It’s scant hours since the release of the latest in Rockstar North’s venerable GTA series and we’ve been giving the game a good bashing; these are my first impressions. The last GTA game, Vice City, was itself a dramatic improvement on the preceeding titles and Rockstar have continued the evolution of their beautiful engine with a variety of changes and new features that make the game more engaging and sustainable. Prime examples of this are the attributes of your character, CJ. As you undertake activities your skill at them improves (so shooting more people improves your aim and opens new combat style movements for gun battles, running more improves your stamina). Overall this seems to make the game far more engaging, although attributes such as hunger are more annoying and it seems to be possible to starve your character to death if you don’t buy it a burger every so often. The map is *huge* and in the same way that Vice City was blatantly Miami, this is blatantly LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Sierra Nevada desert and some of the coastal stuff, plus a bunch of bits that didn’t look obviously like anything I know of. Only one corner of the map is unlocked to begin with, but thanks to some sneakiness at the airport we managed to steal a jet and fly over the rest of the map (getting shot down by the Air Force in the process ;) and it is simply stunning. The Vegas stuff looks particularly good, I expect the missions there will be interesting; San Francisco also looked cool although I kept crashing before I could figure out if Alcatraz is there. As much fun as the missions are, I still like the odd one-man-army style rampage, so it is most helpful that the weapons cheats are the same as in Vice City. The new and vastly improved aiming/targetting system makes taking on multiple characters much easier than before, but when you start gaining weapons skills the speed and accuracy of your character is amazing, he can fell crowds in seconds. A good way to attract the police, but also a good way of taking them out too. Being able to recruit gang members is cool, although they have an annoying habit of shooting at other gangs at every available opportunity. Getting shot at by rival gangs all over the place is not cool, but it makes it more interesting I suppose ;) So, if you liked the previous GTA games, I strongly suggest you take a look at San Andreas, it seems like it is the best of the bunch. If you’ve never played a GTA game and you can safely detach virtual violence from the real thing, pick up a controller and get shooting/stealing/racing/kidnapping/etc.