Part 4: Behind The Scenes - Introduction to Los Santos
In 2004, Rockstar Games released the highly anticipated PS2 game, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. The franchise had come a long way since its original isometric perspective, moving to 3 dimensions in GTAIII, improving on that in the hilarious 80s themed GTA Vice City, and then expanding out to its most ambitious project to the time in San Andreas.
San Andreas is five times the size of the original 3d installment, GTAIII, and for the first time the game takes place in more than one city. As always, the world of Grand Theft Auto is slightly "off" from our own real world, and San Andreas continues the tradition of cities, districts and brands that are ALMOST the same as ours. In San Andreas, there are three main cities - Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas, GTA equivalents of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas respectively. In today's Behind The Scenes, we'll be looking at Los Santos in a little more depth.
The famous (and infamous) areas of Los Angeles are all included in Los Santos. Grove Street Family is based in Ganton, the GTA equivalent of Compton. Other notable areas are Willow Field (Willowbrook), Jefferson (Watts), Idlewood (Inglewood), East Los Santos (East Los Angeles), Downtown (Downtown!), Rodeo (Based on Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills), Verona Beach (Venice Beach/Santa Monica) and Vinewood (Hollywood).
As in real life Los Angeles (and pretty much every city in the world) there is a gang problem, and in Los Santos, several gangs have been duking it out for supremacy over the city streets. They are:
Grove Street Family: Based in Ganton, the once supreme gang in Los Santos has fallen on hard times, with two major arms of the gang - Seville Boulevard Families and Temple Drive Families - breaking off from Grove Street to go it alone. Grove Street is run by Sweet Johnson, the eldest son of recently murdered Beverly Johnson, whose younger brother Brian was killed five years earlier, causing Carl Johnson (CJ) to leave Los Santos and head to Liberty City (GTA's version of New York), only returning when Beverly was killed in an attempted hit on Sweet. Sweet's chief lieutenant is Big Smoke, a fat man with brains who is surprisingly agile and has a great sense of humor. Sweet Johnson is strongly anti-drugs, making it all the sadder that his gang is currently falling apart due to drug use.
Ballas: The Ballas are currently the supreme gang in Los Santos, and looking to expand their all ready significant holdings. Divided into Front Yard Ballas (the senior partners) and Rollin Heights Ballas
(operating out of Glen Park), The Ballas deal heavily in drugs, prostitution and arms dealing, and seem to have hit a blind spot in official police reaction to gangs.
Varios Los Aztecas: A Latin gang based in Little Mexico, the Aztecas are anti-drug but pro-guns and cars. Currently without a defined, supreme leader, Cesar Vialpando is the closest to a gang boss they have. At war with....
Los Santos Vagos: Second in drug deals only to the Ballas, the Vagos are currently trying to wipe out the Aztecas and take control of their turf. They move in large numbers, openly flouting the law on the streets of East Los Santos.
Credit to GTA: Source for the gang images, though I believe they're just straight screencaps from the game.
Usually gangs in GTA games have set zones of control that you know you're in trouble if you go into. GTA:SA has this too, but with a slight twist that will be explored later in the thread. For now, just know that CJ is really only safe in Ganton... and not necessarily all the time.
For those unfamiliar with the games, the cities are living, breathing entities, with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of civilians moving about constantly, oftentimes getting into ludicrous and amusing situations. Civilians can be carjacked, beaten up or killed, and their reaction is one of fight or flight.... sometimes if you carjack someone, they'll get up, pull open the car door, drag you out and administer a beating to you for trying to steal their ride. Civilians react to crimes going on around them, and perhaps most importantly, CAN COMMIT CRIMES THEMSELVES. This plays a hugely important part in the late game stage, and throughout the rest of the game can cause some wonderfully unintentional comedy. Police also constantly roam the streets, and if they spot you committing a crime they will try to chase you down... and sometimes if they fuck up and get in your way through no fault of your own, they will chase you down anyway, blaming you for a fender-bender, damn corrupt cops!
They also, quite rarely, get frustrated with their crappy job and take it out on other people, going postal as it were.
As you can imagine, a game this size featuring the use of multiple abilities means there has to be alot of content, both to properly make use of those abilities and also to get the hang of them. GTA:SA introduced a para-RPG system to the game that allows you to develop particular skills/traits in order to accomplish goals. Obviously, trying to incorporate training for all of these abilities into the overall plot of the game would create a horrible grinding experience, so Rockstar made the right choice of creating optional aspects to the game (both intended challenges and unintentionally exploitable game mechanics) to level up these skills as much or as little as each individual player wanted. As this thread is looking to complete the game 100%, we're interested in fully developing the abilities/traits of our CJ.
There are a number of skills/traits that can be developed, but for now we're just going to be looking at one of them:
Bikes - The first two game missions involve CJ having to ride a bike to escape Ballas. When you first start the game, you can essentially ride the bike forward, do little bunny hops and slowly walk your ass backwards on the bike. As you keep riding, your skill improves till you can hop about like a bunny on speed, take massive jumps and land safely, bounce off of walls and jog at a quick pace backwards on your bike. The fastest way to level up your bike skill is to use it to move about, and though this isn't really feasible for early game missions, it is for exploring, so take a ride through Los Santos, get to know the area, watch out for the wacky civilians and police, and spray a few gang tags until you're at a high enough level to attempt:
This (along with the 100 Tags Sprayed challenge introduced in Tagging Up Turf) is the first optional challenge you encounter in the game, and one of three "hidden side challenges". It's a fairly straightforward test of your bike riding skills, with just a couple of nasty twists for you to only notice right at the very end of the challenge that cause you to have to try it over and over again until you get so angry that you start screaming at your computer screen and have to go to hospital for a little while.
Arriving at Glen Park, you have to ride through a series of red rings scattered about the skate/bike park. You start with ten seconds and every ring you ride through grants you an extra ten seconds. There are two checkpoint rings that are of particular difficulty, one of which sits in the air between the sides of a concrete halfpipe, the other sitting on the far end of a ramp up a wooden halfpipe sitting near the entrance to the park.... which coincidentally is where a group of Ballas tends to hang out, and can easily spot you and run in trying to fight you while you're in the middle of the challenge... good times, good times.
The trick with the concrete halfpipe is to ride up one side of the ramp until you're pretty much vertical, then bunnyhopping backwards through the air into the ring, then twisting to land safely. It's fairly easy once you get the hang of it, but the wooden ramp pipe is another matter, requiring a combination of speed and aerial maneuvering... do not attempt this challenge until your bike skill is maxed out.
Completing this challenge nets you no rewards, other than the immense satisfaction of never having to use a bike again. You can do the challenge again and again everytime you want.... or you could do this:
I'll leave it up to you to decide.
P.S - If you feel like cheating without cheating, you can try a little trick to remove the time limit on the challenge. If you wait beneath a floating checkpoint with the jump button held down, about half a second through the 0 in the countdown release jump. This should see the timer either stick on zero or disappear all together, and you can take your sweet time completing the challenge. Keep in mind timing needs to be perfect for this, and I'd suggest you try doing it the regular way, as it will probably take you just as long as it would to pull this trick off correctly.
That's it for today's behind the scenes update. Next update will be back to the story, and will tell the tale of CJ's attempts to go legit, and getting his ass kicked at the Gym.