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Cybernaut

San Andreas without fault

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Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, and there are plenty of reasons to do both, there’s no stopping Rockstar Games epic Grand Theft Auto series. The past four titles, the most recent being GTA: Vice City, have sold over 30 million copies since 1997. The latest edition, GTA V: San Andreas is expected to sell more than 25 million copies, including almost five million copies in the first week alone.

At about $50 US a pop (Future Shop and Best Buy are selling it for $70 Cdn), that’s about $1.5 billion in total sales, eclipsing the biggest movie box office grosses of all time. Titanic is going down for the second time.

Last week lineups were reported around the block at stores that were given advance copies to sell, and a handful of stores even opened after midnight to appease fans. Only the Star Wars franchise and Harry Potter books command that kind of following.

And yet, San Andreas just offers more of the same controversial gameplay that has sparked police organizations and parent groups to call for bans or at least "Adults Only" ratings for the games.

Once again the central goal of the game is to amass an illegal fortune, kill your enemies, steal cars, run away from the police, and generally create as much mayhem as possible.

But while the general concept is the same, there are several differences in this latest edition. For one, the artificial intelligence of your adversaries, including the police, has been bumped up considerably. There are no pauses when you’re heading to different areas of the map, and your character, CJ, changes over the course of the game. He gains endurance riding a BMX bike and goes to the gym to gain speed and bulk up, to restaurants to gain energy, and to clothing stores and hairdressers to change his appearance. Street fighting has evolved as well, so there’ll be no more punching the same button over and over again to take people down. Instead, you’ll train with different instructors, learning new moves and defenses.

You can also "pimp" your rides a little by customizing the paint and adding new components like shocks. In one of the missions, the goal is to bounce your car to the music by following on-screen directions – kind of like those dancing games.

For more information on Vice City: San Andreas, go to Rockstar Games Web site at www.rockstargames.com.

An interesting note: This November is a video game addicts fantasy, with Halo 2, Half-Life 2, Myst IV, Doom 3 and The Sims 2 in stores or on their way. More than $3 billion in sales are expected before Christmas.

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