When Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto III in 2001, they transformed the video game industry and set the stage for a phenomenal run of games that ruled the action-adventure subgenre.

From detailed character customization to an expansive game world, the 2004 release from Rockstar boasted a number of groundbreaking elements. Below are six gameplay features in GTA San Andreas that were particularly innovative.

1. The huge state of San Andreas

Unlike most open world games where areas are often designed in the same style and appear identical, the world map in San Andreas is incredibly diverse. It consists of three islands, each with its own city.

Large Detailed Road Map Of Gta San Andreas
Large Detailed Road Map Of GTA San Andreas

Las Venturas, which was patterned after Las Vegas, San Fierro, which was modeled after San Francisco, and Los Santos, which was modeled after Los Angeles, were the three cities on the map. Los Santos alone is a rich and varied location, with several ghetto streets, a beachside area, and a Hollywood-style location. Las Venturas and San Fierro are also unique locations with their own distinct styles. There are few instances in the game where areas feel repetitive and resemble one another.

Additionally, the game's storyline also took players through the countryside, which featured intricate details. The sheer size and level of detail in the game's expansive map was a groundbreaking achievement for its time.

GTA the strip
The strip in Las Venturas is one of the most unique looking locations in the GTA series

Rockstar has added a lot of details onto the world and the map of San Andreas. There is always something players can do, with content spread out in every corner of the game world. From storyline missions to vehicle missions, minigames and collectibles, it would take quite some time to complete 100% content of the game.

2. In-depth character customization

The option to customize a game's protagonist is a feature that allows players to give their personal touch to the character. In GTA Vice City, it was possible to change Tommy Vercetti's clothing, but San Andreas took this feature to the next level. Players now had the ability to buy clothing from a range of styles and prices at stores such as Binco and Didier Sachs.

CJ body types
CJ's body type is one of the best features in GTA San Andreas.

Furthermore, excessive eating would result in a visible change in the body shape of the protagonist, Carl Johnson (CJ), while going to the gym would help him attain a muscular physique. Players could also alter CJ's hairstyle and facial hair by visiting a salon, giving them complete control over the character's appearance.

3. Car customization

The option to personalize automobiles in GTA Online is one of its most popular features. The game can now provide its user base with a wide range of vehicle modifications thanks to technological developments. Rockstar has even recently launched a new website called the License Plate Creator. However, long before the release of Grand Theft Auto V and Online, players were already able to customize cars in GTA San Andreas.

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Car customization in GTA San Andreas

Players could change their cars' paint jobs, roofs, side skirts, spoilers, and wheels, among other features. At the time San Andreas was released, no other game had provided as extensive automotive customization choices on a comparable scale.

4. Lived-in world

The state of San Andreas in GTA San Andreas was not only immense in size but also populated by non-playable characters (NPCs) that were remarkably lifelike for their time. CJ, the protagonist, had the option to engage with a wide range of characters, including ordinary civilians and gang members, in both positive and negative ways. According to Rockstar Games, CJ had close to 4,200 lines of dialogue recorded for him.

Even today, many games struggle to create game worlds that feel truly authentic. However, despite the technological limitations of 2004, Rockstar had nearly perfected the formula for creating a world with a sense of being lived in.

5. Skill progression

Rockstar Games took character customization to new heights in GTA San Andreas. Not only was CJ's appearance customizable, but players could also improve various skills such as swimming, lung capacity, stamina, weapon handling, driving, and more through regular practice.

In addition, players could learn different fighting styles at the various gyms located throughout the state of San Andreas. This added a new level of depth to the game's progression system, which was unprecedented in previous titles.

6. Gang wars

The role of gangs in GTA 5 is fairly minimal. Overall, they are scrapped in favor of more "grandiose crimes". In GTA SA, Gang Wars is an unique system that increases the replayability of the game, incentivizing players to explore more of Los Santos.

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A gang war in GTA San Andreas

GTA 6 should definitely have this feature, with players battle the gangs and physically capture territory, similar to what CJ did in GTA SA. It is fun to get armies of opponents swarming from time to time.

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