Lets start with what is going to be most argued part of this game. Now here is an aspect of games that I don't put a lot of stock in. Gameplay as I will discuss later is way more important than the visuals. The first problem I noticed is the frame-rate issue. At some points in the game (i.e. to many cars on screen and explosions) the game seemed to slow down quite a bit. While it does pass quickly it's still annoying and should have been worked out. Then there is the frame rate drop while you are driving. Cars passing buy will skip past you and the environment will appear out of thin air. Now I know some people will say things appear out of thin air due to how large the map is in this game, but I feel that a little more effort could have solved this problem.
The next area I had a problem with were the character models. If you look closely at the way the characters move and respond, all they really are, are updated Vice City characters. This game, to succeed admirably on the graphical level, needs a fresh coat of paint in the graphic department. I am talking about some new ideas in Rockstar's mind, which they can easily do.
Overall, I would give the graphics an 8 out of 10, mainly because they succeed enough to present a great game, but for it to be an excellent game, they need to think of some new ideas.
Well like the last GTA games we are given one hell of a soundtrack. They got a radio station for every kind of music fans. Old and new rock, rap, and country fill the airwaves. Not to mention your favorite station, talk. While I felt that Vice City had a better soundtrack with the whole 80's aspect being presented, this game still succeeds a great level with the sound. From Guns and Roses to N.W.A., every station certainly has something for everyone.
The game's sound effects are great and the voice acting is pretty good. The language seems to be a bit excessive, with constant 'f' and 'n' bombs dropping every other word. But, I suppose if Rockstar wants to really present the 'L.A.' area, I guess they need the language. I will say, while it was a bit excessive at some points, it did not really stop me from enjoying the game.
Sound score and Wrap-up: 9 out of 10, could have been 10 if they didn't try to offend so much.
The gameplay is the exact same as GTA-III and GTA: VC with a few minor tweaks. All the old stuff is there, stealing cars, killing the innocent, picking up prostitutes (which I never really saw a point to, the pimping missions are a good source of easy money early on though ), progressing the story, its all still here and it all still works. But we have all done the above over and over and over again. So we got a few new things to keep up busy.
We now have a stat meter. Yeah, you heard me, a stat meter. Now we have the ability to build up some pretty much useless stats. You can build up your respect, stamina, max health, muscle, fat and sex appeal. I felt, unfortunately, that this was a pointless aspect of the game. Yes, it is meant to convey real life more, but the whole exercising and watching your weight really seemed out of touch. To prove a point, the game demonstrates that you want to keep your character thin, so he can perform at the top of his game. However, to give an example, my brother played through the WHOLE game not really exercising and we noticed that C.J. really did not move any slower or do anything slower. I felt this aspect made the game too 'SIMS' like, which annoyed me.
A great addition to the game, is the ability to swim. Yes, finally a GTA character can finally SWIM! While this aspect is awesome, I would have enjoyed more missions where you had to use this new addition.
Now I can go on all-day and direct every single new thing in this game. But for the sake of the readers, I will do a quick summary. Riding bikes, while enjoyable for the first few minutes, is overall pretty pointless. Breaking in, was a fun new aspect, which is a great way to earn easy quick money. Gambling, is a great new aspect, and probably the best way to earn money, sometimes upwards of $100,000 dollars at a time.
Overall, I give the gameplay an 8 out of 10, with the highlights being the 'gambling' aspect and the ability to swim. However, if Rockstar wants to achieve that perfect '10', they should try to incorporate these new aspects into the game more. Possibly more missions involving these aspects.
While this story has been done before, with the whole guy returns home to find everything has changed and wants to improve everything, it was still a good game story to follow. While the story had some faults, like all the people who decide to do certain things, it was still a good story that very well written to constantly keep the player paying attention.
This part is going to come down to opinion. After you beat the game (main story arc) there is a whole lot of stuff to do, and the game never ends. But if you go by that you wouldn't need to buy anything except GTA-III. I never have been able to understand the whole '100%' aspect of the game. How AWESOME would it be if Rockstar, in the next GTA installment, said collect all 100 packages or seashells or whatever, and get unlimited ammo. Make the 'button pressing codes' actually have to be earned instead of simply pressing them in. This would give the replayability an automatic 10 out of 10 if this were the case.
Replay Score and Wrap-up: If you really, truly enjoy getting 100% in GTA then this is a 10 out of 10. But if you are like me and only did it out of spite its going to be a 7 out of 10.