Sunday Bits

TODAY: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the perfect send off for the 3D era of the series, and we explain why it's worth celebrating in this week's Blast from the Past - The Surge 2 can be a troublesome game to get to grips with, but we're here to help with our Getting Started Guide.

Blast From The Past

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was a perfect 3D finale before the HD era

Rockstar Games have been making the Grand Theft Auto series for a while now and they know what makes a great, fun, billion dollar sandbox of crime. Grand Theft Auto III introduced the ‘3D universe’ to the series and that reached its end with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

While the latest Grand Theft Auto V has managed to bring the fictional Los Santos to life like never before, it was San Andreas that nailed it first. It was also the most ambitious GTA to-date by including not one, not two, but three cities spread across an entire state with plenty of towns and countryside in between.

”Ah no, here we go again. Worst place in the world, Rolling Heights Ballas country.”

As the young Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson we return to Los Santos for a family funeral and reunion with the Grove Street families, only to fall directly into the hands of the corrupt Officer Tenpenny of the C.R.A.S.H. gang taskforce. It’s from the very start that everything gets that Rockstar flavour of spinning out of control. Before you know it you’re chasing freight trains on a dirt bike, breaking into a National Guard depot, ambushing a funeral, stealing a rapper’s rhyme book, getting chased by Russian mobsters through the Los Santos river, rescuing a girl from a burning building, starting gang wars for territory, and hitting 340lbs at the gym to look swole.

It was the sheer scale of San Andreas that drew you in and kept you busy, and yet despite the enormous virtual geography, Rockstar managed to keep it from feeling so stale and artificial. Around every corner there always seemed to be something to explore, and thanks to the crazy nature of the NPC AI, you were rarely left bored.

”All we had to do, was follow the damn train, CJ!”

San Andreas was also the last time that Rockstar kept so many of the side tasks and the rewards that came with completing them in a Grand Theft Auto title. Reached level 12 of the Firefighter missions? Now CJ is fireproof. Had the patience to rob $10k worth of stuff? Now you can sprint forever. These would technically be cheats but GTA always rewarded those willing to try and overcome its side attractions.

Anyone who has ever completed level 12 of the Paramedic missions in the series knows the bitter taste of failure. San Andreas included many of these kinds of rewarding tasks that have sadly been stripped away. 100 tags, 100 horseshoes, 50 snapshots and 50 oysters; were they just empty busywork or actually rewarding trials of endurance? These were little ways Rockstar embraced the sandbox mayhem at the core of the franchise.

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”I’ll have two number 9s, a number 9 large, a number 6 with extra dip, a number 7, two number 45s...”

We also got treated to Rockstar’s most outlandish story telling yet with a whole host of characters voiced by some big and very talented names. Samuel Jackson voiced Officer Tenpenny, Ice-T was the rapper Madd Dogg, and we had James Woods as the government spook Mike Toreno. In San Andreas it seemed like the party was never going to end as you travelled the state and established yourself in each city. You start out as a ‘buster’ with nothing and eventually run your own criminal empire living the high life.

San Andreas also gave us the greatest selection of vehicles to play with from cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, trains, boats and even a Jetpack. We also had girlfriends to manage, muscle and fat to build, lose or gain and even a peckish CJ that could literally starve to death if you didn’t eat every so often. San Andreas had it all, and was a near-perfect send off for Grand Theft Auto’s 3D era as it bridged over to the HD universe of Niko, Michael, Franklin and Trevor.

Where to get Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas today?

You can buy Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from Steam, or through the newly updated Rockstar Games Launcher. In fact, you can still get a “bonus FREE copy” through this platform right now.

There is a slight issue though for any purists out there as technically this is no longer the original PC version but the re-release that launched for mobile. This mean you get the benefit of a cleaner UI but you do lose some stuff, like radio tracks being removed over licensing. Of course you could look to the GTA community, who have cheekily prepared a way to ‘downgrade’ San Andreas to its original, and then modded in the useful upgrades from the re-release. This also solves a number of issues getting the game to run on Windows 10.

Getting Started Guide

The Surge 2

It’s a good time for people who like Dark Souls-like games, even if there’s no new actual Dark Souls game coming. Earlier this year we had Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and this month we’ve got both anime vampire Code Vein and sci-fi Souls-y The Surge 2. They’re all tough games and we’re taking a look at the latter first, for our guide on how to get started in The Surge 2!

1. Learn the controls

This sounds like the most blatantly obvious advice, but it’s especially important with a Souls-like hardcore action RPG like The Surge 2 - learn the controls, and know them intimately. The Surge 2 is an extremely tough game that requires pitch-perfect split-second decisions, and pressing the wrong button at the wrong time - or worse, just flailing about hammering buttons - can be fatal. Learn the difference between fast, strong, and charged attacks, how to change weapons, what button parries - and it’ll save your life.

2. Combat is all about patience

If you’re not into fighting games, you better stay away from the whole Soulsborne genre - especially The Surge 2, where the guns are secondary to bashing cyborgs in the face. But the combat in The Surge 2 isn’t just hammering attack buttons - the key factor is patience, above all. You have to study each enemy, learn their attack patterns and their vulnerable moments - and know when to strike and when to back off. Take your time!

3. Always dodge and parry

Beyond patience and studying your opponent, the other key part of attacking in The Surge 2 is… not attacking at all. If you just attack all the time, even if you catch your opponent in a vulnerable moment, it is highly unlikely you’ll beat them before they can fight back - most likely, even the most basic enemy in the game will kill you. That is, only if you don’t dodge at key moments and learn how to parry properly. Learn the correct moments to avoid attacks or block them, and fights should go much smoother. If in doubt - stay back, let them do an attack you can dodge, and then hit back!

4. Explore every corner, destroy every box

The Surge 2 can be a very tricksy game, and things are very rarely what they seem. For example, after you leave the opening detention area, you’ll find a safe area with a MedBay (save point) with one exit that leads out on to the street. However, as you’ll hopefully discover, there are actually multiple hidden shortcuts all around this area - and some useful loot hidden too! Check dark corners, behind breakable boxes, odd breaks in fences, small pathways, and other semi-hidden areas - it’ll almost certainly be worth your while. Well, if it doesn’t kill you, that is...

5. Keep your cool in boss fights

Oh boy. If you’ve ever played a Dark Souls-like game, you’ll know that the most terrifying parts are the boss encounters - they are not to be taken lightly. The same is true of The Surge 2. You’ll encounter some ridiculous, gigantic bosses, with massive health bars and attacks that cover the entire screen - which seem impossible the first few times you face them. Keep your cool, and treat them like any other enemy - examine their attacks, know when to dodge, and look for vulnerable moments to strike at!

6. If you die it’s not the end of the world

The Souls-like “hardcore action RPG” genre have a well-deserved reputation for being extremely hard - with death primed to come for you at any moment, from even the lowliest enemy, if you’re not careful. But here’s the weird secret that keeps these games popular - death doesn’t really matter. Sure, you’ll drop your Souls/Scrap/Whatever, but once you get back to that point and regain them you’ll probably have a lot more than when you died. In other words, don’t panic if you die - just brush yourself off and head back to the fight. It’s that straightforward! Well, not really...

Hope this’ll help you get started in the intimidating world of The Surge 2! It’s really not all that scary once you get used to its systems. Of course, you may still swear a few times when you get a boss down to 5% health and it kills you. That’s all part of the experience...

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