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Don't say Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the final slice of the GTA PlayStation 2 trilogy. San Andreas is a trilogy all by itself: One state, three cities, and all the wilderness in between. But Rockstar's latest epic not only replicates the West Coast's most celebrated spots--it also tells an early '90s thug tale hardcore enough to make the Hughes brothers blush.
On Oct. 19, the journey begins in the smogged-out Compton clone of Los Santos, winds through the hills of upscale San Francisco replica San Fierro, and leads to the sin and slot-machine din of Las Vegas facsimile Las Venturas. "This is the single biggest playing area in videogame history," says Sam Houser, president of GTA publisher Rockstar. "I can say that with absolute confidence."
We can say--with as much aplomb--that our cover story reveals more of this altered state than you'll find anywhere else. It all begins with our exclusive tour of heretofore uncharted Las Venturas, a glitzy sprawl of Day-glo casinos that by itself raises the stakes in terms of the series' selection of minigames. Later, we duck for cover in the turf wars of Los Santos, where main man Carl "CJ" Johnson conquers enemy gangland and recruits thugs, adding a sick twist of RISK-style gameplay to the series. Roll the dice, turn the page, and respect, fool.
This story is rated TL...
...for Thug Life, meaning you're reading about a game that has you waging turf wars, breaking and entering, stealing wheels, dealing drugs, shooting the sheriff and the deputy, and a doing a dozen other dirty deeds you'd never try in real life. But then San Andreas isn't real; it's just a game--one that only adults can buy and play.
Welcome to Las Venturas
You first see it as a smudge of apocalyptic pink on the desert horizon. But cruise closer to Las Venturas on your soft-seated Wayfarer--San Andreas' version of a classic luxury touring cycle from the early '90s--and the smoldering simmer resolves into sprawling neon boulevards decked with nods to past GTAs. The famous waving neon cowboy figure you spy lighting the desert sky is not the animatronic cowpoke in the real Vegas--it's Vice City's very own southern-fried real-estate dealer Avery Carrington writ large in glowing light. Around the corner is a bigger-than-life billboard featuring the bigger-than-life endowments of the leggy Vice City porn star Candy Suxxx. …