Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise left an indelible mark on video games. Getting its start on the original PlayStation and PC, the series improved over the years, starting with the superb Grand Theft Auto III on PlayStation 2 and its respective follow-ups, the 80’s oriented Vice City and the urban adventure San Andreas. Shortly thereafter, the series shifted to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV, one of Rockstar Games’ biggest titles to date.
Next month, the publisher will change the way we look at open-world gaming once more with Grand Theft Auto V. This isn’t just a recreation of the previous game with new characters, but a new experience altogether, one with even more to do.
Grand Theft Auto V doesn’t focus on a solo thug. Instead, it has three – Michael, Franklin and Trevor. Michael is the veteran of the group, a robber who’s spent years creating a fortune, only to see his family squander it. Franklin is an up-and-comer trying to find his place in the world, while dealing with his friends and family. Trevor is the oddball, a loose cannon who does things his way, making a living as an on-again/off-again bounty hunter.
The three team up over the course of the game, and at certain points, you can switch between them. With a bank robbery, for example, you’ll smash into a high-rise and take out a couple of guards with Michael, then switch to a long-range view, where Franklin is on stand-by with a sniper rifle. Although there are times you need to stay with a specific character, like during police chases, this new dynamic may change the way you normally play Grand Theft Auto games.
Over the course of GTA V you’ll complete heists and other missions, opening up new ones throughout the fictional city of Los Santos. These include side jobs like tracking down hot cars for clients and capturing bounties that add to your pile of cash. You can also settle personal affairs with each character, such as with Michael and his family, who are a bigger burden than you may expect.
When you’re not taking part in dangerous missions, you can do whatever you please in the city. You can dive underwater and explore the depths beneath Los Santos, thanks to scuba gear. Leisure activities are available, including tennis, golf and if you’re in a spiritual state of mind, yoga; then there’s the stock market, where you can make investments. You don’t always have to stick to the main path. In fact, finding side missions and activities may be a good thing when you need a break from your life of crime.
As you explore the city, you’re going to need a vehicle, because walking on foot takes forever. There is no shortage of cars to choose from, whether you’re in the mood to take a ride in a vintage Peyote or Picador, or the more current speedsters, such as the Comet or the Malibatsu Sports Coupe, among others. More traditional cars are available, including SUVs, Sedans and vans – in case you’re feeling less stylish. If you prefer two wheels, you can hop on a motorcycle or even a bicycle to get around.
Why stick to the main road, though? You can hit the water in a boat or a Los Santos Coast Guard jetski, take control of a train and wreck it if you wish, or even fly the unfriendly skies with everything from a helicopter to a fully-armed fighter jet, which lets you lay waste to ground targets. You even have access to an old-school cropduster, allowing you to drop your payload around the city.
One of the bigger staples in Grand Theft Auto V is customization. Once again, you’ll be able to dress your characters any way you see fit, from stretch pants to leather jackets. In addition, your gear is also customizable. Once you have a vehicle, you can take it to a detail shop and give it a paint job for the right amount of cash. Weapons are customizable, as you can paint them however you please while also adding accessories, such as a silencer or a high-powered scope for your rifle. The better the accessories, the more efficient you’ll become.
Rockstar North, the game’s developer, tinkered with the gunplay so you can do more this time around. Your character will now be able to run and shoot at the same time. The controls work similarly to a first-person shooter when it comes to aiming, and provides the same options for zooming in on your targets. Cover has also been reworked for GTA V, as you can hide behind objects with ease, then pop out into the open if you think you’ve got your target lined up.
Mobility is great, but you need weapons. Thankfully, you have more than enough to choose from in Grand Theft Auto V. The melee weapons are ideal for close-range combat, from using your fists to letting loose with a tennis racket or golf club. Soon enough, though, you’ll need to use guns, and there are tons to choose from.
Pistols are good for general use and quick shoot-outs, but as you dig deeper into the game, more powerful ones show up. These include shotguns, sub-machine guns, assault and sniper rifles, and heavy weapons, like the RPG and grenade launcher. Those last two create a significant amount of damage.
Makeshift weapons are in huge supply, such as Molotov cocktails and sticky bombs. The cocktails work great against large groups of enemies, while sticky bombs are useful for setting up traps. Fire extinguishers and gasoline canisters are also worthwhile, especially to someone like Trevor, whose combat style is unpredictable.
Grand Theft Auto V features a jam-packed single-player campaign. However, before the game releases next month, Rockstar will unveil Grand Theft Auto Online, where players will be able to team up or fight against one another in the open world of Los Santos. We’ve only seen a brief glimpse of this – provided in the gameplay trailer below – but if it works as well as Grand Theft Auto IV, or perhaps even better, we’re in for a treat.
With all the added features, a huge city that will take hours to explore and three characters, Grand Theft Auto V may easily be the best in the series. Pick it up when the game arrives September 17th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.