Besides raising the bar for video games with some of the most innovative and expansive gameplay ever, the developers of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" have pulled off another feat that many thought to be impossible: They nailed down W. Axl Rose.
The famously reclusive Guns N' Roses frontman's voice can be heard as a DJ on one of eight in-game radio stations players can listen to while cruising the streets of the fictional state of San Andreas in the highly anticipated game, which became available Monday night. Rose adopts the persona of Tommy "The Nightmare" Smith, of the classic rock station KDST The Dust, who spins an array of tunes such as Foghat's "Slow Ride," Humble Pie's "Get Down to It," Grand Funk Railroad's "Some Kind of Wonderful" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird."
Public Enemy's Chuck D can also be heard in the game, as radio DJ Forth Right MC, host of the classic hip-hop station Playback FM. Other celebrity DJs include Parliament/Funkadelic's George Clinton (as the Funktipus), dancehall stars Sly and Robbie, and comedian Andy Dick on the talk-radio station.
Rose's appearance in San Andreas, set in the gang-riddled West Coast of the early 1990s, marks the first time in over a year since a studio recording of his voice was heard by the public, although the New York Mets' Mike Piazza leaking a new GN'R tune on a syndicated radio show wasn't an "official release" (see "New GN'R Tune Leaked By ... Mets Catcher Mike Piazza?!"). Prior to that, Rose came out of years of seclusion with a new incarnation of Guns N' Roses to perform at the 2002 VMAs. Guns N' Roses launched an ill-fated tour soon after, but it was scrapped amid controversy after only a few dates (see "It's Extra Official: Promoter Says GN'R Tour Totally Off").
The in-game soundtrack will be released November 23 as both a double album and an eight-disc box set that features all of the more than 150 tunes heard in the game (see "2Pac, Public Enemy, Rick James On 'San Andreas' Soundtrack").
Rapper Game also shows up as the character Mark "B Dup" Wayne and as a caller to one of the radio stations. Samuel L. Jackson takes on a starring role as officer Frank Tenpenny, a corrupt cop in Los Santos, one of the three cities in the state of San Andreas. Actor Chris Penn ("Starsky & Hutch," "Reservoir Dogs") plays his partner, officer Eddie Pulanski. James Woods, Peter Fonda, Ice-T, David Cross, Bijou Phillips and Charlie Murphy of "Chappelle's Show" fame are also featured.
With a script partially informed by D.J. Pooh, co-writer of the 1995 film "Friday," "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" centers on the character Carl "CJ" Johnson, played by aspiring rapper Young Maylay. After his mother is murdered, CJ returns to his old neighborhood and is soon framed for murder by a couple of cops. As CJ, players must perform a variety of missions for the blackmailing cops that often run afoul of the law.
Two years in the making, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" is poised to be among the best-selling games of the holiday season. Around the country, fans of the "GTA" series (this is the fifth installment) lined up for blocks to become among the first to get their hands on what is so far the must-have game of the year. One fan, a 23-year-old production associate at MTV News who sacrificed sleep to get acquainted with the game on Monday night, stayed awake long enough to recount his first few hours in San Andreas (see "My First Night In San Andreas: One 'GTA' Addict's Account").