done with Ryder and Big Smoke).
Jiggle Physics: The one single instance, and easy to miss, in the whole series; there's a particular female civilian clad in red bikini seen near the beaches and pool areas who's notable for a constantly jiggling rack if she's laying around sunbathing, but not when walking.
Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: C.J., despite being the hero, gets a few of these moments. These include murdering Mad Dogg's manager for OG Loc and attacking a nearby gang at a funeral for someone he killed. The mission "Deconstruction" have him killing the construction workers who were rude to his sister. He also was forced to kill certain people for Tenpenny and Pulaski or either he or his family will be killed.
Karma Houdini: One of the Ballas (probably from the OGs) that appears in missions like "Madd Dogg Rhymes", "Ice Cold Killa" and the video "The Introduction" count as this, as it is very involved in the murder of the mother of CJ but was never mentioned, seen or killed by Carl.
CJ himself, as well. He always wins, killing even people who do not deserve it, but this only makes for money or sent by their bosses.
Karmic Death: At the end of the final mission, "End of the Line", Tenpenny crashes his fire truck right in the Grove cul-de-sac, with the people he harrassed and abused for years standing over him as he dies, broken, humiliated, and accidentally slipping his self-centered mentality, more or less bringing the story full circle.
A Ryder mission has you break into a National Guard depot. A van waits outside for Ryder and CJ, who immediately says...
CJ: That van wasn't outside when I came in!
Also, there's this conversation...
Toreno's mook: This is all about speed and commitment. You got a GPS in the cab. Get to each set of map coordinates as quick as you can. Make it to all the coordinates then get the truck back here. Lose the truck and you fail.
CJ: First, what's a GPS? Second, fail what? Third, who the fuck are you?
Leitmotif: A specific hip-hop tune is played whenever Officer Tenpenny and Pulaski show up.
Le Parkour: The first game in the series (and probably Wide Open Sandbox games in general) that allowed your character to grab and jump over objects taller than himself. A godsend when avoiding police or getting across the city. It also provides a boost to immersion: it removes the jarring Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence. However, you still can't climb ladders...
Let The Boss Win: Woozie's men constantly do this whenever they play games with him. Ironically, Woozie seems like an nice enough guy - especially to his men, with whom he is very loyal - such that it's likely he wouldn't go Bad Boss on them if he did lose once in a while.
This is further shown when he humiliatingly loses to CJ in blackjack. He has no hard feelings, though he does lightly complain that he has much better luck with his underlings.
Level In Reverse: Madd Dogg's Mansion is visited twice in the game, with the start and end points being reversed for the second visit.
Level-Up at Intimacy 5: While it doesn't directly affect CJ's stats, dating the girlfriends bestow various abilities and bonuses.
Unlike other girlfriends, dating Millie, Sexy Secretary at Caligula's by day and Dominatrix by night, is crucial to the story, as she holds the keycard to Caligula's restricted areas; you can either kill her or date her to 35% to get it.
Starting a relationship with Helena and Michelle grants access to an armory (of chainsaws, flamethrowers, Molotovs and pistols) and a free car repair shop, respectively.
Starting a relationship with Katie and Barbara allows you to keep your weapons even when hospitalized or arrested, respectively (and in the former, you also don't lose some money]].
Lighter and Softer: This game is in tone probably the lightest in the series. CJnote at least in cutscenes and most of his allies are far closer to the antiheroic side of the scale than Claude and Tommy, and he also clearly has fun and smiles now and again, the world is much lighter than IV (still crapsack, but more for black comedy) and the story is lighthearted and fairly optimistic.
Locomotive Level: Three — one where you rob a train by riding it and tossing boxes to Ryder, one where you're on a motorcycle keeping up alongside the train, and one where you're on a jetpack flying around the train. There are side-missions where you can drive a train, but nothing interesting happens. At all. Unless you go so recklessly fast that you derail the train.
Loophole Abuse: Gang wars can only be started by killing gang members on foot. However, there's nothing stopping you from parking a tank there, killing a few, then using the tank to finish the job.
Luck-Based Mission: Getting all gold in the Drivers School courses. Expect to be playing Burn and Lap for a good hour or more to get gold.
In "Reuniting The Families", you are being chased by a SWAT helicopter and a squad of motorcycle policemen. One of the biker cops jumps onto the hood of your car. Meanwhile, the chopper pilot, at a loss as to how to kill you after losing his door gunners, decides to tilt the chopper rotors-first towards your car. Guess what happens to the cop on the hood.
You can also do this by driving over pedestrians with a Combine Harvester. Doing so causes the chute on the Harvester's rear normally used for ejecting bundles of hay to spew out a neat little cube of blood and guts.
Made of Iron: Used as a gameplay mechanic in the races to curtail the obvious shortcut of murdering your competition. Both the cars and the drivers are extremely difficult to kill, able to soak up entire clips from an assault rifle. The only exception is the demolition derby. It also appears in a few missions.
If you're wanted in San Fierro, sometimes the cops would say...
SFPD Cop: You know, I can make this look like a suicide.
At the end of the game, after a lengthy chase through half of Los Santos, Tenpenny lost control of his fire truck and crashes off the bridge overlooking Grove Street. CJ is about to finally shoot him dead when Sweet stops him, saying that there's no need to put a bullet in the dying Tenpenny. He's just a cop who killed himself in a traffic accident, with no one to blame.
Man Hug: Many — CJ and his brother Sweet, CJ and his best friend Cesar.
Manipulative Bastard: Officer Tenpenny, who's constantly getting people who are "beneath him" (like CJ) to do his dirty work for him, and he appears to take sadistic pleasure in manipulating those he has under his thumb.
Meaningful Name: The Grove Street Families gang frontrunners all have special meanings to their nicknames.
Ryder is a burglar and uses trucks to unload stolen goods from private property.
Sweet spends most of the game conning CJ into doing most of his bidding (in other words, "sweet-talking,")
CJ has no real nickname, just his initials, signifying his status as a player avatar with no strong personality traits.
The GTA III main character is finally given a name: Claude.
The Men in Black: Toreno has the vibe. Definitely the "people" on the mysterious plane that shows up at your airfield.
Minigame Zone: Minigames are all over the place in San Andreas, but Las Venturas has the highest concentration.
Mob War: Grove Street Families and the Varrios Los Aztecas vs Ballas and the Santos Vagos.
The Leones vs The Forellis vs The Sindaccos as well, in Las Venturas.
Mood Whiplash: The early missions in Los Santos are very grim and gritty and, for the most part, realistic. Once CJ is exiled to the countryside, however, the mood quickly takes a turn for the silly. Mundane characters like CJ's "homies" are replaced by aging hippies and blind Triad bosses, while drive-bys and housebreaking are replaced by casino heists and covert missions for the CIA.
My Sister Is Off Limits: Both Sweet and CJ have some problems with Kendl's boyfriend, Cesar. Luckily, CJ quickly backs off and warms up to him after their first meeting.
Nintendo Hard: GTA forums contain numerous accounts by players who have abandoned the game due to inability to complete a number of levels, with "Wrong Side of the Tracks" (a mission requiring the player to drive a bike alongside a train while Smoke, a terrible shot, attempts to shoot enemy gang member off the top) and the "Flight School" (aka "Learning to Fly") missions being declared impossible by some. The latter is affected particularly on PS2 and PC versions by poor controls, and forums include accounts of people making hundreds of attempts to complete just the third test (circling the airfield).
Nitro Boost: One of the two performance upgrades you can acquire for your car at the mod garages. Comes in the "Stored Nitro Charges" type. Also, the reward for finishing the Taxi Driver side missions includes unlimited nitrous on all taxis.
Noble Demon: CJ may be willing to steal, murder, and do violent criminal acts, but he has a good side as well.
In the countryside one of the men seeing walking the streets looks like the villain from the original The Hills Have Eyes. (This man also makes a cameo appearance in the game as Millie's gimp.)
The scant details that the fictional band The Gurning Chimps are from "Madchester", Maccer's appearance and accent and the early '90s setting suggest that they are expys of The Stone Roses. Or Oasis. Or The Happy Mondays, whose frontman provides the voice.
No Communities Were Harmed: Not only are the names of the cities parallels for real-world locations (Los Santos = Los Angeles, San Fierro = San Francisco, Las Venturas = Las Vegas), but the names of the districts also imitate those of their real-world counterparts (Compton = Ganton, Hollywood = Vinewood etc.). This leads into a bit of a Celebrity Paradox when the music on the radio references places that the locations in the game are based on by their real names.
Not the Fall That Kills You: This is the first Grand Theft Auto game to adopt a comparatively realistic set of Jump Physics and the appropriate fall damage to accompany drops of varying distances. However, there are still some absurd methods of negating this damage, such as:
So long as you are in a vehicle, you will receive no damage from impacts, including falls from great heights. This becomes especially absurd when you fall while on a bicycle or motorbike. Even if the impact ejects you from the bike, you will only receive minor damage, if any.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: While OG Loc at first appears to be an idiot who is ridiculed for their friends, even too harmless to consider him a "villain", this is inmediately inverted when he send CJ to commit several atrocities: kidnap and kill Madd Dogg's manager and his girlfriend and killing all the security of Madd Dogg to steal his rhyme book. It gets worse when he becomes famous and all this took Madd Dogg to almost commit suicide!
Office Golf: Woozie does this at the Triad's Las Venturas casino. His henchman makes sure his average remains low, despite Woozie being blind.
The One Who Made It Out: CJ has this status amongst his gang. His exile after his brother's death essentially made him a criminal in Liberty City and in the game proper, he forms alliances with Hispanic, Chinese, Italian gangs and the US government, taking a gang-banging crew to circles far beyond their reach.
Optional Stealth: There are numerous stealth sequences in this game, but it's a lot easier in most cases to simply murder your way to the objective, and the game provides alternatives for this scenario. This is particularly true of Area 69, in which the stealth option is arguably more dangerous than the direct approach. The only time where stealth is strongly advised is when you must infiltrate an aircraft carrier: getting seen will make soldiers run to the stationed jetfighters and flee with them, before you can steal one of them, thus failing the mission.
Outlaw Couple: Carl and Catalina are briefly this in the "Countryside" missions; the radio station even mentions your antics at one point. Catalina, being an Ax-Crazy psychopath, pretty much ruins their business (and physical) relationship in short order, though.
Outrun the Fireball: A couple of times, but especially in one of the final missions in the game after you kill Big Smoke.
Pop The Tires: Richard Burns on the news is riding with cops trying to stop illegal street racing, and Richard then tries to shoot out a car's tires.
Pretty Fly for a White Guy: OG Loc is pathetic as a "gangsta"note he's black, but this trope covers that as well. He does manage to make a music career out of it for a while, but that's only because he had CJ steal Madd Dogg's rhyme book.
Pretty in Mink: Some of the women pedestrians walk around in a fur coat.
Spoofed when a pimp claims he has loads of stuff made of mink.
Also spoofed in a radio ad about selling fur coats to guys in a mid-life crisis.
Tenpenny threatens to arrange for Sweet to be raped in prison in order to coerce CJ into doing his bidding.
Prodigal Hero: CJ does it twice: first time, at the beginning of the game when he returns from Liberty City, and second time, when Sweet gets arrested and spends most of the game in San Fierro and Las Venturas, only coming back to Los Santos near the end of the game.
Racing The Train: The mission "Wrong Side of the Tracks" involves you and Big Smoke trying to chase a train while on a dirt bike so that he can shoot the rival gang members atop the train. It's That One Level, due to the fact that the game never tells you that you need to be at least another train's width away from the train so that Big Smoke can hit them.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kendl gives one to CJ when he complains about the state of the garage he's received, telling him that he's wanted rewards without work, and can't see an opportunity when one falls into his lap.
Reverse Mole: Late in the game, it is revealed that Officer Jimmy Hernandez, who was never an overly willing participant of C.R.A.S.H. to begin with, has been feeding dirt on Tenpenny and Pulaski to Internal Affairs.
Ripped from the Headlines: The bent cop Tenpenny works for an anti-gang unit C.R.A.S.H. — Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums. The unit is (very loosely) based on a real life police counter-gang unit gone bad. In real life the Los Angeles Police Department was rocked by the C.R.A.S.H. Rampart scandal.
CJ's mother was killed in a drive-by from a green Sabre, which is later found in a police garage. This is directly based off the black Chevrolet Impala SS in the drive-by which killed Chris Wallace, which although related happened in 1997.
Towards the end of the game, the riot that breaks out in Los Santos is a take on the Rodney King beating trial riot.
RPG Elements: Unlike previous games, CJ's skills improve the more he uses them. Physical activity (running, biking) improves stamina, swimming improves lung capacity, weight lifting increases strength, vehicles become easier to control the more CJ uses them (in specific categories; four-wheel, two-wheel, flying, pedals), guns have greater accuracy and range with use (and you can strafe while aiming), and he can even learn new combat moves from trainers at the various gyms. The player also has to eat to occasionally in order to stay healthy. If CJ goes without eating, his muscle and stamina deteriorates if he has no fat left, while eating too much builds fat that affects his strength and stamina accordingly. CJ's physical appearance also feed into his relationships with his girlfriends. Some like CJ to be wearing certain clothes and fat is generally looked down on. Fortunately, if you can find all 50 oysters in the game, you can bypass this. Compared to the sequel, the work required to keep on top of these elements is fairly light and often optional.
Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Da Nang Boys, Vietnamese drug dealers, and human smugglers all try to muscle in on both the San Fierro Triads and the Loco Syndicate. Since the latter two groups have CJ on the payroll, it doesn't go well for the others.
Scenery Porn: Being a sandbox game, San Andreas doesn't have much in the way of huge, time-consuming panoramic shots of the landscape, but the love and attention to detail is clear. Las Venturas is, barring certain plot-and-legality-based changes and scale, almost perfectly accurate to the Strip and Fremont Street in real life (at least, how they were in the 90's; Fremont Street has since become 'The Fremont Street Experience').
Blink and you'll miss it: During the convenience store/tanker robbery with Catalina, the convenience store's bulletproof outer glass has a logo in the corner that says Max Pane. You can see it most clearly just at the end of the mission's opening cutscene.
The mission "Just Business" features a large truck breaking off of a bridge over a flood control channel into the channel below. It looks suspiciously note read: overwhelmingly like a scene from Terminator 2, released one year before the game is set.
Certain NPCs are dressed as Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s character in Boyz n the Hood.
The Truth's preoccupation with the number 23 is a reference to Illuminatus!
Show Within a Show: The game includes a large number of in-game radio stations that can be listened to from any vehicle (or even simply during the pause screen). Content ranges from music and dynamically updated news bulletins, to complete talk shows and phone-in programs.
Signs of Disrepair: A billboard shows a girl drinking a bottle of milky-white soda. At the end of a mission, CJ's out-of-control car changes its message from "A taste of what's to come!" to "A taste of come!"
Simultaneous Warning And Action: The San Fierro Police are trained social workers. That means they try to "Open a constructive dialog" while beating Carl with their nightsticks.
Some Dexterity Required: A staple of the GTA series, some missions are made difficult NOT by actually being hard but by forcing the player to use cars with inferior to awful handling. Case in point: Race across San Fierro would be MUCH easier if the car didn't fishtail every time you tried to turn. Same goes for the 8-track stadium car racing.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Can happen at anytime when you listen to the radio while driving, but there is also at least one deliberate example: When you have to go to Liberty City to execute a hit in a restaurant (i.e. it turns into an action packed gunfight), quiet classical music is playing in said restaurant.
Radio X contains 'Movin' On Up', a heartwarming and inspirational song that simply doesn't mesh with the drive-bys and manslaughter.
Radio Los Santos typically plays type 1 and 2 Gangsta Rap that suits the game perfectly. But then we have 'The Ghetto' and 'Hood Took Me Under', both of which are certainly not glorified takes on gangster culture.
The Stinger: Immidiately after the credits have rolled and you are dumped back into the gameplay after completing the final plot mission in the game, Catalina will call Carl to yell at him one final time.
Super Drowning Skills: The first game in the series to avert this. Unless you're an NPC character controlled by the AI whose name isn't CJ. Then you die the second you hit even a shallow pond.
Suspiciously Apropos Music: Depending on the player and a little luck, this can happen. For example, CJ could be on one of The Truth's missions, in the hippe van and high as a kite while "In A Gadda Da Vida" by Iron Butterfly is playing on the radio.
Suspiciously Specific Denial: In one of the very first missions, Ryder puts his cap backwards and goes to rob the local Pizza Stack. But when the cashier recognizes him due to his height and voice (and, obviously, his Paper-Thin Disguise):
Ryder: Give up the money! This' a raid!
Cashier: Ryder! Not this again!
Ryder: It ain't me, foo'!
Cashier: I don't know anyone so small! I feel sorry for your dad!
Take That: Quite a few at Driv3r and True Crime: Streets of LA, most notably a billboard in Los Santos with "True Grime: Street Cleaners". Also, at the War Memorial in San Fierro, at the top and bottom are tombstones that read "R.I.P Opposition 1997-2004". Also Hilarious in Hindsight, due to Saints Row 2.
Get a Bullet off of the Import/Export ship and read it's license plate. "EA SUCKS" and "FUCK YOU" can be read on them occasionally.
Tank Goodness: A series staple, the Rhino, returns with upgraded speed and handling as well as a new look based on the M1 Abrams. There's also a bulletproof SWAT tank in the final mission, though the only way to get it in normal gameplay is by exploiting the game mechanics to save it after failing the mission.
The police: one can evade arrest by getting a haircut, or by changing shoes. Or putting on a pair of 'joke glasses', the type with fake nose and eyebrows attached. Or going into a gun shop and waiting. How does that look on their report?
The military guards. It is really easy to break into Area 69 and other supposedly well guarded places because of how stupid the guards behave. They don't mind when their colleagues get shot right next to them and if you run fast enough they even forget about you after you've stood right in front of you. Not to mention that they are completely deaf. You can fire your M4 all you want and they won't even raise an eyebrow.
The Mafiya: CJ and Big Smoke butt heads with Russian arms dealers in an early mission. Whether they were true bratvas or just gopniki is rather unclear.
Thememobile: The Truth's "Mothership", a repainted camper van, is a great example. Several other major characters have their own vehicles, but for the most part they're only distinguished by a unique license plate.
Players can also create their own Theme Mobiles thanks to the game's vehicle modification capabilities.
Theme Tune Rap: CJ's voice actor is Young Maylay, an up-and-coming rapper. His debut album, "San Andreas: The Mix Tapes", features a song that has him rapping about the game in character as CJ.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: As the game progresses the player gains access to very powerful weaponry and vehicles, which can make a number of missions a cakewalk. The epitome of this is the Rhino, a near-indestructable tank, which can be used on everything from the game's Vigilante side-mission to running over hapless enemy gang members during the gang warfare stage of the game. It's also possible (though usually more trouble than it's worth) to do several missions using an assault helicopter if you place it where it needs to be in advance.
The Stoner: The Truth and Ryder. A few of the recurring characters from Vice City, as well.
Trash Talk: CJ does this all the time in combat. "Oh, look, a gun." * Blam*
True Companions: The group CJ builds during the course of the game is large, diverse and bound together like family.
Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: One of your missions as Carl is to date a chick in order to steal her key card to get access to a casino. In a game with some missions that won't even let you destroy your highly non-essential car without failing the mission, this mission has two options: Go on a couple of dates with her. Or just kill her. You won't fail anything, and the key card will be right there in her house.
Updated Re-release: After the game was pulled from stores after the Hot Coffee incident and the Media Watchdogs had a field day with it, Rockstar tried to justify a rerelease of the game (while making the "offensive" bit truly inaccessible to keep the game rated M) by including a "behind the scenes" movie and a 30 minute cut scene showing events that occurred before the beginning of the game. Some say that some glitches and bugs were also fixed. PC modders tend to avoid the updated PC version as it made modding, well, harder.
Verbal Tic: T-Bone ends each and every sentence with "Ese", to sound more "cholo". Cesar Vialpando also does this, though less often, and also ends his phrases with "holmes" and "vato". (A number of pedestrians can be heard using these phrases in their conversations, too).
Villain Exit Stage Left: Averted in the final mission. This is what Tenpenny intended to do — bail out of Los Santos, or perhaps out of San Andreas for good, even as the city burns with riots over news that he has been cleared of charges of corruption (thanks to blackmailing CJ into concealing damaging evidence). Not if CJ and Sweet had something to say about that.
Villain with Good Publicity: Big Smoke appears as a respected public figure on the news in latter parts of the game, encouraging (of all things) to keep the streets drug free while building orphanages. Lazlow, of all people, remarks on this during a radio interview...
Lazlow: Big Smoke is doing a lot for the community. Or to it.
Villainous Breakdown: Both Tenpenny and Pulaski undergo one late in the game, because the FBI has taken an interest in their involvement with the criminal underworld. Tenpenny is the one most visibly effected by it, as he goes from being smug, superior and cocky to edgy, paranoid and prone to outbursts. And when it's revealed that fellow officer Hernandez has been ratting them out... well, Tenpenny's reaction isn't pretty.
Violation of Common Sense: There's one point where you jump out of a moving plane, onto another moving plane, open the door and start shooting everyone in sight. Impossibility notwithstanding, who the hell would ever think of trying to do this just for a second?
CJ himself lampshades some of these missions himself occasionally, especially during the Toreno missions, in which he would have just walked away and never looked back if it wasn't for the fact that Toreno happens to be the key to getting Sweet out of jail.
Virtual Paper Doll: For the first time in the series, you are given a highly customizable character in the form of CJ — you can make him skinny, buff or fat, change his hairstyle and facial hair, and buy him a wide variety of clothes.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Tenpenny claims that his approach to the job is about "percentages" and that his philosophy calls for overlooking some crime to achieve a greater good. It appears that he believes what he says, but in reality he's rotten to the core.
Wham Episode: "The Green Sabre". Not only are your best friends Ryder and Smoke revealed as working with the enemies (C.R.A.S.H. and the Ballas), but your brother Sweet is shot and arrested, Grove Street goes to shit, you lose all the territory you'd captured up to this point, and you're taken out in the middle of nowhere to do an errand for Tenpenny and Pulaski. Just... Holy shit.
You can have fellow gang members ride around in your car. Driving recklessly (excessive speed, driving off a cliff, etc) will result in them calling you out on it. The best is "Cars can't fly, you bitch!"
The "dates" respond to crazy conduct, as well. Police officer Barbara is prone to scream "This is not responsible driving!" if you speed (Katie appears turned on by it, however, even though your relationship status meter actually drops). Even worse, if you use the attack button while trying to give flowers you'll get a sharp message about abusing your girlfriend and the relationship status will go down.
When CJ crashes into cars, he tends to shout insults at them. e.g. "did you buy your license!?" or, "Oh, you asshole, my shit!" While he is technically insulting the driver of the other car, some of the lines could be interpreted as insults to the player's own driving abilities.
Where It All Began: The last few missions take place in Los Santos again. The final cut scene takes right in Grove Street, where CJ started his adventure after coming back home.
While Rome Burns: During the last mission, while riots are breaking all across Los Santos and CJ is storming Big Smoke's crack palace killing everyone who gets in his way, Smoke himself is merely sitting in his pad playing video games.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Cesar is afraid of heights, as seen in a mission where he and CJ have to steal a car out of a cargo ship by lifting it out with a crane. CJ gets up in the crane while Cesar stays on the ground.
In the mission "High Noon", Officer Pulaski reveals that he's wanted to just shoot CJ from the beginning. The only thing stopping him was Officer Tenpenny, who kept coming up with reasons to keep CJ alive.
CJ could just shoot every villain near the beginning.
Same with every villain towards CJ as well, an example being when you first meet Smoke, he could have just easily bashed CJ's head in, seeing his true nature and all that. Big Smoke's approach may be justified, though, in that he may have preferred to convince CJ to come to his side a la Emperor Palpatine to Luke Skywalker, especially when Sweet early was the guy heading the Families and CJ at that point was his lancer.
Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: A couple of missions early in the game deal with this. In one, you have to stop an arms dealer from the post-Soviet black market who's been supplying the Ballas gang.
Wide Open Sandbox: Once all areas are unlocked, the player has access to a huge, open-ended, "living" region to explore, with widely varying geography, cities, and waterways. Even in the early stages of the game, when only Los Santos and countryside to the north is available, this still provides the player with more exploration space than most previous GTA games combined (and a cheat code, coupled with CJ's newfound ability to swim, makes it possible to explore the complete state from the start). Unlike the past games (and even the later GTA IV), the addition of rural areas and diverse city design give the game a sense of distance not found in the others; when C.J. is standing in the middle of the desert area, Los Santos seems a long way away.
With Catlike Tread: In the mission "Photo Opportunity", CJ and Cesar are taking pictures of a drug trade from a rooftop across the street. While they do this, the two are constantly shouting at the top of their lungs at each other. This is a remnant of the beta, where the two would have been taking pictures from a helicopter rather than from a rooftop.
Yandere: Catalina, particularly once she starts falling for you.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Tenpenny has Carl retrieve a dossier during his time in Las Venturas. Right afterwards, he has Carl dig his own grave, intending to have Pulaski kill him.
You Know I'm Black, Right?: Played with. CJ has been working with Wu Zi Mu (or "Woozie"), a Triad leader who tries to hide the fact that he's blind, but fails spectacularly. When CJ responds to Woozie's big reveal by saying "No shit!", he then asks if Woozie knows he's black. The Triad's response? "I'm blind, Carl, not stupid."