Grand Theft Auto: 10 Ways CJ Is Still The Series' Best Protagonist – CBR

As the main character of GTA: San Andreas, CJ was the first character in the series to really stand out from the crowd of miscreants.
The GTA series began back in 1997, and since then, Rockstar has continued to add to the popular franchise. Over the years, fans have seen the lives of many protagonists and played through their stories. Some games even allow you to play as different protagonists, including the first release from the series.
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An issue in previous titles was there wasn’t much of a backstory behind the characters. This makes it hard for players to understand their motivations and reasons for entering the criminal world. GTA: San Andreas goes into great detail about CJ’s family and friends, even in the game’s initial cutscenes. Players quickly learn that Carl Johnson is more than just a trigger-happy criminal with no end goal.
GTA: San Andreas may have been released in 2004, but it transported players back to 1992. At that time, gangs were becoming a problem in several parts of America. Gang-related crimes in LA were frequent and life on the streets was dangerous for many people.
From the comfort of their own home, fans could play out CJ’s story in GTA: San Andreas. Rockstar did a great job of recreating the era, not only with their LA-based map but also with the types of weapons available and older models of vehicles. Music from the ’80s and early ’90s also helps to set the scene as the soundtrack includes Rock, Hip-Hop, and G-Funk, and of course, lowriders with hydraulics.
Earlier video games that gained a large fan base have traits and features that were repeated throughout the industry. For example, environmental hazards, medkits that replenish health, and explosive red barrels. For shooter games, ammunition can be easy to come by before important missions or boss levels.
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GTA: San Andreas is no exception, and CJ is the star of the show. Our protagonist finds various weapons in all sorts of locations. Like other GTA characters, CJ can use the vending machine to recover health points. Red hearts can also be collected to regain health and CJ might be lucky enough to find body armor throughout the streets of San Andreas.
A stat system was introduced in GTA: San Andreas where players could change certain aspects of CJ, including his appearance and physique. Carl can indulge in fast food to gain weight and appear bigger, or burn fat by going for a run, using the treadmill, and riding a bike, making his appearance skinnier.
Carl Johnson was the franchise’s first protagonist who was heavily customizable and remains notorious for the versatile options available to players. CJ can also visit tattoo parlors and use the barbershop to change his hairstyle, including blonde, blue, and pink variations. Some of these decisions will have an effect on CJ’s level of respect and his sex appeal.
Players learn that CJ was very close to his deceased brother, Brian. It is clear CJ regrets moments in his past as he has a sense of remorse throughout the storyline. When CJ returns to Los Santos at the start of the game, he is clearly affected by his mother’s death, which prompts him to investigate further.
These unfortunate events make players feel sympathy towards GTA’s first protagonist with a solid backstory. As players work through the missions, they learn that CJ is an honest man who shows great respect to his brother and sister and his friends.
Grove Street is an urban area in Los Santos where CJ and his siblings live. It’s clear Carl had a humble background and came from a family who had little money. At the start of the game, our protagonist is quick to return to a life of crime and is eager to start making some cash.
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As gamers progress through the missions, players earn more money and respect. Carl Johnson obtains various properties and assets including homes, garages, and shares in businesses. By the end of the game, CJ’s level of respect will have increased, as well as his bank account. This rags to riches story makes CJ one of the most admired protagonists from the franchise.
After obtaining the Doherty garage in San Fierro, players get a glimpse at Carl’s business side. He is keen to get things set up while his sister, Kendl, encourages him to get into property development. Later in the game, we see CJ get involved with more business opportunities.
Carl acquires assets from playing through missions and purchasing property, such as Zero’s RC shop, Wang Cars, and the Verdant Meadows Airstrip. When the missions for these establishments are completed, they generate income which should be collected regularly. Carl later invests shares in the Four Dragons Casino located on The Strip in Las Venturas.
Hitting the gym and staying fit is a hobby many people have. Carl Johnson is the only playable character in the GTA franchise where pumping iron makes a difference. While gyms do exist in other titles from the franchise, CJ is the only character who can lose and gain muscle which changes the protagonist’s appearance.
A muscular CJ adds a small amount of damage to melee attacks and raises sex appeal. Players can gain muscle by using the gym’s benchpress and dumbells. The gym also has a boxing ring so Carl can practice unarmed combat. Using the gym isn’t an essential part of the game and players can choose to play through the story with a thinner CJ if they wish.
GTA: San Andreas gave gamers weapon skills and the ability to dual wield certain firearms. Once hitman status has been achieved with a gun, CJ will be able to dual wield that weapon. This happens automatically when the gun is equipped.
The weapons that can be reloaded with one hand, and therefore dual-wielded are the 9mm Pistol, TEC-9, Micro SMG, and the Sawed-off Shotgun. Of course, being able to shoot two guns at one time has its advantages. CJ is much deadlier behind the trigger which can help with certain missions and turf wars. However, waiting for Carl to reload two guns can be frustrating.
Shortly after its release, gamers discovered the Hot Coffee mod which caused controversy over the official rating of GTA: San Andreas. Although the mod was supposedly inaccessible, players found a way to activate the side activity on the PC version of the game, and later on PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles.
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After a successful date with one of CJ’s girlfriends, players would drive her home before being invited inside for some coffee. If CJ responded positively, the sexual interactive mini-game would commence. This hidden part of the game caused the rating to be changed before Rockstar was forced to re-release the title without the explicit material. As the game’s main character, this controversy put CJ’s face in almost every headline, except for Weazel News.
When players are occupied with something else, and CJ is left unsupervised, he will eventually sing to himself. These musical outbursts happen when the player hasn’t interacted with the game for a while. This is like Arthur in Red Dead Redemption 2, as he is also known to hum to himself when the player is idle.
When Carl is on foot and not being bothered by NPCs, his singing talents can be heard. CJ will sing along to his favorite songs heard throughout the game’s radio stations. These songs include “Love Rollercoaster” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Nothin’ But A G Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
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Benny Clewes is a gamer, chef, and music enthusiast. He lives in sunny Spain and is a writer for Comic Book Resources. Benny’s preferred games are AAA releases, immersive RGPs, and quirky indies. He can also play the congas, spin records, and is a Grade 8 drummer. As well as his love for music and games, he has a passion for technology, travel, and culture. Benny’s blog includes articles he has written on his favorite topics, Box Office, Beats & Button Bashing

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