Contrary to popular belief, Rockstar Games’s Grand Theft Auto is not just a series about stealing cars and murdering prostitutes. These are, of course, vital gameplay elements; but there’s a little more to the thing than the tabloids, those bastards who get paid for writing stuff, would have you think. They’re games that create a living world, one full of people and attention to detail, of believability and finger-on-the-pulse parody. They’re games that give the player freedom to do as he pleases, and that provide plenty of things to be free to do. They are games that tell a story; one of mobsters, drug deals and psychotics, but also one of comedy, with dark humour oozing from every pore. They are games, as should be obvious, of which I am rather fond. And I felt the closest a miserable bastard like me gets to joy when I found that there was to be another.
While it might not be surprising in and of itself to know that one of the biggest series in entertainment would be updated, there is, I think, a crucial conceptual leap from “sooner or later there will be a new GTA” to “GTA5 is a real thing that is being made, and there is a trailer embedded below”. Announced, in typical Rockstar fashion, with a single cryptic tweet, the latest instalment in the crime-action franchise has been revealed to the world with this first trailer.
A nice trailer, undeniably. But what does it tell us? Speculation on the internet is already rife about the game, but here are the details of which we can be certain- GTA5 is taking the series back to West Coast USA, centring in Los Santos, the game universe’s mirror of Los Angeles, and is set in the present day. We’ve been here before- 2004’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had you play as a young street thug from one of Santos’s criminal gangs on a wild adventure around the state, battling with rival gangs and corrupt cops in the pursuit of money and of street justice. While that Los Santos was one of three in-game cities and relatively cramped, looks like the GTAV rendition, given that it seems to be the main event this time around, will be far larger and hugely more detailed, much like the reimagining of Liberty City between GTA3 and 4, which had it much more closely resembling real life New York. The fan-favourite fixed-wing aircraft seem to be back, and I’ll wager they can be player controlled given the outpouring of entitled whining when GTA4 omitted these from its vehicle roster. The shots of mountains and fields confirm that the countryside surrounding Los Santos will be featured in some capacity, too.
Why go back to Los Santos? GTA: Vice City was very popular with its ‘80s faux-Miami setting; why not return there? For the answer to that, we need only listen to the first line of the trailer. “Why did I move here? I guess it was the weather. Or, ah, I don’t know, that thing, that magic.” As well as being the words of a jaded former mobster/federal agent who may or may not be the player character, this is a message from Rockstar to the fans. Setting is as mission-critical to these games as Hellfire missiles are to an attack chopper. New York City is an amazing place, and so was its replication in GTA4’s Liberty City- the capital of the world, the great melting pot, the gateway to the new world and all the other lame-ass clichés. Los Angeles, maybe thanks to its mystification through Hollywood and the media, has a similar magic of its own, an enduring and unique charm. Miami is a superb place for an ‘80s setting, yes; shit, I think Miami was where the ‘80s started and spread forth, the source of all the world’s eighties. But Rockstar doesn’t tend to go over old ground, and outside that grubby decade, what is Miami? Some greasy town in Florida; nothing compared to the City of Angels. Additionally, while the rampant gang culture around in nineties LA has subsided somewhat, I think much of it is still a dangerous-ass place to be, too; this is a game named after a criminal act, after all. I’m real excited to see what Rockstar brings to the table with this game world; they’re the best in the industry at making a world that feels like a real place and not one that revolves around the player, and every game they’ve brought out since GTA3 has improved in this area.
Trailer doesn’t give us too much info about characters. Rumour is there might be multiple protagonists this time around, which is conceivable- GTA4’s episodic expansions each had their own player character, whose tale was distinct from but overlapping with the others, and I could see a similar structure being put into this game. There’s a streetwise looking black guy who appears a few times in the sort of positions a GTA protagonist finds himself in, but it’s hard to be sure. One real interesting thing is the older looking fella at forty seconds in. That face matches the voice somewhat, which is cool, but what’s got the rumour mill working overtime is the noticeable resemblance to Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti. I’m not entirely convinced by that one; Rockstar are perfectly capable of making new characters without dragging up old ones. It’s not inconceivable- dude does look a lot like how Tommy might look after twenty-five years aging and ten of graphical enhancement, and it could be nice to give an aging mobster character that sort of familiarity twist- but the only reason I’m entertaining the idea of that being an older Tommy Vercetti is the fact that, well, it looks a lot like an older Tommy Vercetti. Character design is another thing that has been improving steadily, so this is likely to be top-notch.
Couple other interesting things to note. There’s a dog visible in the first shot, which, combined with the plenty of countryside shown, suggests that the game will have a variety of animals á la Red Dead Redemption. There’s an electric roof animation, hinting at a deeper vehicle system, and the dudes in masks robbing something have assault rifles fitted with suppressors, possibly indicating some degree of weapon customisation. The jet that screeches past the camera looks to be a fighter, and my guess as your friendly neighbourhood military nerd is that it’s a new version of San Andreas’s Hydra jet based on the real-world F-35. There’s probably stuff I’ve missed, I can’t see worth a goddamn- maybe you should mention it in the comments.
Maybe I’m just a dribbling fanboy, but this one trailer has me really stoked already. GTAV should be one to watch. Tune in sometime vaguely soonish for a review of Battlefield 3, and, if I can be arsed buying the same game for the fifth time, maybe Modern Warfare 3 too.