Here’s a controversial way to kick off an article. I reckon Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is better than its over hyped sequel, GTA IV.

That’s not to say there’s actually anything wrong with GTA IV, but you have to wonder why so many people pounced on the recent XBLA download. Despite its popularity upon release, the core game hasn’t kept us playing as long as such a high scoring title should have.

San Andreas represented a pinnacle in the game’s evolution. It had made the transition to 3D, and after the practice Rockstar gleamed from GTA III and Vice City, the sandbox gameplay had reached just the right refinement to realise the potential this controversial franchise always had under the hood (for want of a better Americanism). GTA IV was simply an extension of this high point.

And the celebration of San Andreas has lasted well into the life of GTA IV through the imagination of the modding community. GTAIII: San Andreas casually threw in a few customisable options, little knowing this was an open door invitation for the eager modder.

So while the insular console jockeys claw desperately at the new GTA IV bone Rockstar’s thrown their way, we thought we’d take a look at the wealth of San Andreas hot mods out there on the interwebs. Grab yourself hot coffee, and let’s dig in.

Hot Coffee seems as though we uncover a mod that’s not a mod almost every week. But few are as salacious or illicit as the Grand Theft Auto III: San Andreas Hot Coffee mod.

So, why is this a mod that’s not a mod? Well, really because it was written and implemented by the actual Rockstar game designers during San Andreas’ development. The mini-games in which CJ has sex with his girlfriend were right there in the code – complete and working – but had been disabled in the final product.

Naturally it didn’t take long for the modders to uncover it and reactivate it. The controversy that followed in Hot Coffee’s wake was utterly delicious, and undoubtedly did Rockstar more favours (in the long run, admittedly) than it ever could have as an active part of the game.

The hamsters spinning the wheels in our gallant politician’s heads went into overdrive as the game-selling outcry kicked off, with video game promoter extraordinaire and all round silly bugger Jack Thompson leading the fray. The game was briefly given an adult rating until a second batch – with the Hot Coffee code completely removed – returned it to the shelves.

It’s worth giving the mod a lash just for posterity’s sake, so get in there – it’s a moment of conception for video game history.{PAGE TITLE=GTAIII: San Andreas Page 2}

BioHazard Alert

One of the great things about mods is their creators tend to be obsessively in tune with the games industry. Even if a lot of them don’t make any particular conscious effort to be, they’re immersion in the gaming world means they can predict trends better than the most seasoned analyst.

So it’s little surprise that this GTAIII:SA total conversion came along just as Resident Evil 5 was clawing its way onto the consoles. Now, to be fair, the San Andreas engine doesn’t really lend itself to an atmospheric tip-toeing around and looking for clues type of gameplay – this is more like balls-out, boots-first Resident Evil. Of course, that’s no bad thing at all.

It take strong inspiration from the Resident Evil world, and what it lacks in atmosphere it more than makes up for in guns ‘n’ gore. BioHazard Alert brings a lot more zombies and a much bigger game world, packed with the undead just waiting for you to jump in a police van and mow them down.

It’s quite remarkable just how well San Andreas lends itself to Romero-esque horror, and does it with just the right amount of black comedy to make this a particularly hot mod.{PAGE TITLE=GTAIII: San Andreas Page 3}

San Andreas Multiplayer

My first real GTA experience – that defining moment when I understood the ultra-violent beauty of the game – was way back in the original, bird’s-eye-view title. We’d installed it on the computers at work before anyone even knew what the game was about, and after far too many hours of rabid carrying on, we discovered you could play it over the network.

When GTA III: San Andreas was gearing up for release, it was thoroughly exciting to hear that multiplayer action had returned. Except Rockstar must have forgotten to mention it had only returned to the console versions.

Never fear. Only a few short years later, a pretty huge project was underway to turn San Andreas into a proper online multiplayer. The work the mod group in charge of San Andreas Multiplayer is utterly incredible, and even though they’ve succeeded in their auspicious goal of pitting 200 nut-case players against each other in a single instance of the fictional city, they continue to refine their mod.

Really it does exactly what it says on the tin, so there’s not much else to explain where your time wouldn’t be better served rounding up a few loonies and getting the mod installed (it’s worth it for the stock car derby you get a glimpse of in the video above).

The team also has an entire YouTube channel detailing their work from the beginning, which makes surprisingly interesting viewing. Play the multiplayer game first, though.
{PAGE TITLE=GTAIII: San Andreas Page 4}

GTA: United

Okay, so We’re of the opinion that San Andreas represents the pinnacle of the GTA brand (not least because of these mods), but there is a way it could be improved – by bringing the cities of the previous GTA III titles together.

The problem here is that each of the GTA III games were built with limitations – city boundaries, if you like. This fact makes the GTA: United mod all the more impressive, as a significant part of the work went into bending those limitations rules to the point of breaking them.

Now, the two cities prior to San Andreas – Vice City and Liberty City – are neighbouring provinces, and you get to travel between them. The missions have been updated and expanded exponentially to cater for this massive gaming world, and all the improved aspects and additions made to San Andreas are available.

If that’s not enough, the team behing the San Andreas Multiplayer mod have been working with the GTA: United developers, and put together a build of the online multiplayer mod specific to this total conversion.

It’s still a work in progress, but over a quarter of a million gamers have already downloaded GTA: United; and judging by the huge amount of action this enormous mod packs in, it’s easy to see why.{PAGE TITLE=GTAIII: San Andreas Page 5}

One To Watch: Back to the Future: Return to San Andreas

Back to the Future mods crop up with surprising regularity and for a bunch of different source games, but the best ones are undoubtedly for the GTA series.

Now, as harsh as this might sound, Back to the Future: Return to San Andreas isn’t currently blowing our skirt up in terms of the demos and videos we’ve seen, but the premise is fantastic enough to really carry the game into the Hot Mods list if everything is included in the full version.

It follows the events of CJ’s future grandson, JJ, who travels back in time to two days before CJ’s mother (also being JJ’s great grandmother) is murdered – the event that triggers the entire San Andreas game. Naturally JJ uses a flying DeLorean to visit San Andreas of the past, which is then damaged – stranding him in the past and in a desperate battle to get back to the future without disturbing the events that lead CJ to go on his own adventure.

Paradoxical, eh?! But then again, all good time travel fiction is. Modder NerdmanReturns is perhaps the best equipped to explain the mod’s intricacies:

“This mod doesn’t really focus on the Back to the Future movies, as much as being a mix with the story of San Andreas,” he explains.

“CJ’s grandson from 2015 builds a DeLorean time machine and goes back in time – destroying the future and creating a paradox. Hopefully we can get the ‘fire tracks’ and time travel effects in the game, as we have a working model of the DeLorean time machine.

“There will be 82 missions, and in most of them you will see JJ helping characters and protecting his grandfather CJ as he tries to avoid creating any more paradoxes.”

The combination of the movie plots and the game plot is quite inspired, and it’ll be great to see how the team handles any branching game events. They’ve already discussed how certain gameplay events will alter the future, to the point at which killing the wrong character in the past could introduce you to a whole new city when you inevitably travel back to the future. 

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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