Of course, the Grove Street OGs (the gang that CJ, the protagonist, is a part of) are vehemently against the use of hard drugs (though marijuana is apparently okay). Compared to the other gangs in the city (besides the Varrios Los Aztecas), the Grove Street families are Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters.
The legal system, and the people who work in it gets a bad rap too. Mid-Game Tenpenny calls Carl and instructs him to frame a guy for weed possession. CJ is opposed to the idea until Tenpenny mentions that he is a District Attorney, after which CJ happily performs the task given to him.
Is CJ a good person? CJ is a divisive character, due to his more anti heroic attributes. Some view him as an ultimately good person who has to do bad things to help the people he loves. Others view him as just as much a monster as every other GTA protagonist. Some people consider his Pet the Dog moments (such as his love for his sister, his friendships with various characters, his desire to clean up the streets from drugs and his general tendency to help people in need) to be enough to make him a good person doing bad things. Others find his reprehensible acts (he kills people for a living, he ruined Madd Dogg's life to help his asshole friend) too much.
Is Sweet a Jerkass who ran his brother out of town, blaming him for his little brother's death, and disrespects said brother for trying to get his family out of the ghetto, and deserves everything he gets, or a stand-up guy who cares deeply about his home, family and friends, and wants to get everything back to what it was in the good old days and ends up in a deep pile of crap he didn't deserve because of it?
And there is the case of Officer Frank Tenpenny. Some see him as a kind of Hero Antagonist, and why? Los Santos's criminals are completely out of control, and playing them against one another may be the only way to keep the violence down. In short, he could be trying to eliminate the gangsters from the streets, who are the real villains in their interpretation.
Given some of the comments he gives to CJ, you could also say he's a self-hating black man.
Although this theory is subverted when, in a real context, the relationship between Tenpenny and CJ seems to be a scene of Evil Versus Evil, since in many missions he hints at having Tenpenny committed horrendous acts (in the mission "Riot" is believed to be blamed to rape).
It's further hurt by the fact that Tenpenny empowers the drug-dealing gangs like the Ballas and Vagos, while the Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters are the ones he's largely deposing.
Was Ryder's dedication to Grove Street genuine up until his betrayal, and only was persuaded by Big Smoke later, or did he just feign the whole "Grove Street For Life" attitude to make him seem innocent?
Award Snub: A slight one, with PlayStation Magazine when they did their top ten games of the year. They lampshaded it, saying that San Andreas was the one they were prepared to award the top spot to even before it came out, knowing how good it would be. The editors at PSM said that giving it second place was one of the hardest decisions they had to make, as they felt that denying the first-place spot to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (which came out slightly later the same year) would have been the greater snub. Official Playstation Magazine also snubbed it, putting Burnout 3: Takedown at the top of their list.
Some fans tend to criticise the fact that CJ is whiny at times and isn't as badass as his predecessors, Claude (GTA III) and Tommy Vercetti (Vice City). Most fans like him though.
The major problem fingered with CJ is cut-scene/gameplay dissonance. Claude is, at best, amoral and Tommy is a complete psycho, whereas CJ is depicted as having fundamentally good motivations and just 'doin it fo da hood.' Which somehow doesn't gel with the fact you just ran over a few old women and beat police officers to death with a dildo.
A bigger problem with CJ is that even if the player doesn't go on random massacres in the sandbox, many of the missions have CJ deciding to kill a bunch of innocent people for no good reason. Sequence Breaking aside, there is no way for CJ to be even close to the person he considers himself to be. That what makes him annoying to a lot of people (intentional though it may be).
Best Boss Ever: The run-and-gun chase through the streets of Los Santos against Samuel L. Jackson's Dirty Cop, Officer Tenpenny.
A relatively mild case compared to other examples, but it's there. While there are many fans who love the game for its vast world, huge variety of things to do and RPG Elements, there are also many who feel the game was essentially too much of a good thing, with an excess of filler minigames and Level Grinding.
Among the game's fans, there is the graphics differences between versions. To be precise, the PC version removes the heavy Color Wash the PS2 version has and replaces it with a far more subtle palette. Which one looks better depends on who you ask.
Disappointing Last Level: When the game finally wraps up to a finale, CJ returns to Los Santos and has to completely disregard all his previous success in San Fierro and Las Venturas to represent Grove Street in the local gang wars, forcing the player to finish a significant chunk of the turf wars sidequest before they could move to the very last mission in the game. It's not only particularly annoying thanks to, if you procrastinated on the turf wars until the very end, you'll have to complete the sidequest while all Hell is breaking loose around you as the citizens of Los Santos are rioting, but even if you completed the turf wars before leaving Los Santos at the beginning of the game, your turf war progress is reset as soon as your leave, so your efforts are meaningless. And the final mission is no cakewalk either...
Draco in Leather Pants: Catalina can be seen as this to plenty of fans. Some of them tend to overlook her psychotic behavior by pointing out how "nice" she looks, and when they do acknowledge it, they try to pass it off as her having a bad childhood. While the comment about a stepfather mistreating his stepdaughter she mentions at the start of the last mission might provide a hint, there is no evidence whatsoever that this has actually happened to Catalina herself since her childhood is never explained in either of her appearances in the two games she was in. So in other words, she has no revealed excuse for her psychopathic ways, and none of her arbitrary outbursts are justified at all.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Mike Toreno. Helped by the fact that he's played by James Woods, and gets some of the best delivered lines in the whole game. Woozie and Ryder also have a lot of fans.
Evil Is Cool: CJ and the Grove Street Families are this, so much.
Foe Yay: CJ and Catalina have a somewhat odd dynamic. After a brief stint as lovers, which is ended quickly by Catalina's mood swings, she is still obsessed with him. Even when Catalina breaks with CJ and goes with Claude, she still calls him several times to hurl insults and it's obvious she is still obsessed and enamored by CJ.
The cane is a Lethal Joke Weapon variation. Not only does it combine the speed of the katana with the reach of the pool cue, but the game considers it a gift instead of an actual weapon — meaning that your melee slot is still free for an Awesome, but Impractical delight such as the chainsaw.
In exchange for being difficult as all hell, getting all gold in flight school gets you the Hunter helicopter. Who needs surgical precision when you have a military attack chopper? It also grants effectively infinite money since it makes the vigilante missions a breeze to do endlessly, granting more and more money with each successful level.
Right at the start of the game, there is a tedious but laughably easy way to make a crapton of money. Wait until you've got at least a few thousand dollars (and have bought the safehouse in Jefferson to minimize the length of your trips to save), then save your game and go to the Inside Track betting shop in downtown Los Santos and put everything you've got into the horse with the worst odds. You'll lose a lot, but keep reloading and trying again, betting on the same horse, until you do win. Save your game, and repeat the process. Do this enough times, and you'll never have to worry about money again for the rest of the game.
Further into the game, same thing with the casinos. Play blackjack or electronic poker in Woozi's casino (where you can save right in it) and reset when you lose, save when you win. If you really like fake gambling and don't mind a little grinding (and hearing the same two fucking songs ad naseum), its a great way to net a few million and spend the rest of the game not having to worry about money.
When you finish "Vertical Bird", you get a reward not indicated by the game: the main house of Toreno's ranch will be chock-full of heavy ordnance, which will re-appear every time you save on the nearby save point. While, in this game, Video Game Flamethrowers Suck and the rocket launchers are Awesome, but Impractical due to slow rocket speed and high risk of self-damage, there is also...
The handheld minigun. Each shot deals more damage than the Magnum Pistol, its belt holds 500 of them, it fires ridiculously fast, and no matter what, it's pinpoint accurate with no spread. It's very rare and hard to reach in general and these "world" pickups only give you 200 rounds, so rounding up ammo can be a chore, which is made worse when you have to do missions that end up removing it from your inventory completely, so it's really not worth the hassle. That is, until you finish "Vertical Bird" above. Suffice to say, any combat mission you have to go through after that one is a complete and utter BREEZE.
In all 3D era GTA games, entering a garage and letting the door close instantly repairs your vehicle for free and also keeps the cars current paint job. It is especially notable in this game for making two tasks incredibly trivial:
Delivering cars to Exports and Imports at the docks gives you a certain amount of money depending on how damaged it is. Because some cars can give you upwards of $100,000, maximizing profit is as simple as repairing the car at CJ's garage and then making the short drive to the docks.
Upgrading weapon skill is usually tedious and it can take a good portion of the game to level just a single weapon. But with the garage repair, it's as simple as shooting a car and closing the garage door when it catches fire. You can get a fully upgraded gun within about four minutes of grinding. And yes, the garage can even repair destroyed vehicles as long as the wreck is in the garage.
The game would occasionally spawn aircraft that had a flight plan going straight into the ground, assuming the player was at certain parts of the game world (the tops of a rural mountain). The dev team discovered this bug when the game was being tested and decided not to fix it.
This bug has been seen in the middle of a crowded intersection, which destroyed several cars and killed many people. Assuredly, worth the price of admission as the bug was not known of at that time.
There is another bug in this game where, in some 2-player situations, player 2 can decapitate player 1 (with the sword) and player 1 will respawn headless with blood spurting out of their neck.
A cool visual glitch can be triggered while riding the Mountain Bike. Mash the X button while holding the Square button and watch as CJ's limbs stretch, twist, and bend in all sorts of uncanny ways. Do it enough and he'll even start to melt into the ground.
While riding a bicycle, it's possible to climb up inclines at angles just shy of straight vertical by repeatedly mashing the accelerate button.
If you play the PS2 version of the game with a tool like HDLoader, the delay between spawning vehicles drops to almost nothing. This is mostly harmless, as the same amount of vehicles spawn, just sooner; however, it interacts badly with the buggy highway driver AI, which results in VERY BIG pileups if you approach certain intersections in Las Venturas on foot, or occasionally spontaneously on some highways with no provocation whatsoever. A well-placed grenade in this situation can set off a neverending chain of explosions that is continually fed by the rapidly-spawning vehicles adding to the pileup as cars are destroyed.
Several "ghost" vehicles are in the game. These tend to be due to odd spawn conditions within the game itself, the most famous being the Ghost Cars in the hills of the Back-O-Beyond. They spawn at the top of a hill and roll slowly down, heavily damaged and completely driverless. Others include a "ghost hovercraft" at Bayside and another "ghost" car at Mt. Chiliad, even though that one has a driver. They don't do anything particularly useful, other than give you some transportation, but they are definitely creepy.
And on occasion, dangerous if you don't see it coming. Nothing like an empty car slamming into yours just inches from your face...
Using the jetpack and some careful maneuvering, you can get into some rooms and other areas that are normally contained only within cutscenes, as detailed here
The Mulholland safe house can store vehicles on the roof of the garage. This allows it to serve as a helipad.
Like the other 3d GTAs, various vehicles are rendered immune to some forms of attack for plot reasons. Through various methods one can steal them and drive them around unkillable.
In a good version of the infamous Purple Nines glitch from Grand Theft Auto III, if you've earned Katie and Barbara's dating bonuses (no penalty for being Wasted or Busted, respectively) and start a new game from that save file, the bonuses will carry over to the new save file, even if you never date those two for the entire game.
The Ammunation range glitch; after completing all the Ammunation challenges (last one is with the AK 47) if you re-enter the shooting range with a different submachine gun, assault riffle and/or shotgun than the one used in the challenge and quickly exit you will double your ammo for that weapon type which basically gets you infinite ammo. Used with the M4, SMG and SPAS-12 this glitch easily becomes a Game Breaker.
Like all the III-era games, you aren't supposed to be able to use your safe house as a get-out-jail-free card from a wanted level. The cops follow you in regardless. However, in SA you could still save (if you could survive getting to the save icon before the cops rip you to shreds), and resetting would start you over with your data saved and no wanted level. The HD games fixed this somewhat, but there's still workarounds.
Additionally, they attempted to fix how easy it was to simply drive into a Pay n Spray and lose your wanted level (provided you didn't break any laws for a few seconds afterwords) no matter how close the cops were on your tail as in Vice City; however, you merely needed to be slightly out of their line of sight when you entered and it would work. Later games in the series somewhat addressed this, as you can see on your HUD if you're in the line of sight or not, and the games will allow you the respray if you aren't.
Because of the way this game calculates vehicle physics note Cars aren't affected by any forces until you interact with them in some way., you can exploit that by placing a monster truck tire on a car, touching the car and enjoying the result.
For whatever reason, the AK-47 levels up faster than any other weapon, making it viable even after getting access to the otherwise superior M4.
Harsher in Hindsight: Though the riots at the end of the game are obviously based on the Rodney King riots, a police officer being let off the hook for a lack of evidence causing riots in town can nowadays bring up uncomfortable memories of Ferguson, Missouri, and the riots that took place there following Darren Wilson not being indicted by a grand jury for shooting Michael Brown.
Hilarious in Hindsight: At one point, The Truth starts rambling about mind-control satellites and religious artifacts. The plot of Assassin's Creed involves religious artifacts being used in mind-control satellites.
Early on, Officer Tenpenny gives you missions from an obvious expy of the famous Randy's Donuts shop. Around six years later, his voice actor would meet with Tony Stark at the real thing in Iron Man 2.
Also, Tenpenny's "I got my eye on you" line is a bit hilarious given Jackson's Nick Fury also likes saying similar lines.
Internet Backdraft: This happened when Rockstar updated the Steam release of San Andreas. Although it finally brought native compatibility with Xbox 360 and other XInput controllers, it removed songs that had expired licenses, as well as accidentally removing the 1920 by 1080 resolution option (which was later restored in another update). This also made fans worried about the future of digital distribution, while those with disc copies were likely clenching onto their disks.
It Was His Sled: It's pretty much impossible these days to have even some vague knowledge of the game without knowing that Big Smoke and Ryder are traitors, though it was initially a big plot twist.
Sean "Sweet" Johnson. Oh god Sweet. Yes, he is a gangster, who says, with pride in his voice, that he robbed people to finance his mother's operation. But all he wants is to build his gang on respect and loyalty rather than money, to keep his neighborhood dope-free and to wreak righteous vengeance on those who try to get his friends hooked on crack. He is betrayed by the people he trusted more than anyone and sent to prison, while said drug dealers run rampant in his absence, nearly sending him over the Despair Event Horizon. Oh, and both his mother and little brother were killed by drug dealers. Sweet might be an asshole but it's justified in a way that Tenpenny and Pulaski basically ruined his life and other things.
Tenpenny. Sure, he's a corrupt, self-serving bastard who's behind some pretty despicable acts, but he's often highly entertaining and gets some of the best lines in the game. His voice actor certainly helps.
Ryder as well. He's a favorite among the fandom, as he manages to do enough humor during missions, in spite of being a megalomaniac jerk. Also notable for his voice actor, who is the rapper MC Eiht.
Magnificent Bastard: Mike Toreno, an undercover government agent who fakes his own death at your hands while infiltrating a drug cartel, only to show up out of nowhere with your brother's life over your head so he can get you to do some of his dirty work for him. Between having eyes and ears everywhere he needs or knows you will be, and talking you out of shooting him without even flinching, he definitely qualifies for the trope.
Memetic Badass: Carl CJ Johnson is by far the poster boy for the franchise (only rivaled and possibly surpassed by the GTA V trio). After all, he canonically breached Area 69's defenses in order to steal a jetpack, using it without previous instructions, then flying out of the base to give it to a 'hippie'. He's also capable of stealing various vehicles from the military forces, own half the state of San Andreas and completely anhilating the drug empire in Los Santos/San Fierro. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Why did you blow up Ryder's car?note During "Ryder", blowing up Ryder's car at the start of the mission fails it, but lets you skip a cutscene later on. Because this is not readily apparent, many people who saw this for the first time would ask this question, and the quote eventually became memetic amongst speedrunners.
Yo soy El Grando Smokio.
Mis-blamed: Jack Thompson attacked Take-Two for content in games it published, the incident was the infamous "Hot Coffee" discovery. He insisted that Take-Two was the company to create the content, rather than the independent publishers: the game was developed by Rockstar Entertainment. Rockstar itself was hit with this for the same thing - they were forced to rerelease the game with the "Hot Coffee" content completely removed (even going out of their way to make sure no mods could be installednote unsurprisingly, one of the most popular downloads for the non-Steam PC version is a down-grade patch for people who want to play Multi Theft Auto), despite the content having already been Dummied Out and only becoming public knowledge by way of a Game Mod that nobody would be forced to download.
Moral Event Horizon: Tenpenny, Pulaski and the Ballas in the video "The Introduction", killing CJ's mother so that he'd come back to Los Santos, letting the dirty cops frame him for their murder of their fellow officer.
Tenpenny doesn't just cross the Moral Event Horizon, he turns around so he can cross it again and again, forcing CJ to kill people who are working to expose his corruption, including FBI agents.
OG Loc crosses it, when he orders CJ to kidnap and kill the manager of Mad Dogg, and as if that were not enough, then orders him to kill all the rapper's guards and steal his rhyme book. It is incredible that an apparently comedic character and even ridiculed by their partners can be so vile. Ultimately Loc's actions through CJ leave Mad Dogg an alcoholic, depressed, suicidal mess, though luckily CJ, out of guilt, stops Dogg's suicide attempt, gets him to rehab, and helps him take back everything Loc had taken from him.
Catalina shooting civilians randomly in a betting house simply because she enjoys it. Even CJ himself was disgusted by Catalina.
Salvatore Leone has probably crossed it when he threatens CJ to kill him and his entire family, although not proven if he really did in later years.
The serious cut scenes don't work so well if the player has C.J. dressed up in something completely silly (or almost naked).
Also, in all of the Grand Theft Auto games you play as at least a Villain Protagonist, whereas CJ comes off as a bit of a Nice Guy, despite being a gangster. It's a little jarring though, once Gameplay and Story Segregation come into play, and has CJ running over crowds of innocent people and beating hookers to death with dildos.
Never Live It Down: The mission "Deconstruction" has become infamous for showing CJ being much crueler than how the rest of the game tries to portray him as. You can bet that any discussion on CJ's morality will have someone saying any variation of "Well, except for the construction mission".note For those who are not familiar with the mission; CJ massacres several construction workers and buries one alive because a few of them insulted his sister.
No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: The game encountered mix results of this. By the time it came out the series' shock value had gone down, but got a huge new boost after the discovery of the "Hot Coffee" sex mini game mod. While the game did get tons of publicity for this, it also led to a huge recall of the game which ended up costing Rockstar tens of millions of dollars.
Player Punch: Madd Dogg, a famous Los Santos rapper whose rhyme book you steal, murdered his guards, and murdered his manager just to make OG Loc happy. After the Grove Street Family goes to shit, OG Loc rises to fame and can be heard bragging on the radio that he is a hardcore gangster rapper (he still sucks and is still a total wuss when you confront him later). Later on, you see Madd Dogg in Las Venturas attempting to commit suicide because he is a nobody after his career went down the drain. The punch comes from that you were the one responsible for his downfall and Madd Dogg doesn't even know about it. Luckily, you can save him and bring him back to his feet, but Madd Dogg never finds out the truth.
Porting Disaster: For the game's tenth anniversary, Rockstar removed the Xbox port from the Xbox 360 store and released a "HD remaster"... that was actually a port of the mobile version. Even ignoring the graphical and framerate issues that come from this kind of port, the audio randomly cuts out during cutscenes and starting missions will occasionally hardlock the system. The PlayStation 3 also has this version.
Seemingly averted with the PS4 version. Instead of using the remaster, it emulates the PS2 version. The game runs better than the PS2 version, has better graphics and retains the original colour and control schemes. note Although this might upset those who prefer the XBOX One and PS3 controls It still has some quirks note Heat effects and motion blur are seemingly missing, but it is said to be the best console version of the game available.
Big Smoke's house is in Idlewood, which is Balla territory.
During the Drive Thru mission, Big Smoke is too preoccupied with eating his food to shoot the enemy gang members. At first, it just seems like Smoke is being a Fat Bastard, but the mission "The Green Sabre" casts his actions in a new light.
During the "Reuniting the Families" mission, Big Smoke and Ryder leave Sweet and CJ to take on the LSPD by themselves.
Retroactive Recognition: After playing Grand Theft Auto V, one of the GSF NPCs may sound awfully familiar. That's because it's Shawn Fonteno, who would go on to voice Franklin Clinton nearly a decade later.
Some consider Zero to be, partly because of the "Supply Lines" mission under That One Level (among just about all of his other missions), and partly because of his Serious Business attitude. And let's face it, because he was voiced by David Cross.
Also, OG Loc. The fact that Carl is willing to spend so much time helping him instead is out of character, but when Big Smoke betrays you, Loc sides with Smoke. And then after chasing him all over the place in a Scrappy Level, CJ lets him live.
Sweet, CJ's brother, also gained some backlash of his constant criticizing of CJ for "running away" when it was their mother's idea in the first place to give him a better life and indeed, CJ turned out better for it as he's much more rational minded than Sweet or any of the Grove Street Gang members are. Regardless, in most of the mission Sweet gives CJ no end of grief over this. And when CJ later in the game offers him a much better life than living in the hood can bring, he chastises him for it despite all the crap CJ went through to bail him out of prison. One can argue, that yeah he's looking out for his home and doesn't want to see it get any worse than it already is. But the least Sweet could do is be a bit more considerate or grateful. Hood may be the home but that's no excuse for acting like an ass.
CJ himself to some. The main criticisms being that his personality sometimes changes between missions and he seems to lack both spine and ability to focus in some scenes. (My brother is in jail... But sure, I'll steal you a combine harvester!) In addition, some point out that the massive customization loses some of it's charm as CJ's somewhat high voice remains unchanged.
Many players found the requirement to feed CJ periodically (or risk losing strength and health) to be rather annoying. It can be especially annoying if you lose track and find yourself starving in the middle of a mission, especially longer ones like the ambulance sidequest.
The highways in this game are dangerous simply because all cars go at ridiculously high speeds and change lanes at complete random. A poorly timed lane switch can wipe out whatever you are currently driving.
Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: This whole game centers around the effects of hard drugs (especially crack cocaine) on the inner cities, and repeatedly makes sure that those drugs and the people who push them corrupt everything in the end if they aren't stopped. Given how horrible the cities in the games already are, it wouldn't have been effective if they hadn't gone overboard.
It also takes a definite stance about gang culture, represented by CJ and Sweets, the first of whom sees no future in the ghetto and desperately tries to raise his family and friends up to a better life, while the latter views such notions as turning their backs on their home and where they come from and the better option is to try and make life better on the streets instead of just trying to run away from it. By the end, the only conclusion CJ can come to is to "... hit the block, see what's happening."
Special Effect Failure: In one mission, you have to follow Caesar to meet up with everyone else for some illegal street racing. CJ's sister, Kendl, is seen riding with Caesar in the cut scene. During the actual game play, Kendl's model is strangely replaced with a female NPC.
There's a mission where CJ and Cesar need to remain undetected while spying a rival gang. They are shouting the entire time, as the mission was originally planned to take place in a helicopter, and the lines were not re-recorded.
Stop Helping Me!: The game features this in the San Fierro series of missions. Every once in a while, one of the villains sends minions on drug runs from San Fierro to Los Santos, and you are able to intercept them and steal their money. It wouldn't be so bad except that when it happens, the phone rings, CJ automatically answers it, and the following conversation has become ingrained in many a player's head:
CJ: Hey Cesar. The yay leavin' San Fierro, right? Cesar: Right, but they're using bikes, CJ, and they go cross-country!
You can then choose to either go after them or not, and given how far away you have to drive to get them, a lot of players don't find the monetary award worth it, so these calls become especially annoying.
Toreno's idea of helping C.J. get his brother back is sending him (C.J.) on insanely suicidal missions.
Strangled by the Red String: The game has this as a plot element. Meet the right circumstances and the gal will fall head over heels with you. At least with the first one it's rescuing her from a house fire (that you started). With others it's simply that you have six pack abs or she has a chubby fetish.
Take That, Scrappy!: At the end of "Breaking the Bank at Calligula's", CJ punched Zero for telling his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Berkley about the robbery and causing the mission to be harder than expected.
Tear Jerker: A sadder moment is certainly the end of the video "The Introduction", where Tenpenny and Pulaski sent some Ballas to kill the CJ's mother. And what makes this scene even sadder is the music. Unlike other deaths in the videogame itself, which are even played for laughs, this scene completely played for drama.
That One Boss: Hunting down and killing Pulaski. When you start the mission, the car you came in (assuming you came to the starting point by car) will usually have vanished. Pulaski drives a Buffalo, a very fast and durable sports car, while you're stuck with a weird looking off road car that handles like crap. To even get Pulaski to get out of his car, you have to wreck it by either making it flip over via ramming or pumping it full of lead with a drive-by. Even when Pulaski finally bails, he shoots you with a friggin' Desert Eagle, the most powerful handgun in the game which can knock you down. If he knocks you down with it, he'll keep shooting at you until you're dead. Oh, and his health is sky high, requiring a lot of firepower to take him down. Although it is possible to run him over or use explosives, usually your car is near a total wreck by then and Pulaski's gun can bring it to a near total explosion, forcing you to bail.
One of the opening missions, "Sweet & Kendl", can arguably be this. You're on a bike and have to outrun a rather annoying car full of Ballas that specifically target you rather than any of your friends. And yes, said Ballas have submachine guns — while you haven't even had a chance to get any weapons or armor of your own yet (unless you invoke Gameplay and Story Segregation and look for some before you get to CJ's house the first time). While not that hard, it can be a bit jarring this early on.
The Zero missions in general, but especially "Supply Lines", where you have to gun down a bunch of delivery vans using an RC plane. It's a Luck-Based Mission, as the plane has limited fuel and wonky controls (especially compared to flying regular planes in the game) that make you waste fuel trying to correct mistakes. It is probably the most hated mission in the entire series.
"Supply Lines" is so annoying that the best way to win is to defy normal logic and shoot the vans from street level. That will guarantee you won't miss and it will keep them from running. The RC plane is actually a bit easier to drive on the ground due to its size. This still depends on the couriers keeping themselves somewhat close by, but it does make the mission a whole lot easier.
The PC version "fixed" this mission by simply tripling the amount of fuel you are given. In Version 1 (pre-Hot Coffee), you lose fuel no matter what. In Version 2 (post-Hot Coffee), this was fixed (as in it was a bug in Version 1) so that you only lose fuel when accelerating (which presumably was what it was supposed to do, but was glitched). If you let go of the acceleration button and tilt up, you'll glide without losing fuel or speed. Makes the mission a whole lot easier.
Additionally, some early copies of the PS2 version had the entire mission glitched besides the fuel decreasing. Randomly, you could blow up a van and it wouldn't disappear off your HUD, other times losing all your fuel WOULDN'T end your mission, but this bug was often in conjunction with the HUD bug.
Some PC versions of this mission has a sudden change in controller function. Normally, you can shoot with the RC's machine gun with Left Mouse Button, right? But, for unknown reason, after sometime in the middle of the mission, Left Mouse Button's function is very suddenly, without any warning before, changed into self-destruct which of course fail the mission immediately when the RC Plane is self-destructed. No reason is known for this as self-destructing the RC gains you absolutely nothing but mission failure. This is probably a glitch, but nevertheless this forces you to use keyboard's LCTRL button to use the RC's machine gun.
"Burn and Lap" is merciless. Gold requires a 35 second run, and that is to the wire even on a perfect run. This means losing a tiny bit 0.1 second will cause you to fail.
"Alley Oop" is also frustrating. You're required to hit the ramp at an angle and complete a full barrel roll while jumping over all the vehicles in front of the ramp and land without causing too much damage to your car. This is almost luck-based mission and you virtually have about 1 second to figure out what the hell you have to do to do the barrel roll successfully.
The final mission requires you to drive to the end of the city and back extremely fast without so much as scratching your car. Easy in theory, but luck-based in practice.
A mission where you need to save Madd Dogg from killing himself would have him jump before you can save him (at the very beginning of the mission), and players literally would have to start over and hope the glitch didn't happen again. Worse is that the only confirmed reason why it happens is if you use the "pedestrians riot" cheat, which can't be turned off once you activate it unless you have a save from before doing so - and even without cheating at all it might happen to you anyway. The sole saving grace is that it's apparently rare enough that if you are forced to start over from the beginning, it won't happen again when you make it back that far.
Until you get the hang of them (and even then), flight missions are just awful. Helicopters are reasonably easy to fly around (except the Hunter, which is a lot more sensitive), but planes are horrible. One ding usually makes them catch fire, you have to do gimmicks like flying near ground level to dodge radar, and you have to successfully land the things when you're done (most of the time). If you haven't aced every flight school test, go back and do that first so you won't be totally driven up the wall. And you think the regular aircraft are tricky, try flying the Hydra, a fighter jet with hover jets that you can manipulate to hover in place. Luckily, it seems the developers realized that the Hydra controls were awkward and only force you to fly it for one mission.
Flight School itself can be very frustrating. Hours upon hours upon god-damned hours at failing to pull off perfect barrel rolls and loop-de-loops, and it's necessary to continue the game. The worst part is that flight school starts off deceptively easy. The first two challenges involve simply taking off and landing the plane, respectively, and they're both really easy. But on the third challenge, flight school takes a steep nosedive into the depths of Hell. It's "Circle Airstrip", where you have to take off and fly from corona to corona, all while you're most likely wrestling with the wonky plane controls. It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to fly through the damn coronas - which are rather small targets - nigh-perfectly. And when you finish that one, guess what the next challenge is? You have to do the exact same thing, only when you're done you have to land the plane, which is incredibly easy for beginners to screw up. What fun! You CAN make all the flight school challenges a bit easier by just switching to first-person view, but it's still a huge pain in the ass.
"Freefall" can be frustrating beyond all comprehension, mostly due to the fact that you're screwed by the interface from the start. The short version is that you have to kill a jet full of targets by jumping to it from a Dodo. The jet won't arrive until you find it up north, beyond the borders of map. This means you only get a second or two or warning when you do finally find it, which takes a while. Then you have to do a 180 degree turn without screwing up so you can fly through a ring just above its tail while going the same general direction. Your Dodo can barely outrun the jet, and that's if you have the advantage of being higher than it. You'll never catch it if you have to climb. This you have to do while struggling with very frustrating controls. Oh, and you have less than a minute to manage all this, because the jet counts as landed if it gets over the city. Then you have to kill all the bad guys on the plane, while forced into a first-person target mode that only lets you duck behind cover, and you can only use a pistol which takes several headshots just to waste one of them. This is one of those missions where cheating through various means may actually be preferable to doing it fairly, given how difficult it can be to pull off.
The best part is that it's delightfully ridiculous. If the widely-touted "something new in every mission" pre-release prospect showed itself rather questioningly in any one mission, this would probably be it.
The infamous "Wrong Side of the Tracks" is an early mission in which you drive a motorcycle alongside a moving train while Big Smoke, your passenger, shoots at the rival gang members perched on top. The problem is there isn't an indication that you need to stay at least another train's width apart from the train or Smoke can't hit them (luckily your enemies seem to suffer from A-Team Firing no matter where you are). The mission failure line "All we had to do was follow the damn train, CJ" has reached a degree of Memetic Mutation. Additionally, Big Smoke will only aim at one gang member at a time, so you have to move forward or back to target a specific person. Admittedly, the game clues you in on the missed shots when you're not in position, but it's not that intuitive.
"Life's a Beach", early on. You have to impress a girl by dancing on the beach (read: playing a button-timing mini-game). Since this game pre-dated Guitar Hero (though notably came after Dance Dance Revolution), the concept of HDTV lag hadn't really hit the public consciousness yet. A lot of early adopters couldn't beat that mission. History repeated itself when the "Remastered" version was unwinnable for some, but thankfully since then a Good Bad Bug was discovered that allows it to be skipped.
"Tanker Commander". It's actually a fairly simple mission - steal a tanker truck and take it to a man who will buy it. However, you have two guys in a car chasing and shooting at you, the tanker can't take that much damage, and it's quite easy to make too sharp a turn and disconnect the tank, which means mission failure. One can't help but wonder if the reason why "Tanker Commander" is the nearest mission when you first join up with Catalina is so you can get it over with. Of course, this is a lot easier when you remember you can exit the truck without ending the mission and cap the two guys in the carthrough the windshield for a safe and leisurely drive to the destination.
"OG Loc" features an annoying motorcycle chase, and the guy being chased is immune to damage. Thankfully at the end of the chase, you can kill him. You can blow up the bike, but you need a lot of ammo to do that and he shoots back.
"Highjack" is a bit of a pain, just because Cesar won't shut up. You have to ride along side a truck at just the right speed, and be RIGHT NEXT TO IT, and it's timed. Have fun.
"Stowaway" requires the player to drive a motorbike into the back of a plane as it is taking off, with literally no pause between "mission starts" and "plane is moving". This would be difficult enough were it not for the fact that you have to run through a group of people shooting at you (and their boxes and cars in the way), but the plane dumps barrels periodically to make it even harder. Worse, there's no leeway. One mistake means you lose, because the plane only has to reach the end of the runway. On the early PC releases, there was an issue where frame rate would affect how fast the plane moved relative to you; depending on what settings you used and what specs your computer had, it was literally impossible to catch the plane.
Before Stowaway, there's also "N.O.E.". There's a time limit, yes, and that's exactly why you want to finish that mission as soon as possible. The problem is, the Surface-To-Air Missiles in Restricted Area won't allow you to take shortcut via above the area even if you're just passing by. And that's only the SAMs, there's still the radar which will detect your presence and will send the FREAKING HYDRA to hunt down your freaking Rustler (mentioned above, it's only slightly better than Dodo). And yup, you may already guessed, that Hydra will fire missiles at you. And no, not only one missile, but it's up to TWO or THREE MISSILES at one time! The best way to get this while avoiding the radar detection is taking a longer path above the ocean. There are many hills or canyons which will help concealing your presence as well. Although it may take longer, you can still actually finish the mission before the time expires.
"High Noon" can get extremely infuriating, mostly because your target is driving a car twenty times tougher than it has any right to be while your dune buggy is prone to spinning out and/or flipping over on a whim. On top of that, the mission fails if he gets out of mini-map range, so you have to keep up on top of trying to stop him. And when you finally do manage to coax him out of the thing, he's got a Desert Eagle that can blow up your car if you've taken damage trying to get him out of his. You can alleviate the difficulty somewhat by popping his tires before he gets a chance to get in. You can reliably get the entire left side with a rifle. Then watch as he flails about in a vain attempt to outrun you. Or just drop near the quest with a Jetpack, and lots of SMG ammo. As soon as mission starts, get the jetpack, and fire at will. A real cakewalk.
Fortunately, the reward for this mission is quite worth it. No, not about money, respect, etc; but the car, yeah, that ridiculously tough car can be taken by you to be exported to Easter Basin Docks although you won't be informed about this if you haven't finished "Custom Fast Track" mission. Oh, and the car is also going on an Unexplained Recovery because even if you've managed to destroy it somehow, the car will return to its normal state after you kill Eddie Pulaski and finish the mission.
The level 3 shotgun level in the AmmuNation challenge can be a REAL pain in the arse. Shotguns are the only weapon which the NPC opponents are practically guaranteed to score consistent hits with, making winning a matter of whether or not you can blast away a piece of the target before they do. AND you have to redo the previous 8 levels just to try it again.
The trucking missions where the police are chasing you can be very difficult. Not only do they make you drag the load to one of the cities, which is a long way through the very big and complex countryside, your truck practically moves at the speed of a go-kart, the extra weight makes it easy for the cops to shove you around, it's weaker than a truck is supposed to be, and you have to dodge civilians on top of that. As if all that weren't bad enough, countryside cops in their SUVs are far faster and more aggressive than city cops. The alternative, driving on the train tracks, still runs the risk of the cops cutting you off and you might get hit by a train in the darkened tunnels. This is especially bad with the final mission, which adds an extra star so SWAT vans start chasing you and forces you to go to Las Venturas, making you stay on the main roads and be hounded by cops the whole way.
Any mission (especially the valet missions) which requires you to keep a vehicle at or near pristine condition. The game does not in any way encourage careful driving, and these missions are timed more often than not. That means you not only have to avoid hitting a single car on the way there, but do so while driving in the typical fashion because you simply won't make it in time otherwise. And that's not even getting into the fact that the car you're trying to keep intact can be difficult to drive, and the game actually counts scraping damage from driving up hills if you're moving too fast.
Taking over gang territories is a simple enough affair... about 95% of the time. The remaining five percent require you to take over strips of territory that are either the size of a building or a single strip of sidewalk. There is ONE tiny street controlled by Ballas that's incredibly hard to see due to its size and color issues in the PS2 era. Many a frustrated players searched helplessly for that last bit of territory. Later versions of the game made the little strip easier to see. Taking over these tiny areas is also complicated by the fact that you need to make the requisite kills inside the territory to trigger the gang war.
Photo Opportunity. To elaborate, this mission has you meet up with Cesar halfway across the map, tedious but not especially difficult. Where it starts to suck is when you have to drive his car from the meeting point to Angel Pine, which means taking either a massive detour or taking the freeway. The kicker? The car flips constantly, and ai on the freeway is pants-on-head stupid. You will restart often.
Robbing Uncle Sam. You have to take a truck — which is very easy to tip over, incidentally — and Ryder down to the military area at Ocean Docks and then use a hard to maneuver forklift to get six crates into the back of the truck while Ryder stops the National Guard. Except Ryder is nothing but The Load — he can't hit soldiers standing less than six feet away from him so you have to keep stopping, getting out of the forklift and doing his job so he doesn't die and fail the mission for you. If you do manage to get all six crates on without Ryder dying, he then insists you drive as well. So then you have to drive this very easy to tip truck as you are pursued by two Humvee style military trucks with soldiers firing semi-automatics while Ryder tells you to beep the horn so he'll throw an explosive crate at the trucks. Except his aim is equally terrible and if it takes you too long to get to the lockup he'll either fall out of the truck or get shot by the soldiers, and you can't tell how much health he has this time because there is no gauge as there was for the section in the docks. Basically this mission would be orders of magnitude less difficult if Ryder had simply stayed at home. The real kicker is that before the mission starts properly Ryder brags about how no weekend soldiers are a match for him, and the thought that if you know the story of the game he's probably going to be running all the guns stolen on the job to rival gangs anyway. On a touchscreen device it's frustrating from beginning to end.
The final Ammunation shooting range and trucking missions.
The RC Plane missions are an even better example - the horrid flying controls had legions of gamers tearing out their hair in frustration. Nearly impossible. Thankfully, not required.
Any missions requiring players to fly real planes, although, unfortunately, many of those were required. It only gets worse when the player has to do most of them with a plane with the poorest handling in the game.
There is also an unfortunate, but funny occurrence. On PC, the driving school sidequest cannot be done with an old keyboard because the player is required to press three keys simultaneously.
The final mission requires you to drive the full length of the city and back in a very short time while taking absolutely no damage. To stress just how hard this is, driving up an incline fast enough is enough to damage your car in some cases. Beating it requires precision breaking and the good fortune to have as little traffic as possible between you and your goal.
Another example is the cycling races. To start off you need to get yourself to the top of extremely high, steep mountain. Once there you can start several races that require you to hurtle down the mountain tracks on a push bike at ridiculous speeds whilst being jossled and cut off by AI riders. If you cycle off the track (or are rammed) then you almost certainly won't make first place. If you fall off the bike then you almost certainly won't make first place. You will be disqualified if you shoot the other racers (you will quickly try to resort to this). One race even involves an obstacle course with narrow balance beams. The worst part is that there is no easy way to restart the races if you fail, so you will have to climb back up the mountain every time you screw up. In fact, the quickest way to get back for another go is to reload a save at your airport base, fly half-way across the state and crash into the summit.
This can be made slightly easier by the fact that while the game will disqualify you for shooting the competitors, it will not do so if you take a van from the car park/lookout point at the top of Chiliad and park it on the first turn before you start the race. The lack of a quick restart is still a complete fucker though, and occasionally the game seems to notice your chicanery and despawn the van when the race begins. Another option is to wait for the other racers to finish, park near the line, then headshot them all. The game only checks against active racers. Finished racers can be killed with impunity and are eliminated if they die.
The Quarry missions are generally pretty straightforward, until you get the the final one. This involves the use of a crane to dump bodies in the back of a truck. This would be relatively simple were it not for the fact that said crane has some of the worst controls in video game history. You also have to do this in 8 minutes, as well as doing some other often pedantic activities on that same 8 minute timer.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: For the Steam version, a patch was released added controller support, but it also removed 17 songs from the game due to the licenses for the songs having expired and Rockstar not wanting to renew said licenses. What got fans really upset wasn't just the songs being cut, but that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City went through the exact same situation and Rockstar allowed original owners of the game to keep the songs while new owners would get the cut version; Rockstar didn't do the same act for San Andreas.
The revamped menu, and once again, the removal of music tracks has put a lot of people off the 2014 Remastered version.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Ever since Ryder's betrayal, he's been pretty much ignored throughout the rest of the game. CJ doesn't even mentioned Ryder after witnessing the latter and Big Smoke's betrayal and only focuses on Smoke selling him out instead. Then when it's time to kill Ryder, CJ does so without much of a dramatic scene between the two like how Big Smoke's death scene at the end of the game was executed, and Ryder's name is only mentioned once after his demise. The fact that CJ doesn't even tell Sweet about Ryder after informing him of Smoke's betrayal and that Sweet doesn't even ask about Ryder's whereabouts when the former is released from prison certainly didn't help in this case.
A lot of gripes about Grand Theft Auto IV can be summed up as "it's not as big/fun/varied as San Andreas is". Considering that San Andreas consisted of an entire state and had more content than many games combined, it was a really tough act to follow.
And then when Grand Theft Auto V is out, most players felt V was a return to the feel of SA. While some said the fact that the map doesn't seem as big as SA (Rock Star insists all their previous games could fit comfortably on it, however), but GTA V become a masterpiece of it's own due to it's own new features, ultimately averting this trope.
What Measure Is a Non-Badass?: CJ. Because showing compassion for some of your enemies totally doesn't make you a badass, right? His feats are comparable to those of Tommy Vercetti and Niko Bellic, but he also has a tendency to show compassion to those who he wronged. Because, you know, considering the ramifications of his actions every once in a while makes him a pussy. Some of his cutscenes involve some lack of competence. Pushed around by two cops, scolded by his brother or being raped by a psychotic woman make him look bad.
The problem is mostly due to ludonarrative dissonance, though, as the compassionate part doesn't really mesh with some of the things he does (For example, slaughtering a building crew and burying their foreman alive because one of them called his sister a hooker.)
WTH, Costuming Department?: The player can take over this role. Utterly serious cutscenes can have the protagonist standing around in any number of insane outfits. The possibilities are in the hundreds, such as: boxers only, a Groucho Marx face mask and tuxedo pants, or even a gimp suit. This last, in a business meeting with his sister.