I seriously didn't know they were still making GTA. I used to love that game.
A lot of good games upcoming but GTA is clearly the most anticipated. Could break records.
Dogs, Last of Us, Beyond, Bioshick Infinite, and GTA V will all be
battling for game of the year honors. The 3 different protagonist that
you can switch between mechanic in GTA V might push it over the top.
The fact that GTA V is bigger than Red Dead Redemption, GTV 4, and San Andreas COMBINED is mind boggling. The scale is epic.
I want to cry. They added back everything that made the old games so fun. You can buy property and businesses again. Now being a millionaire will actually be fun again. Not to mentiong being able to customize cars and weapons. Thank You Rockstar. Thaaaaank Yooooooouuu!
You can buy property; houses, garages, businesses and marinas can all be purchased for extra revenue sources.
You can pick up hitchikers, do stunt jumps and flying challenges, take part in yoga, golf, tennis, bike races and triathlons.
iFruit, the game's new phone, can be used to snap pictures and upload them to Rockstar's Social Club
The phone also has apps. In addition to the camera there is
internet, contacts, social media, a calendar, and a replay missions app.
There are three more Rockstar hasn't yet revealed.
A combat roll has been introduced for moving between cover
Liquor store and ATM robberies is possible.
Side missions will be making a return. One would involve Michael in Vinewood Boulevard racing a starlet away from the paparazzi.
Citizens will react to what you do, and if they see you robbing
someone they could alert the police, film you, or even try to take you
Player customization - tattoos, haircuts, clothing
Vehicle customization - paintjobs, wheels, window tints, grills,
spoilers, along with robust performance upgrades to suspension, engine,
brakes, and more that make meaningful changes to the way vehicles feel
Weapon customization - Silencers, scopes, extended mags, laser sights, and more
The things that stick out to me about Grand Theft Auto V
are not the major things I was supposed to focus on when I saw the game
in action at Rockstar HQ this week. But I'll tell you those smaller
things first, anyway.
There's a nine-hole golf course in this game. You can play it. You can choose your clubs.
There is also a yoga mini-game in this game.
And ATM robberies you can interfere with.
And cars you can customize.
Sorry if I'm getting distracted from the main points of GTA V, but that's so very GTA,
isn't it? The main mission path is well and good, but it's all the
stuff that we can do on the side that draws us in. It's the swirl of
activities—the casual corner-side chaos we can cause—that makes this
series so captivating.
GTA V is the first full-sized new Grand Theft Auto from Rockstar since 2008's Grand Theft Auto IV.
It's been in development for several years and it's coming out in less
than five months. But we know about as much about the game as we do of a
book whose cover we haven't cracked. That's normal. Rockstar keeps most
of the surprises and many of the features of their sprawling games
secret until gamers can discover them with controller in hand. Until
then, as is tradition, Rockstar reveals small portions of their games
through trailers and through the occasional one or two-hour-long demo.
They usually play the game in front of the press, as they did with me,
proving that their game really runs though understandably not yet
letting a nosy reporter just hop into the action and drive anywhere.
Rockstar first told the world that Grand Theft Auto was coming back in late 2011. About a year later, they finally showed a little more in a second trailer and in a cover story for Game Informer
magazine. In that time they shared two major details about the game: 1)
that it's set in Rockstar's version of southern California, 2) that it
stars not one playable protagonist, but three.
asked them what merits this game getting a number at the end—we're not
moving ahead a console generation was we were with GTA III and GTA
IV—this three-character thing is what they point to.
On the occasion of releasing a third trailer for the game (three-in-one, actually),
Rockstar is showing the game again. This new showing gave me my first
chance to see it with my own eyes. On a sunny day earlier this week, I
took a short walk from Kotaku's New York City headquarters to
Rockstar's in lower Manhattan. Visitor pass around my neck, I sat on a
couch in Rockstar's demo room, fixed my eyes on a massive TV and watched
some actual Grand Theft Auto V in action. I was flanked by
reps from Rockstar, one who mostly chatted with me about the game, the
other who played it. The one who played it used a PlayStation 3
controller, though the game's also coming to Xbox 360. There was no
fakery. I got up and looked at the PS3 debug kit the game was running
on. This was the real thing.
main point, this time around, was to make clear how huge a change the
three-character thing is to the series. When I asked them what merits
this game getting a number at the end—we're not moving ahead a console
generation was we were with GTA III and GTA IV—this three-character thing is what they point to. They say that it fundamentally changes the GTA
structure we've known from all the recent games. Coupled with one other
major change they told me about, that sounds about right. This isn't
three GTA games mashed into one; it's something that is designed to flow like no GTA—frankly, no other game I've ever seen—before it.
The other big change to the series that might merit the number at the end of the title? GTA V
is a heist game. It's a three-criminal, third-person, open-world
action-adventure that involves about five or six major heists—major acts
of thievery that will involve lots of missions to set them up, choices
by the player about how to commit the heists and, Rockstar claims, the
kind of big moments that previously were saved for the ends of their
There's a lot to get to. Let's break this down.
WHAT THEY SHOWED
Rockstar people didn't show me any of the game's big heists, so I'll get
back to that stuff lower in this preview. What they did show me was
almost entirely focused on the game's unusual three-character system.
They started showing me that by launching the game and loading a scene
with Franklin standing in a helicopter. Franklin is the younger black
guy seen hanging out in strip clubs in this week's trailer. He lives in
Los Santos and is a repo man for an Armenian car dealer. He wants to
move up in the criminal world.
looked over Franklin's shoulder we were seeing the game from about one
virtual kilometer up, the Rockstar rep told me, noting that the landmass
of GTA V is 3.5x the size of that of Rockstar's sprawling 2010 western Red Dead Redemption. Five times bigger if you count the new game's underwater areas. (Note: If you read other new GTA V
previews, you can play spot-the-similarities, as I'm sure many of the
details I'm sharing were shared with other members of the press. Here's
another measurement from the cheat sheet of details I got and I bet they
got too: the game's bigger than Rockstar's GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption combined. It's large!)
helicopter was flying over the rural back-country of Blaine County, the
so-called red state region to the blue state city Los Santos (read: GTA
version of Los Angeles). It was day time. There's a weather system in
the game and a 24-hour day/night cycle, but all I can report is clear
blue skies. Good visibility! We were looking down at mountains with
scrubs of pine trees on them. The city was on the hazy horizon, the
Then the guy controlling the game had Franklin jump out of the chopper.
Good thing Franklin was wearing a rainbow parachute.
I wish I
had a stopwatch going so that I could tell you how long it took Franklin
to drift to the ground. Thirty seconds, maybe? A minute? Parachuting is
a thing in this game, the Rockstar reps told me. It hadn't been in GTA IV though was added in the episode/expansion The Ballad of Gay Tony.
landed on the ground, walked past some people who were fishing by a
stream. We spotted an RV and a dune buggy. I'd seen deer on the mountain
as we drifted past. And a wildcat.
Rockstar guy who was playing the game hit a button (or pulled a trigger?
I didn't ask) and up popped a circular menu with three headshots in it.
One for Franklin, one for mid-life-crisis white guy/sorta-family-man
Michael and one for crazy balding white guy lout Trevor. Those are the
game's three announced protagonists. The Rockstar guy picked Trevor.
was as if some deity overhead grabbed the game's camera, pulled it to
the heavens, up, up, up and then shifted it to the other side of the
map, and lowered it down. OK. It was just a glorified loading screen,
but it was cool.
were on a beach. Still day time. Trevor was in his socks and briefs,
blood smeared on chest and back, the apparently dead bodies of west
coast members of GTA IV motorcycle gang The Lost strewn everywhere.
What the hell?
Rockstar guys said Trevor is the series' most psychopathic character
ever, but that he's charming, too. I'm sure the members of The Lost
We'd left Franklin on the other side of the game's map. We were playing as Trevor now.
got boats. Trevor got in one and sped his way across some waves. Boats
can contain scuba gear, one of the Rockstar guys said. Trevor put some
on. We jumped out of a plane before, so why not a boat? The Rockstar rep
on the controls made him dive. That's new: Grand Theft Underwater. (In
case you didn't get the memo, 2013 is The Year of Going Underwater in
Games, happening for the first time in series history in this year's new
Animal Crossing, Assassin's Creed and GTA
games (but probably not in any Forza that might come out this year—I'm
guessing) Correction: I was too clever for my own good. A reader
reminded me that CJ could dive in San Andreas. It was limited, but it counts! Sorry about that.).
What I saw
next was the coolest thing I saw during the demo. I'm not sure why it
left such a strong impression on me. It wasn't the most action-packed
thing they showed me or the most innovative. It just presented really
We'd left Franklin on the other side of the game's map. We were playing as Trevor now.
Trevor scuba his way to a massive sunken cargo ship. I started thinking
about all the stuff Rockstar could hide on the game's sea floor, all the
hidden treasure and wrecks and whatnot. Some fish swam by. Then came
the sharks. The sharks circled Trevor and even showed up as dots on the
game's mini-map. Trevor didn't attack them; they didn't attack him. The
Rockstar guys say sharks can attack. Beware.
Rockstar reps then did another character shift and jumped to Michael. He
was not stripped to his underwear. He was wearing a suit. This guy
lives in a mansion, so it, uh, suited him. For demo purposes the game
switched to night time. Michael was on Vinewood Boulevard, the glitzy
strip in the heart of GTA V's Los Santos. He walked past a
ranting actress, past impersonators dressed in super-hero costumes, and
past a tour bus that the Rockstar guys said would have taken Michael on a
tour of the homes of the game's sleazy celebrities.
brought Michael to a small mission involving an actress being hounded by
the paparazzi. She was in an alley or side street off the Boulevard
ducking out of sight. This wasn't a main story mission but just a small
happening. It was sort of like the pedestrian missions in GTA IV or the little interactive moments—the stick-ups and escaped prisoner chases—that would pop up while trotting through Red Dead.
Michael had to get in a car and race the starlet away from the
paparazzi, winding his way up to the fancy homes in the hills near the
Vinewood (Hollywood) sign. He let the star out at her house. There could
be more missions with her later, I was told.
Rockstar guys jumped into an actual storyline mission. The mission
involved the player controlling all three characters. Think of it as an
evolution of the one mission in Grand Theft Auto IV that
featured not just Niko Bellic but the protagonists of the game's two
episodic expansions. The difference was that this mission didn't just
feature three characters who would be playable in their own versions of a
GTA. This mission would require the player to hop from character to character, controlling each one for chunks of the mission.
the wrong idea about this three-character stuff. Rockstar stresses that
the game's campaign is single-player. There's an open-world multiplayer
part of GTA V, but they won't discuss that now. They dismiss
the theory that the game's three characters can be played co-op. One
gamer will play as three characters, they told me. The main storyline
game is not multiplayer. The player will simply switch from character to
character at will while roaming the game's open world and, when
undertaking missions that push the story forward, discover that,
sometimes, a mission will involve two or three characters. And sometimes
the missions will be solo, as they were in the GTAs before this one.
three-character mission I saw was something of a mini-heist. It has the
traits of one of the game's big heists, I was told, but is also
one-of-a-kind. They didn't confirm but it sounded to me like what we
were looking at was essentially a test case to prove out the structure
and systems of the big heists. This little heist involved knocking over
an armored truck somewhere in Los Santos.
cooked up a plan and briefed the other two characters about it. Trevor
would take to the roofs and serve as a lookout.
would drive a dump truck and cut the armored truck off. Franklin would
commandeer a tow truck and ram the car from the side (an earlier mission
would involve getting them).
They'd all wear jumpsuits (players would have grabbed them in an earlier mission, too).
They'd each wear a different mask (players would somehow pick them).
escape in a getaway car (the player would have placed the getaway car in
an earlier mission within a defined acceptable area).
Note the distinction from older GTA
games there? Players have some choice in how missions are set up and
play out, a possible re-introduction of or variation on the emergent
flexibility of how missions played out in GTA III.
The mission commenced.
driving and the surveilling and the ramming were happening the game
switched the player's control from one character to the next.
Franklin rammed the armored truck and our characters approached the
downed vehicle, the cops showed up. We were at a pretty high alert
level: four stars out of five. The cops were bringing in choppers, and
we were in for a shootout.
remember which character we first had control of, but from that point,
the Rockstar rep who was playing the game was able to switch between the
characters at will. Each character had a different weapon load-out and
the switching was happening in real-time. The Rockstar guy had Trevor
fire a rocket from his overhead perch. Fired it toward the ground toward
cops who were approaching... Franklin I think it was. The Rockstar rep
was controlling Franklin before the rocket even hit the ground in front
I'd been shown before, all three characters were now in play at once.
The two that weren't under player control were controlled by the
computer. Rockstar says that you'll have to screw up badly to get your
other characters killed. The computer will try to keep them alive and
will also hold back and not let them get all the kills while you sit and
Our protagonists shot the cops. They raced to the getaway car which was where it would have been placed in an earlier mission.
End of demo.
WHAT THEY SAID
Rockstar pitches GTA V as a Rockstar North production. Rockstar North is the Edinburgh, Scotland-based studio that has long led development on Grand Theft Auto.
Other Rockstar studios from around the world pitch in, too, but
Rockstar says this is North's baby. They say North is trying to make the
ultimate open-world game, one with the biggest world, most diverse,
most responsive. You get the idea.
When you see a GTA,
though, you can't really see this. You can only, as we did
virtually-literally this time, simply parachute in. You see a sliver.
And you get told about the rest and do some combination of taking what
they're promising and planning on faith and accounting for what they've
delivered in the past. Typically Rockstar has delivered on scale and
scope with their open-world games. GTA IV may have been the first game in the series to feel smaller than its predecessors, but it felt more dense than the sprawling Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I've sat at Rockstar HQ for demos for GTA: San Andreas, IV, Chinatown Wars, Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire. What they promise, they're usually good for.
remember anything they ever told me about that didn't turn out to be in
the game. And when they're excited about a specific aspect of the
game—the horse in Red Dead Redemption, the smoothness of moving while shooting in Max Payne 3, the mini-games in Chinatown Wars—I find that they deliver. Still, most of it is simply discussed, not shown. So you gotta believe, as it were.
years, they've improved a number of aspects to their open-world games.
They've tinkered and gradually improved their driving and shooting
controls. They have smartly added gameplay shortcuts to cut down on
tedium and make the games fun. They've repeatedly tried and generally
succeeded in making memorable lead and supporting characters. They have
done well adding some modicum of narrative decision-making (in IV) though reduced how much leeway players have had to execute the game's missions. Red Dead Redemption, which was developed mostly by Rockstar San Diego but with other studios, including North, involved, also stepped the GTA series forward. That game improved on the visuals of GTA IV,
populated its world with more randomly-appearing mini-missions and gave
players a more satisfying, consistently-interesting interactive journey
for their lead character.
With V Rockstar promises improvements on all of those fronts.
Driving will feel tighter and more aligned with what you'd expect from a racing game, they say.
Combat? It'll pull in lessons from Red Dead and Max Payne 3,
they say. A combat-ready jog will let you run with a lowered weapon at
the ready; you'll see an X appear in your targeting reticule when you
kill an enemy (apparently players in IV would think they'd kill
a downed enemy, move on and then get shot by that recovering foe); a
wider field of view will make shootouts more comprehensible, a combat
roll and the addition of many more cover points will give players more
ways to play through a firefight. This is what they tell me. I saw some
of it but didn't control any of it. It's early going. The game's not out
until September. They tend to not allow hands-on this early.
told me that—finally—you won't lose the gun your character is wielding
just because you ran out of bullets. That's worth the V all by itself.
Rockstar guys also told me how huge the game is and all that's in it.
Well, some of what's in it: military bases, beaches, mountains, rivers,
meth dealers, biker gangs.... the whole map is open from the start.
Biggest weapons list ever. Biggest vehicle list, many of them
customizable for looks and performance. Cars. Trucks. Motorcycles.
Bicycles. Jet fighters. I saw a jumbo jet in the sky. Can we fly that?
Not sure, probably not. These games have limits.
metaphor Rockstar likes for this game is long-form narrative TV with an
ensemble cast. Cut from one character to the next. Skip the parts where
characters are doing boring stuff and go right from interesting scene to
interesting scene. That doesn't mean the game is all missions and no
wandering. Rockstar gives every sign that there will be a ton of
wandering permitted. They also give the impression, though, that the
character switches will let them keep players surprised and entertained.
Take that transition they showed me from Franklin walking off his
parachute drop to a bloody Trevor chilling on the beach in his
metaphor Rockstar likes for this game is long-form narrative TV with an
ensemble cast. Cut from one character to the next. Skip the parts where
characters are doing boring stuff.
Rockstar wants us to feel like GTA V's
three characters live their own lives when you're not controlling them.
When you're one guy, the other two are doing their thing, and when you
switch to one of them, Rockstar intends to often surprise you. That's a
neat trick, but I was skeptical how often they'd pull off an
on-the-beach-in-his-underwear type of surprise. You guys might just have
three of those, I suggested. No way, the Rockstar rep told me. We'll be
doing a lot with that.
characters are supposed to provide players three different experiences
in the game's massive world and they're designed to make my playthrough
feel a little different than yours. We can customize our characters
(tattoos, clothes, haircut, stats—things like strength, shooting,
driving and flying acumen that can all get better with more use), but we
also can meet different characters as different characters. Rockstar
expects us to be comparing notes. Oh, you met him while playing as him? I
did that differently. You robbed that place how? That's not how I did
it. That sort of thing.
Each of the
three characters even has his own bank account, allowing you to manage
each one's purchases differently. These guys can buy property. The
example I was given was a taxi company. It will generate regular income.
They can buy houses, too.
Rockstar seems more big on choice with this game than they were with GTA IV.
Sure, that game let you make decisions at key junctures about who would
live or die. This game's decisions seem like they'll be both, bigger
and smaller. The characters already differ from each other. They're all
unrepentant criminals, but they also all start with different stats. How
we improve their skills and how we deck them out will make them feel
more distinct. How they execute a heist may change things up as well.
For the big
heists, Rockstar told me, players will be choosing a lot of the
variables: how your guys approach a place you want to rob, who does
what, whether to go in guns blazing or with stealth, which other
characters go on the mission. See, you'll be able to hire support
characters and, if they survive, they'll be able to help you in
subsequent heists. The more money you have, the better support
characters you can get. Heists will end with an after-action report and
the money from the haul divided among the crew.
says that each character will be able to have different experiences in
the game world. Some events that pop up in the game world will only pop
up for one of them. Plus, each has a special ability. That might seem a
little weird, but get this: ex-bank-robber Michael's good with guns, so,
when you're controlling him, you can slow down time as you shoot; repo
man Franklin can do the same while driving; Trevor can go into a melee
rage of sorts and deal more damage. This stuff is triggered after a
meter fills. It might ring a Red Dead bell. Or even a Max Payne one.
I remember the good stuff from GTA IV
but also the disappointing things. Niko's story dragged by the time he
got to the New Jersey-like Alderney. Don't worry, they say. The three
characters will keep you interested. Niko's friends could be annoying.
They were always calling, trying to bug me, essentially, to play
mini-games. Understood, Rockstar's reps say. Don't worry about being
badgered, they're handling it differently, and the mini-games will be
fewer but deeper. You can use the in-game phone to take screenshots, by
the way, and share them on Rockstar's Social Club website. What about
all that dating stuff? Relationships aren't a mini-game in GTA V, I'm told.
the police encounters sound better, too. In this new game, we can still
try to escape the circular zone that flashes on the mini-map when cops
come after our malcontent protagonist(s). But, this time, we'll be able
to try to hide inside that alarm radius, if we'd like. The cops will use
a line-of-sight system, so they won't just magically know where you
are. If they have a helicopter in the sky, they'll be able to see
plenty. And you'll see them use hand signals to communicate what they're
also wants us to know that we'll feel like we've got money in this game.
We'll be using these characters to buy or otherwise obtain some fine
gear. Franklin, repo man that he is, will be able to access some good
cars early on. They were talking to me about being able to buy your own
helicopter and needing to buy a helipad in order to keep it. The heists,
they say, will generate millions.
As for tone, that was a thing with GTA IV. Some gamers complained that it was too serious, that it wasn't as over-the-top and occasionally cartoonish as GTA III, Vice City
and San Andreas. It was satirical, sure, but Niko Bellic was a serious
man in a serious city. The new game isn't a return to the tone of San Andreas, Rockstar told me, but it's also not a repeat of IV.
The weirdness of real L.A. affords Rockstar more leeway to have some
fun with how things go down in this new game. Plus, the three characters
might enable a variety of storytelling tones.
None of what they're promising sounds impossible. All of it sounds quite good. A GTA with more choice, more variety, and less tedium? Yes, please. Do that.
HOW I FELT
The GTA V I saw this week is not exactly the GTA V of its trailers nor the GTA IV
I played in 2008. I'm optimistic about it, but I must stress that what I
see in advance never can sufficiently compare with what we all can
to see such a small piece of it, though it's exciting to see something
as different as the three-character structure. That could be a huge
game-changer. I enjoy the way Rockstar tells stories in its games and I
look forward to seeing how they tell three interwoven ones at once. What
they showed me, though, was all action and running through a city. What
you see in trailers is all character stuff. Michael's not just a crook
but a beleaguered dad with a wife and two teenage kids he probably
doesn't relate to. Franklin's an ambitious lower-level crook looking for
a bigger score. Trevor is a nut who lives on the outskirts. That's all
story material and, combined with the action I saw, that's a GTA. Separated, they're pieces of the elephant.
It's hard to marry the story and the action in one demo and it's nearly impossible to convey the best elements of playing a GTA—the
serendipity of, say, the right music coming on the in-game radio
station while you bump a cop car and suddenly are caught up in a
three-county chase from the law that coincides with a beautiful sunset,
some fool pedestrian yells at you as you nearly run them over and...
there we go, let's jump that ramp off the highway and dunk the car into
the river... get out of the sinking car, swim to safety, get away from
the barks of the cops so we can't hear them anymore and then just bob
there in the water, in the darkness. Exhale. Enjoy. That's not in the
demos. It can't be. That's not even a story or a mission they can
script. It just happens. It's always the best thing GTA offers.
Nothing I saw this week leads me to think that that won't happen in the
new game. It appears Rockstar's enabling plenty of that for the new
game in its new setting.
It's exciting to see something as different as the three-character structure. That could be a huge game-changer.
As for looks, I'm honestly not sure what to make of the V's graphics. I never played a Grand Theft Auto for graphics, but I appreciated how good GTA IV
looked in its day. I popped that game into my Xbox 360 again on
Wednesday morning. It doesn't look as good as I remembered it. The GTA V I saw running on PS3 hardware at Rockstar looked better. That GTA V, though, didn't look as good to me as the one we see in the trailers.
to the Rockstar reps I was talking to that their trailers are captured
off of a PC, off of something that's pumping out better graphics. The
version I was watching them play might be an older build, they said,
but, no, the trailers are captured from PS3/360-standard machinery.
I asked them this again, hours later, to be sure.
said. The trailers are, as always, running in the game's graphics
engine, mixing gameplay and cutscenes, and—their phrase, not mine—it's
current-gen footage. Maybe what they capture for trailers is just staged
well. I don't know. Or maybe the graphics will look better and better
as the game gets closer to release. GTA V is by no means ugly.
It looks quite nice. But what I saw in trailers never looked current-gen
to me. What I saw played in front of me did.
Rockstar would say they're making a next-gen version or a PC version,
but the company line is that they have no plans to do so. Take that for
what you will. I'd still like a GTA V that looks as sharp as the game does in its trailers.
Graphics are as important as you want them to be. GTA: San Andreas
most definitely looked like a game made on aging PS2 hardware. It's
still my favorite in the series. I'm more of a gameplay guy, an
open-world explorer and someone with an unhealthy appetite for good
sidequests. I'm very interested in seeing how much of this
three-character structure's potential Rockstar can realize, and I'm glad
they're doing something so different and so outside of their standard
Rockstar has about four months to go to polish this game and deliver something special. Several years ago, I saw Red Dead Redemption at just about the same level of completion. It was about where GTA V appears to be now, so I'm hopeful about how this game will come together.
At worst, this could be an interesting stumble of unrealized potential, taking the biggest risks I've seen in a GTA since GTA III.
At best, I'm in the mood for a terrific and audacious new GTA.
I hope they nail it. At least the shipwrecks part. And the yoga. And
the holding up of liquor stores. And the triathalons. And the hunting...
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