The wait is almost over. By this time tomorrow, gamers everywhere – us included – will indulge in Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games’ long-awaited follow-up in the series. We haven’t been anticipating a game in the series this much since 2008, when Grand Theft Auto IV made its debut on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Don’t think this is “just another sequel” though. Rockstar put an immense amount of effort into the game this time around, attempting – and succeeding – in surpassing the game that left its mark five years ago.
What improvements stand out the most? We’ve taken a close look and come up with five things that truly stand out. Chances are you’ll notice them – even if some take a little more time than others. It’s well worth the time, if you ask us…
A Huge Expansion of the City
For Grand Theft Auto IV, the main protagonist of the game, Niko Bellic, made his way around Liberty City, which was loosely based around New York City. Obviously, it was a huge place to explore – but with Grand Theft Auto V’s world design, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Where GTA IV hung around a fictional East Coast, Grand Theft Auto V leans more towards the West, taking place in Los Santos and the neighboring Blaine County – which is akin to Los Angeles and a good chunk of Southern California.
The city featured in Grand Theft Auto V is approximately three times the size of Liberty City. What does this mean for you? More exploration. More missions. There’s more room to run around and get into trouble, whether you prefer land, sea or air.
Even if you think you’ve found everything that the game has to offer, you could possibly wander around Blaine County for a few hours and find even more. Try doing that in GTA IV.
Three Characters instead of One
Grand Theft Auto IV – and every GTA game that came before – had one general thing in common. In each one, you focused on the fate of a particular character, whether it was Carl “C.J.” Johnson, Niko Bellic or Tommy Vercetti.
In Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games does away with this formula, instead introducing three characters you have to deal with – the calm, experienced robber Michael; the sensible newcomer Michael; and the completely nuts Trevor. With all three of them combined together, the game creates a new experience that no GTA game has seen before. In most situations, it even lets you switch between them with ease, experiencing what’s happening in their lives before they tackle their next mission.
This broad scope of character is sure to be a huge draw for GTA V. In fact, don’t be surprised if a few players start playing favorites. Me? I’m starting out with Trevor, simply because of his unpredictability. He headbutts wood crates, for crying out loud…
Who Needs Celebrities?
In the past, Grand Theft Auto games have benefitted from some sort of celebrity presence. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, for example, made one particular villain, Officer Tenpenny, infamous because Rockstar Games cast Samuel L. Jackson to portray him. Other games have featured Dennis Hopper, Kyle McLachlan, Burt Reynolds, Jason Sudeikis and more. Even Wil Wheaton hopped on for a bit role in Grand Theft Auto IV.
With Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar chose to shake things up a bit. The voice cast for this game is missing any sort of celebrities, instead sticking with general voice actors to fill the roles. At one point, the team even referred to real gang members to capture the authenticity of characters in the game.
Does this mean you should be worried about how characters sound in Grand Theft Auto V? Hardly. Judging by what we’ve seen from the trailers thus far, the voice acting is superb, with each character coming across as naturally as if you’d met them in real life.
It’s a small thing compared to the scope of the gameplay itself, but with little-to-no celebrity involvement, Rockstar Games has brought things back down to basics, focusing more on the story and the experience. For players, this could be a huge game-changer…though we still miss Jackson’s portrayal of Tenpenny.
What Do You Want To Do Today? GTA Has You Covered
When it comes to stuff you can do in Grand Theft Auto V, there’s a lot. No, really, you could spend weeks thinking you’ve discovered everything you want to do and, the next day, you’ll find something that completely blows you away.
If you’re a criminal and want to cause some trouble – and who doesn’t in the GTA universe – you can easily steal a train, fly a fighter jet and shoot missiles at passing traffic, get into gun fights, fisticuff with any given stranger, create a statewide manhunt in a matter of minutes, and so on.
That said, even if you’re not a criminal type, there’s a ton to do. You can go hunting, play tennis, take in a round of golf, practice “sensitive” yoga – best left for the adults, natch, tackle the stock market, go for a swim underwater and discover what’s beneath the city, and so forth. While GTA IV had its fair share of these activities as well, the count has nearly tripled for part five – no matter what you’re in the mood for.
We have yet to hear an instance where someone has said, “I’m gonna be soooooo bored when I play Grand Theft Auto V.” There’s a good reason for that.
Online Expansion Aplenty
Grand Theft Auto IV took a big stride forward for the series when it launched online multiplayer to go along with the single player campaign. While it took some time to catch on with certain players – they’ve always been used to playing by themselves – it eventually became a big hit, staying within Xbox Live’s Top 20 played games for several years. Even today, people return to Liberty City to get into trouble.
For Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games went back to the drawing board, promising an immeasurable online gaming experience unlike any other. The experience will draw greatly on the Social Club features, allowing you to form a hierarchy with your fellow gamers to show everyone who’s in charge.
From there, you can get into all sorts of trouble, forming racing events and sharing them with the online community, taking part in shootouts to claim property within the city, and so much more. You can even move in to a virtual dwelling and invite friends to come over and “chill” before the next match.
The only downside to this change is Grand Theft Auto Online won’t be on the disc itself – a huge change from Grand Theft Auto IV. The world is so massive that Rockstar has delayed the release of this separate mode to October 1st, where it’ll be available as a separate download. It’s not a big deal though – we’ll be so busy over the first two weeks that by the time it finally rolls out, we’ll be seasoned and ready. Just make sure you save a bit of hard drive space for it. Rumor has it that it’ll take up 18 GB of hard drive space.
Grand Theft Auto V will release tomorrow for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Be sure to check out our other features for the game, including a full recap of the game’s trailers and a look at the Collector’s and Special Editions.