Best Action Adventure Game
Since Grand Theft Auto III was released in 2001, each successive game in the series has had loftier and loftier expectations placed upon it. 2002's Vice City actually exceeded those expectations, and for this year's San Andreas to do the same is a massive accomplishment in itself. For it to also win our approval as the best Action Adventure Game of 2004 in the face of such stiff competition is even more amazing.Best Shooter >>
What Rockstar has done with San Andreas is build on the existing formula of the previous Grand Theft Auto games, and give it another complete stylistic makeover, by transitioning it from the neon-soaked '80s to the gritty urban-gang lifestyle of the '90s. The series has seamlessly transitioned from the big hair of the Flock of Seagulls to the bass-heavy beats of 2Pac and N.W.A. Rockstar didn't stop there, though. Instead of having just one massive, amazingly detailed city in GTA: San Andreas, you have an entire state to explore, with three massive, amazingly detailed cities. You'll start off in Los Santos, a take on early-'90s Los Angeles, and eventually travel to San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas).
All three cities are uniquely built, with sights that will be familiar to the residents of the real cities they're inspired by. Los Santos has steel sculptures that resemble the Watts Towers, not far from an arena that looks like the Forum in Inglewood. San Fierro has all the hills and bridges you'd expect from a San Francisco knockoff, as well as more-esoteric landmarks that only locals would know, like a take on the Coit Tower. Las Venturas, of course, has a main boulevard with lots of outrageous-looking casinos. These lifelike settings immerse you in a game that is story-driven and leverages its unique settings to the fullest.
The astounding thing about Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is that its content is consistently great. It would have been easy for a game this massive to have some portions that are noticeably weaker than others, but what we have in San Andreas is consistent excellence punctuated by portions of sheer brilliance. Whether you're playing the hilarious missions of OG-Loc or admiring the phenomenal performance of James Woods as Mike Toreno, San Andreas plays as a never-ending sequence of amusing and dramatic vignettes that grab your attention and keep you immersed for the duration of its well-written, 40-hour story.