I wanted to shoot that bastard Tenpenny. I mean, after all that—after uncovering Big Smoke's hideout, slaying scores of gangsters, having a shotgun, his shotgun, pointed in my face—I was convinced this crooked cop would die by my hand. He didn't of course, and as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' credits rolled, I couldn't help but think: What now?
What now saw me returning to Grove Street, dressed in green and strapped for war. To this day, San An's gang warfare system is one of the most enjoyable squad-based, territory-capturing mini-games I've ever played, adding dozens of hours to an already massive game. Launched in 2016, Lucas Vinicius' Gang and Turf mod brings the PS2-era mechanic to GTA 5. Better still, the hobbyist project is still growing, and has some grand plans for the future.
"I think it was when the single player missions ended. Unless you go online, there isn't anyone to fight besides the police, and that's a battle you can't win," Vinicius tells me when asked why GTA 5 needed a San Andreas-esque gang warfare system. "Best case scenario there is that you escape and survive. Fighting against the police also has no persistent effects: When the fight ends, the world will be the same as when it started, whether you survived or not."
Despite its age, the "persistent consequences" of San Andreas' territory acquisition rival that of any modern online multiplayer game, reckons Vinicius, and while the former's events have distinct beginnings and endings, their outcomes are semi-permanent. Unless you wipe out a rival gang entirely, there's a good chance your aggressors will reclaim some of their lost land while you're off invading pastures new—such is the scale of SA's far-reaching landscape.
GTA 5's interpretation of the state contains several incarnations of the 3D universe's gangs, and is large enough to support inter-island domination. But the base game's protagonists lack the natural motivation to pursue territorial war in the same way Carl Johnson might have. Franklin has ties to The Families, for example, but his sense of entrepreneurialism makes him more Stringer Bell than Avon Barksdale—and while GTA Online's Gang Attacks provide match-based zone-control affairs, they lack the sophistication and high stakes ebb and flow of the San Andreas set up.
Which is where Vinicius' Gang and Turf mod enters the fray.
Paying close deference to its source material, Gang and Turf charges players with heading up their own murder squads—within which members are registered, crew colours are sworn by, and patches are defended. Team vehicles are assigned for squad-based transportation, and backup can be patched in by land or parachute when things get heavy.
The results are suitably chaotic, particularly when multiple companies rough it out for the same stretches of land—or when another gang relocates their spawn point on the fly. A well-executed plan of attack goes a long way towards success, however it's game over if Michael, Trevor and/or Franklin expires on the field.
As such, the mod's "mind control" feature allows players to temporarily fill the boots of friendly gang members in the same way the base game's trifecta of haphazard heroes are controlled. In turn, this encourages players to take more risks in battle.
"Strategies should be made in order to increase the odds of winning the war," explains Vinicius. "A good way to start is to hide or stay away from the war zone as the protagonist Michael, Franklin or Trevor, and 'mind control' a friendly gang member (aim at the member with a weapon and follow a prompt) to deal with the enemy. If the controlled member dies, the war won't end, unless there are no allied reinforcements left, making it less dangerous to take greater risks. Keep in mind, however, that the war will still end if the protagonist dies, even if you weren't controlling them at the time of death."
Like the gang warfare system of GTA: San Andreas, Gang and Turf highlights neutral territory and gang-occupied areas with colour-coded map markers. Likewise, each outfit's strength is identified by a number.
Over time, the mod's updates have added new layers of strategy options and despite mirroring San Andreas for the most part, Vinicius says elements of personal favourite Mount & Blade have crept in along the way—not least when calling upon reinforcements.
"The number of reinforcements when a war begins is defined by the scale of the attack, and the attacker can choose how many members will be used with attack prices rising accordingly," Vinicius adds. "The number and level of territories owned by the involved gangs also has a minor influence. It is always a good idea, when attacking, to employ more attackers than the number of defenders.
"Dying as a protagonist will end the war instantly, but it won't necessarily be a defeat—if your gang was doing well against the enemy, they may still win on their own. You get a battle report once you leave the hospital, telling you what happened and who won the battle overall."
To date, Gang and Turf has been downloaded over 50,000 times on GTA5-Mods.com, and is one of the site's longest-serving active projects. It still receives daily support and frequent updates, and is now open source with Vinicius always keen to hear other players' suggestions. Last year, Renlou's All Gangs introduced lore-friendly San Andreas crews to this end, while other players have chipped in to help with joypad support or to stabilise things when base game updates throw things off track.
Crashes pose the biggest threat, but with this degree of community support unsolved issues never last long.
"The most enjoyable part is having fun with the mod, and enjoying each battle's incidental moments," suggests Vinicius. "It's also probably the best way to test it. Personally, I like using it with the randomly generated gangs, and then create some custom members for the enemy gangs according to the name that was generated."
Vinicius says that while he has no intention of giving up on Gang and Turf any time soon, the fact that the mod is open source means anyone can assume control should he ever decide to move on.
But he's got plenty of neat ideas up his sleeve in the meantime, which, if realised will grow Gang and Turf above and beyond the achievements of its inspiration.
"I'd like to tidy the XML files a bit and add some more configurable options that people have suggested," says Vinicius. "In the future, I'd like to make the AI use helicopters, planes and boats, if possible. Gameplay-wise, the idea of adding a 'population' to the gangs, a number of members that increases over time and decreases every time someone dies, is something I'd like to pursue.
"In a more distant future, I'd like to add some kind of diplomacy between gangs, so that two gangs can help each other to defeat a third one that's getting too strong."
Against the maverick lawlessness GTA Online, I love the idea of street rules governing Grand Theft Auto 5's single-player. As we already know, crooked cops are ten a penny in San Andreas. I say it's time to pass the baton to the gangsters.
More information on Lucas Vinicius' Gang and Turf mod, including installation instructions, can be found here.