GTA’s Next Step
Brace yourselves: Another Grand Theft Auto is on the horizon. This means a massive advertising campaign will assault your senses, and you can plan on spending hours upon hours killing people, driving too fast, moving up in a new crime world, and performing ridiculous stunts. When it comes to open-world games, GTA V promises to cap off the current generation — to show us the outer limit of what the consoles we’ve had for years are capable of. If rumors are to be believed, the PlayStation 4 will debut just a few months after this title hits shelves.
We’ll be leaving Liberty City in the dust, heading back west to Los Santos, the Los Angeles parody featured in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas nearly ten years ago. But this isn’t just the city you remember: Rockstar says the map exceeds in size the maps of GTA IV, San Andreas, and Red Dead Redemption put together. We’ll experience not only Los Santos but also its far-flung environs. We’ll go from the suburbs, to the desert, to the beaches, to the mountains, and finally to a nearby military base. Even the bottom of the ocean will be realistically rendered.
The story will focus on three separate characters whom players can switch between at will, somewhat like the car-switching in Driver: San Francisco. A recent series of trailers fleshed out the stories of these men.
Michael is a former bank robber suffering a midlife crisis . He is rich and lives in Rockford Hills (the game’s take on Beverly Hills), but he misses his old life and his family is dysfunctional. Franklin, meanwhile, lives in South Central and is trying to avoid the temptations of the gangster lifestyle. Michael’s old partner, Trevor , lives in a trailer park in the desert, nursing a drug addiction. The cultural and ethnic differences between these men are played up, right down to the music: Michael gets Queen, Franklin gets Jay Rock, and Trevor gets Waylon Jennings.
We haven’t seen actual gameplay yet, but Rockstar claims that almost everything has been substantially improved. The shooting mechanics will feel more natural. The cars will have more realistic physics, gripping the road rather than gliding like boats on water. There will be more vehicles than we’ve ever seen before, and flying, in particular, should be an amazing experience in such a big world. (I’m also hoping for a submarine to explore the sea, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.) You can even flip the bird to passersby, whom respond differently depending on what neighborhood you’re in.
Multiplayer will be overhauled as well. The new Social Club will link your activities between GTA V and other Rockstar games, and you’ll be able to join “crews” made up of friends and strangers. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have much information on which multiplayer modes will be included; though mainstays such as Deathmatch and Race are pretty much a given.
There’s no way to tell how all this will play out until we can actually experience the game, but these are all encouraging signs. With the GTA franchise facing serious competition from the intentionally un -serious Saints Row games, every improvement helps. Saints Row: The Third may not have had the artistic merit of GTA IV, but a lot of people found it more fun to play, and Saints Row IV will be released just a month before GTA V.
One development that doesn’t really thrill me is the addition of a variety of new “activities.” These include yoga, triathlons, tennis, golf, gym workouts, and scuba diving. Each character has hobbies he enjoys with his friends as well. Grand Theft Auto has increasingly tried to be every type of game at once — a shooter, a racer, a fighter — but I’m not sure it can be a sports game as well, and I’m not sure anyone would want to play a yoga game. Fortunately, Rockstar is not resurrecting the RPG progression system from San Andreas, so hopefully these mini-games will be entirely optional, and those of us who opt out won’t miss out on key abilities.
GTA V releases September 17 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Reportedly, PC and Wii U versions are a possibility as well. And, of course, Rockstar usually complements its major releases with smaller games for the handheld consoles, so Vita and 3DS owners should keep their fingers crossed.
Hardly any franchise gets gamers as excited as Grand Theft Auto does. It’s been five years since GTA IV, and we imagine Rockstar has put that time to good use. In just a few months, we’ll find out for sure.