Role-playing game features in character development
Rockstar has emphasized the personalization of the main protagonist by adding role-playing video game elements. Clothing, accessories, haircuts, jewelry, and tattoos are available for purchase by the player and have more of an effect on non-player characters' reactions than the clothing in Vice City. CJ's level of respect among his fellow recruits and street friends varies according to his appearance and actions, as do his relationships with his girlfriends. The player must ensure that CJ eats to stay healthy and exercises adequately. The balance of food and physical activity affects his appearance and physical attributes.
San Andreas tracks acquired skills in areas such as driving, firearms handling, stamina, and lung capacity, which improve through use in the game. CJ may learn three different styles of hand-to-hand combat (boxing, kickboxing, and kung fu) at the gyms in each of the game's three cities. CJ can speak with some pedestrians in the game, responding either negatively or positively. According to Rockstar, there are about 4,200 lines of spoken dialogue for CJ when the cutscenes are excluded.
In total, there are 212 different vehicles in the game compared to approximately 60 in Grand Theft Auto III. New additions include bicycles, a combine harvester, a street sweeper, a jetpack, and trailers, amongst others. Car physics and features are similar to the Midnight Club series of street racing games, allowing for much more midair vehicle control as well as nitrous upgrades and aesthetic modifications.
There are several different classes of vehicles that serve different purposes. Off-road vehicles perform better in rough environments while racing cars perform better on tracks or the street. Jets are fast, but usually need a runway to land. Helicopters can land almost anywhere and are much easier to control in the air, but are slower. While previous Grand Theft Auto games had only a few aircraft that were difficult to access and fly, San Andreas has eleven different types of fixed-wing aircraft and nine helicopters and makes them more integral in the game's missions. There is also the ability to skydive from aircraft or from the tops of certain skyscrapers using a parachute. Several types of boats were also added to the game, while some were highly modified.
Other additions and changes
Other new features and changes from previous Grand Theft Auto games include:
Gang wars: Battles with enemy gangs are prompted whenever the player ventures into enemy territory and kills at least three gang members. If the player then survives three waves of enemies, the territory will be won, and fellow gang members will begin wandering the streets of these areas. The more territory owned by the player, the more money that will be generated. Occasionally, the player's territory will come under attack from enemy gangs, and defeating them will be necessary to retain these areas. Once all marked territories are claimed for the protagonist's gang from one of the two hostile gangs, the opposing gang can no longer attack. Once the player takes control of all territories from both rival gangs, none can come under attack.
Car modification: Most automobiles in the game can be modified and upgraded at various garages. All car mods are strictly visual apart from the stereo system and nitrous oxide upgrade, which increases bass and gives the car a speed boost when activated, respectively; and hydraulics, which lowers the car's height by default and allows the player to control various aspects of the car's suspension. Other common modifications include paint jobs, rims, body kits, side skirts, bumpers, and spoilers.
Burglary: Continuing the series' tradition of controversy, home invasion is included as a potential money-making activity. By stealing a burglary van, CJ can sneak into a residence at night and cart off valuables or shake down the occupants.
Minigames: Numerous minigames are available for play in San Andreas, including basketball, pool, rhythm-based challenges (dancing and "bouncing" lowriders with hydraulics), poker, and video game machines that pay homage to classic arcade games. Also, there are the aforementioned casino games and methods of gambling, such as betting on virtual horse races.
Money: The money system has been expanded upon, compared to previous titles. Players can spend their cash on gambling, clothes, tattoos, meals, etc. Excessive gambling loss can force the player to sink into debt, which is shown in negative red numbers. When the player leaves a safehouse, CJ gets an unexpected call, and a mysterious person tells him about his debts. Four gang members suddenly appear and shoot Carl on sight if he does not erase the debt when the mysterious person calls him a second time.
Multiplayer: Rampages have been modified to allow two players to complete them. The players are both shown simultaneously on the screen, meaning they must stay within proximity of each other. The multiplayer rampages provide such functionality.