Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto franchise should need no introduction, but it's what I do, so let's start off talking about the franchise. It's fair to say that the first two GTA titles released in 1997 and 1999 were moderate successes, top- down action games, but hardly what one would associate with the modern franchise. In 2001 that all changed with the release of Grand Theft Auto III which brought the series into a third person, open-world action game with a decent storyline to boot.
Since then there have been numerous releases with each one upping the ante in almost every area. Grand Theft Auto IV, released in 2008 (yes, really - five years ago now!?) has amassed sales of over 20 million units on PS3 and XBox 360 alone. To say that Grand Theft Auto V will be a big seller is probably an understatement.
Planning the jewelry store heist.
So what's this game about in terms of storyline? Well, umm, we'd love to tell you except Rockstar have remained tight lipped on the story for the game, but that's not a bad thing. What we do know is that GTAV is set in the fictional state of San Andreas with a focus on the fictional city of Los Santos (which is based on Los Angeles) and the open countryside of Blaine County, the game sees you following the events of three characters - Michael, Trevor and Franklin - as they try to make their way in life.
Franklin is a former street gangster, now looking for real opportunities and serious money; Michael is a professional ex-con whose retirement is a lot less rosy than he hoped it would be; and Trevor is a violent maniac driven by the chance of a cheap high and the next big score.
It's amazing to thing these visuals are on PS3!
As with previous games in the series (well, since GTA3) this is a third person action adventure game set in an open- world with the ultimate goal to make money and increase your street cred. This money can be earned either by taking it by force (that being a robbery) or by taking over businesses and earning dividends and income. Invest in shares, or earn money by racing others on the streets, the choice is yours. In order to facilitate this the developers have spent considerable time reworking the shooting and cover mechanics while the driving has also been overhauled too.
It's not just about the main storyline and gameplay however with plenty of other activities set to chew up more than a few hours of your life. Other activities in the game include golf, tennis, yoga, cycling, and car racing among many others.
Looks like scuba diving is on the cards in GTAV.
Launching a couple of weeks after the main game, on October 1st, is Grand Theft Auto Online which is included free with every copy of Grand Theft Auto V. This online world is a dynamic and persistent online environment for up to 16- players. As the official site states "players have the freedom to explore alone or with friends, work cooperatively to complete missions, band together to participate in activities and ambient events, or compete in traditional game modes with the entire community".
Admittedly this franchise has never really been about a great multiplayer experience, but more so about a functional one. Fortunately Grand Theft Auto Online seems to be a step up for the franchise in the multiplayer stakes and if the developers manage to pull this off it has the potential to be something that will increase the longevity of the game considerably. It appears that almost everything from the main game carries over including customising your character, buying an apartment, racing cars, performing illegal operation such as robberies, or any manner of activities. Perhaps the most exciting aspect is a content creation tool to build your own missions which can then be shared and played with friends.
GTAV will indeed have some, ermm, more adult locations and scenes.
Grand Theft Auto V runs on several game engines including RAGE, Natural Motion Euphoria for the character animations, and Bullet Physics Library for, well, the physics in the game. One thing is certain, this is one of the, if not the best looking game we have ever seen on the PlayStation 3 with a large open-world environment, with both exterior and interior locations superbly recreated - no need for me to tell you, you can see it in the surrounding screenshots.
Animation is silky smooth, and the game world has every bit the depth and detail one would expect from a real location but it's the small details that promise to make this such a winner with variable time of day, detailed effects such as water movement and reflections, and superb lighting and shadows. Of course this game is running on hardware now pushing towards a decade old, but this means the developers are pushing the hardware to its limits.
Using the heavy guns in GTAV.
Sonically GTA5 is certain to impress too with the return of radio stations which can be played when driving vehicles. Rockstar have been very coy on the list of licensed artists in the game played on the 15 radio stations, however a leaked, and unconfirmed list of artists in the game includes legends such as N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, Queen, The Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Tiga, Aphex Twin, Britney Spears, Fergie, Hall and Oats, Muse, Def Leppard and Smokey Robinson just to name a few of the artists on the rumoured 240 song soundtrack.
This will also be the first game in the franchise to have an original music score as well and Rockstar employed the services of Alchemist, Oh No and Tangerine Dream (the latter of whom worked on the licensed music) as well as Woody Jackson who worked on the music for Red Dead Redemption with around 20 hours of music composed for the single player and multi-player modes in the game.
Going for some off-road Quad Bike action.
The release of Grand Theft Auto V isn't just the release of another video game, this so much more. Rockstar's franchise goes beyond the specialist video games press into the mainstream media - but not always for the positive reasons it deserves, as the game is often cited whenever a horrific violent act takes place around the globe. Then, of course, there was the infamous hot coffee mod in San Andreas almost a decade ago now.
It really is amazing to see Grand Theft Auto V in action and realise it's a current-generation release with, at this stage at least, no release announced, or perhaps planned, for either the PC or next-gen consoles such as PS4 or XBox One. This is probably the essential gaming purchase of 2013 - let's hope it lives up to the massive hype.
Below are two trailers for the game released by Rockstar. The first is the "GTAV: Official Gameplay Trailer" while the second is the "GTA Online: Official Gameplay Trailer". Both are essential viewing...