These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Is CJ a good person? 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.
Base Breaker: CJ's somewhatLighter and Softer personality in comparison to the other protagonist has led to many debates over whether it's a good thing or not.
Broken Base: 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.
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.
Fridge Brilliance: the mission where you rob the Caligula's Palace Casino is the reason behind Salvatore Leone's paranoia regarding his subordinates.
Big Smoke's initials are B.S.
Although it's easy to miss on a first playthrough, you might be wondering why Big Smoke's house is in Balla territory...
Or for that matter, why C.R.A.S.H. keep "bothering" him...
Or why he doesn't shoot back in the mission "Drive-Thru". At the time, it seems like he's just being the Big Eater, but later on...
Fridge Logic: CJ/the player blows up cars all the time and all of Grove Street knows he's a nutjob behind the wheel, so why are they always making him drive?
Big Smoke and Ryder are eventually revealed as being in cahoots with C.R.A.S.H. and the Ballas. So why, even long after Grove Street falls, are they still wearing their Grove Street green? A Palette Swap of them wearing purple or something couldn't have been that hard.
A big part of the plot (and why CJ gets mixed up in all of the CRASH business) is that Tenpenny has threatened to frame him for the murder of a police officer should he refuse to do their dirty work. Even discounting Gameplay and Story Segregation, why did it never occur to CJ that after fighting his way through literally hundreds of people without dying or being even arrested, two or three police officers were nothing?
Because later on, Sweet Johnson is arrested by CRASH, and Tenpenny is quick to remind CJ that should he disobey or inconvenience CRASH in any way, Sweet will find himself in a Ballas cellblock. If he ends up there, Sweet will most likely be raped or murdered by the inmates.
That only makes sense AFTER Sweet's arrest. Tenpenny and Pulaski were harassing him literally from the beginning of the game, and it's likely that he's got at least several weapons on him most of the times that he meets the pair. He has no problems committing hits in broad daylight or even robbing a National Guard depot, so the idea that he's too scared to just shoot two crooked cops or risk getting pinned for the murder of a single officer just doesn't jive with what he's seen doing.
It's likely that this officer was well liked, and a possible community figurehead, so his punishment would have been much harsher than the norm, Also, Tenpenny may be covering up CJ's other crimes.
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.
Game Breaker: 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. Boating school is easier and nets you the more reliable Sea Sparrow, which has a minigun.
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.
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.
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.
Ho Yay: Maybe it wouldn't be in another game, but Woozie is smart, amiable, always deals straight with CJ and freely offers him a stake in his casino for helping him out, in addition to the post-mission payment CJ gets for working for him. And never betrays him. Of course, CJ admits himself that he "likes a little mustache" when OG Loc is getting back at his .... ahem, "friend" from prison.
Love to Hate: 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.
Moral Event Horizon: Tenpenny, Pulaski and the Ballas in the video "The Introduction", killing CJ's mother so that he came to Los Santos and give him an easy scapegoat for the Pendlebury's murder. And the worst is that they murdered him.
Tenpenny probably also when it has been crossed this in many missions, forcing CJ to kill people who want to discover their corruption, including FBI agents.
OG Loc absolutely crosses it, when ordered CJ to kidnap and kill the manager of Mad Dog, and as if that were not enough, also ordered him to kill all his guards and steal the rhyme book of Mad Dog to be made famous. It is incredible that an apparently comedic character and even ridiculed by their partners is become so vile. In fact, this action made Mad Dog Driven to Suicide.
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 when threatens CJ to kill him and his entire family, although not proven if you really did in later years.
As per above, if you plan on spending a lot of time gambling in the casinos, be prepared to hear the same two songs more than you ever wanted to! (Tell em, Godfather!)
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".
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 Ballas by themselves.
The Scrappy: Zero, mainly because of the "Supply Lines" mission under That One Level (among just about all of his other missions).
Scrappy Mechanic: Many players found the requirement to feed CJ periodically (or risk losing strength and health) to be rather annoying.
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."
Tear Jerker: The death of the CJ's mother in the video "The Introduction".
The death of Big Smoke and before finding out that the power, cash, and drugs finally corrupted him. His lines "I made it, CJ! I'm a success!" are particularly hard-hitting, because one gets the feeling that he's not only trying to convince CJ, but himself as well.
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 descreasing. 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.
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.
"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.
"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.
There's an early level where 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.
"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.
"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.
The guy is immune, the bike isn't. Stock up on as much SMG ammo as you can before doing that mission and you should be able to kill him before you reach the ambush spot. Depending on your timing, the bike usually catches flames on the highway ("Catch me if you caaaaan" section).
"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.
"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.
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 of the valet or similar missions where you're required to drive a car without damaging it or keeping the damage to a minimum. After spending the game driving like a lunatic (and the control essentially designed for this), this was incredibly difficult for a lot players. Not to mention some of these missions would be TIMED and oftentimes the vehicle itself would be a big and/or clunky.
Anyone trying to get 100 percent on territory controlled got frustrated at being stuck at 99 percent, as there was ONE tiny street controlled by Ballas that's incredibly hard to see due to its size and some RBG 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.
Tough Act to Follow: 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.
God only knows how much griping there's going to be now that Grand Theft Auto V is going to take place in San Andreas.
Mostly nil, as the most players felt V was a return to the feel of SA. There's still some griping the map doesn't seem as big as SA (Rock Star insists all their previous games could fit comfortably on it, however), but most say the fun and immersive feel is there, plus some.