It's been four years since the last full Grand Theft Auto release. We have seen very little when it comes to free roam/open world games. The sandbox remains empty! Of course we've had Saints Row: The Third, but due to financial reasons, even that has been cut down. Call of Duty and Battlefield have been the champions of the gaming industry for far too long. Since the last release of a full GTA title there has been an uprising of military based shooters.
The biggest GTA V story so far is that there are now three lead characters rather than a main controllable protagonist. Michael is the career bank robber, now living in luxury on a witness protection programme; Trevor is an inveterate drug user and low-life who worked with Michael back in the day; Franklin is a young kid from the southern suburbs of Los Santos, doing repo for Armenian luxury car dealers. Why the change? Why three characters? Dan Houser, co-founder of Rockstar and co-writer of all the Grand Theft Auto titles since GTA London, says:
"It was partly just to do something totally new. Partly, too, it was because at that point we were deep into the work on the two DLC episodes of GTA IV, and we thought, well, the bits where all the stories crossover is kind of cool, so why don't we just do that in one game? So okay, let's just do multiple characters. With Michael we wanted this older guy who's still tough, but he's retired. That's a great way to start a game – at the end. That seemed fresh."
"Franklin was the next one we came up with because we wanted a younger character, just so he could be the guy on the up, contrasting with the guy on the down – one could mentor the other. And in some ways, I suppose, Franklin is most like your traditional GTA protagonist. Then out of nowhere, the idea of Trevor came to us. He is the guy who does everything awful, relentlessly! He has his own charm, but he … he's a relentless maker of mischief. Not without some principles though, but totally different principles to Michael – an exact opposite take on what it means to be a protagonist in a GTA world. Michael is more about ego and Trevor is more about id, I suppose".
Throughout the game, players will be able to swap control between each character, dropping in and out of their lives. In missions, the trio will often work together, each bringing different skills to the mix, and players can switch between them with the touch of a button. Presumably this will present you with a huge tactical advantage.
Outside of missions, the player is free to swap between the protagonists and explore the game's open world, the fictional city of Los Santos whilst viewing the games wildlife, including Coyotes, in a full fledged ecosystem. Camera zooms out to a "Google Earth-style" perspective when switching characters and then drops into wherever the chosen character is. Even when the player is not controlling them, each character will still go about their own business across Los Santos. Each character will have unique hobbies, which can be completed with the protagonists' friends. San Andreas' RPG-like player customization is not going to be included, but the player can customize the clothing of each character. Characters can flip off people and people react differently depending on the area.
The next huge (no pun intended) piece of information regarding GTA V is that Los Santos is huge. MASSIVE. Not only will we get the city itself which is designed to resemble Los Angeles, of course, but we get the surrounding countryside. Rockstar has even changed the sea and it's features, so players will be able to go scuba diving.
Hobbies would seem to be an important feature in the game. As any of the protagonists, Players are able to partake in yoga, tennis, golf and jet-ski rides, triathlons, base-jumping, go to the gym, as well as many other activities.
Out in the wilderness, there will be dynamic encounters and side quests involving hitchhikers, broken down cars and other distractions – a set of systems borrowed from Red Dead Redemption. If these will trustworthy or trap is not yet clear. The best way to describe the size is that the world is bigger than GTA: San Andreas, Red Dead Redemption and GTA IV combined. That's insane.
Like LA itself, Los Santos is a patchwork of neighbourhoods with a downtown area, a gang-infested southern district, and the prosperous areas in the hills. But the game world extends out into the fictitious state of San Andreas, Rockstar's interpretation of southern California. This adds a huge effect to the overall story for each character, though. For example, Trevor lives in a stinking shack out in Blaine County, a deserted coastal region, modelled on California's Salton City.
Vehicle handling is being altered from previous GTA games. There will be motorbikes, cars, mountain bikes, and various aircrafts (WOO!) and Melee combat is getting a work over. The whole mobile phone system is back, but it's being updated. The mobile phone is mainly used for activities and can also be used to access the in-game internet. There will be a "vibrant and fun" economy system. The player won't be able to buy property as in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Shooting has evolved "a long way" in terms of feel and mechanics, and the melee combat is better than previous GTA titles. There will also be no romanctic interests for our leading men this time round.
The multiplayer modes will feature "crews" similar to Max Payne 3. The new Social Club functionality will connect play across multiple titles, starting with Max Payne 3 and GTA V. By playing both games multiplayer, crews that the player set up in one will be carried over to the other. GTA V will let players form private crews with friends, or join public crews. Players can be a member of up to five at the same time, and completing tasks as a crew will gain experience points for the player, which adds far more incentive to play the game online as well as offline. We just hope they bring back "Cops and Robbers"
There were rumours that members of the previous GTA games may make an appearance, however Rockstar have confirmed that no one before GTA IV will be in it – the move to HD created a schism in this fictional universe, rendering CJ, Tony and so forth, they rather leave them as mythical characters from a long since gone era.
One thing is clear from all of this. This game is going to be insane! This is going to be huge, full of things to do and it's probably going to be the best game any of us have ever had the privilege to play. Check out the trailers below, and the gallery below that, for a closer look at the impressive world of GTA V.
Official Trailer 2
Shots from the game