Part 39: Behind The Scenes - Collectibles
Something we haven't really explored in any depth yet so far is the concept of Collectibles in San Andreas. Spread through the gameworld are various items that can be collected for a reward, usually a pretty damn good one. The reasoning for these collectibles is pretty simple - Rockstar created a pretty huge fucking world for you to play in, and you can be damn sure they intended for you to actually see it!
Some gamers don't see a game as something to be played but to be beaten, to be completed or finished in order to say,"I completed this game! It only took me this much time! X took longer to do this than me, thus proving my superiority! Now his women are mine!"
Well maybe not, but you get the idea, with a game like San Andreas, for example, there was a subset of players who just wanted to get through it as quickly as possible so they could either brag about how fast they did it or get the story "out of the way" so they could go back and play at a more leisurely rate. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have people who take their time, complete the game in total and then have no reason to play the game again.
The collectibles fit for both players, as they either force or give the players a chance to spread out into the far flung nooks and crannies of San Andreas and see everything within the glorious sandbox that the designers created for them.
In Los Santos this was served by the gang tags - you moved out of the "safe" little area of Ganton to take in the rest of Santos. This is made fairly explicit by the early mission "Tagging up Turf" but in San Fierro, you get no such hand holding, the collectible is "hidden" from you, only visible through a camera lens.
That's right, unless you have looked it up beforehand (or brought the handy strategy guide available in stores!) the only way you'd know about the snapshots collectibles is if you happened to take a photo and look through the lens in the right direction at the right place. Aggravating, but since we live in the age of the Internet all of the snapshot locations are easily found and mapped out for us.... imagine being the poor bastard who first mapped them out and uploaded the image with great anticipation, only to learn he could have brought and scanned a page out of the strategy guide.
In any case, upon arriving in San Fierro and saving the game, CJ set out to do some sight-seeing and take some snapshots, just like any other newly arrived tourist in a brand new town.
Some places are more difficult to get to than others, but necessity is the mother of invention... plus jumping off of high shit looks awesome and makes chicks dig you - young impressionable children please take note!
Some of the shots are absurdly difficult to get, in that even when you KNEW exactly where they are supposed to be you can sometimes spend forever trying to find the snapshot icon, and then even longer trying to get the photograph to register. If you're anything like me, this tends to lead to running around creating havoc as a way of relieving tension, before coming back and getting frustrated again until suddenly, for no reason at all, the snapshot registers and you become terrified of dying before you can get to a savepoint and face a choice between losing all your weapons or going back to an older save and trying to get the photo again.
The problem with this collectible mission is that - while it serves its purpose in introducing you to San Fierro - the photos you end up taking... suck. Every photo you take is saved to your San Andreas directory, and some of the areas you are taking photos of could create some spectacular shots but.... they don't.
Ooooh, look at that, the top of a roof! Exciting!
On the plus side, because San Andreas creates the best approximation it can of a living breathing world, and since you're running around anyway taking photos of stuff, you end up getting some shots of cool stuff happening to keep your interest up as you collect all 50 snapshots.
That's one of those planes we mentioned earlier in the thread, that take off at a random start location and do their utmost to fly in a straight line to their random destination... resulting in a crash landing into a power plant that presumably feeds in a large part of Fierro's downtown power grid. After seeing that fun, Carl heads off to the docksides where he takes a break from snapshots to have a little fun with a motorcycle and an empty drydock.
Like the cycle challenge at the BMX Park in Santos, here you have to ride the motorcycle around in the drydock and go through the red rings before the time runs out. There is absolutely no reason to do this except that it goes towards %100 completion AND that it looks fucking cool - case in point:
It's also incredibly infuriating, because you will quite often get all but one ring in some high up location and then fail miserably time and time again trying to get it until your time runs out. Luckily the same exploit exists for this challenge as the BMX one. If you time it JUUUUUUST right, you can move through a ring at 00:00 left on the clock and confuse the game, resulting in the timer disappearing and you being left to take your sweet time completing the challenge.
You can still lose it though, by destroying the bike, dying (yes it is possible) or falling off of your bike and not getting back to it before the bike timer runs out. However, as long as you're relatively careful, you should be able to get the mission done with.
Feel free to insert your own 420 joke here.
Once you're done, you can come back and try to beat your time in this horribly frustrating mini-game, or you could just walk away forever, a winner, your dignity intact.
Or you could do what I did.
Once that is done, Carl heads back out to get more snapshots, and take in a few more of the sights.
Fans of Resident Evil will recognize the parody of the Umbrella Corporation, which seems to create an inordinately higher number of Zombies than other research institutions.
And that's it, all the Snapshots are taken.... so now what?
That's what - CJ now has respawning grenades, a shotgun, a SMG and sniper rifle outside his garage. These are a godsend, jacking you up with plenty of weapons quickly even if things go horribly wrong and you lose everything.
So we've seen the tags in Los Santos (which gave CJ respawning weapons in his kitchen) and the snapshots in San Fierro, and later in the game we'll see the Venturas collectibles too. But there is another set of collectibles available in the game, one that is spread all around the entire San Andreas map and need to be collected a little bit at the time.
Oysters affect the "sex appeal" of Carl Johnson. Each of the prospective girlfriends in the game has a particular idea of what makes a man sexy. Some like muscles, some like fat, some like lean, but if you want to go out with any of them, you need to be "sexy" to them. The oysters - which are fabled as aphrodisiacs - remove these requirements, meaning that any of the girlfriends will happily go out with you once you've collected them all. Generally, by the time you've collected them all you've potentially bypassed at least two of the optional girlfriends - Helena and Michelle, who love lean men and gigantic fat bastards respectively - but you can go back to them at any time, or alternatively starve yourself or stuff your fat face if you want to grab them before heading to Venturas.
San Andreas was the first game to introduce swimming to the GTA Universe, a welcome addition after the frustration of drowning in ponds in games like GTA3 and Vice City - particularly Vice City where you could travel on boats but didn't dare fall out. But Rockstar didn't just make it possible to swim, they made swimming another form of exploration, giving you collectibles to encourage you to swim and dive, which also increases your lung capacity, allowing you to swim underwater for longer without having to come up for air.
By this point in the game, Carl has access to 35 of 50 potential oysters, and just like with the snapshots and tags, going after them affords you the potential to explore and see more of the world Rockstar created, from the pretty....
....to the weird....
I mean.... seriously.... a rusty wheelchair sitting out on a rickety old pier in the middle of nowhere, an empty shack behind you. It's creepy, it's unexplained, and it's pretty fucking cool. I love the neat little touches like this, it reminds me of weird shit I'd see while driving through the countryside (in real life), strange stuff you'd see for a second in the middle of nowhere before it was behind you forever.
Speaking of weird....
It's hard to get across just how spooky this was. I'd been swimming in the water getting an oyster, climbed back onto land and got onto the freeway to jack a car and head towards the next oyster. When I got onto the highway though, I found these two cars just... sitting there, their drivers gone, in the middle of the highway. There was no sign of the drivers, no sign of a crash, but apparently while I had been swimming two cars driving along the highway had just stopped, the drivers gotten out of their cars, left the engines idling, shut the doors behind them and disappeared!.
So what the hell happened to them? Aliens? Bigfoot? Well, there were rumors for a long time after GTA:SA came out that Big Foot was in the game and could be found, but this was debunked by Rockstar. Then what about aliens? Does San Andreas have aliens? The answer is yes... and no. We'll go into that further in a later update.
Returning to San Fierro, we grab the last few oysters. Remember that I said we had access to 35 of 50 potential oysters? Well yes we do, but we're only going to get 33 of them. The reason for this is the naval base, where two of the oysters can be found. The naval base - despite letting you sail right up next to a naval vessel and take a PHOTOGRAPH OF IT - will go onto high alert if you cross into their territory. There are only a few times in the game when this high security alert is disabled - one of them being the Reuniting The Families mission in Los Santos way back earlier. The other is during a mission for Woozie, who we'll be meeting back up with again not too long from now. So I decided to leave the two oysters near the naval base until then. Luckily I had a map to make reference to in order to avoid accidentally swimming to the oyster... but I've also played this game tons of times before and knew where not to go. So I didn't bother checking the map, just went up to grab the 33rd oyster which is NEAR the naval base but not inside it, then I'd just go and save my progr......
Oh shit, the oyster by the submarine is the SAFE one, I've just gotten the highest possible WANTED Alert on me it's possible to get at this point of the game and I haven't saved my game for at least 15-20 oysters. Oh shit, oh shit....
Time for Carl to do his best Will Smith impersonation. Enemy of the State doesn't come out for a few years, we can sue HIM for copyright infringement.
Seeing that cop get barreled over by a fellow officer reminds me, if you've never been involved in a heavy police chase in the GTA games, you're missing both the exhilaration of actually playing through a completely spontaneous movie chase scene as well as the hilarious chatter coming from the police themselves. Carl will often scream stuff back at them, but usually the cops are just insulting each other, including exhortations to,"JUST SHOOT HIM YOU PUSSY!"
It's funny in retrospect, but not at the time when you're running not just for your life but to try and avoid making the choice between losing all your gear or loading an old save and losing all that time spent grabbing those oysters. It's a silly thing, because you really don't lose anything for "dying" in this game, just a little bit of cash and all your weapons, but it's the principle of the matter damn it!
Running from the police is a SHITLOAD easier when you're in a city with a lot of buildings and walls. The helicopter can't continually buzz over you, S.W.A.T trucks hit walls when they would have run you over instead, and bullets "mostly" hit walls and floor instead of CJ. It also helps that completing the burglary missions earlier in the game has given CJ infinite sprint, or else he would have run out of steam a long time ago and gotten caught.
In a situation like this, your first thought is to get a fast vehicle, but ignore that. Cars, trucks and even bikes are bigger than a human, and thus easier for the cops to hit. With the entire fucking police force after you, enough hits will soon have your car on fire and you'll have to bail out, get back to your feet and start running again. Better to just run the entire time.
Keep running, and finally, Carl gets home.
That'll do for now, next update will be back to the story.
CJ plays golf!