GTA 5 reveal analysis: fancy a threesome?

Friday, 9 November 2012 12:49 GMT By Dave Cook

Grand Theft Auto 5 saw its full reveal last night, VG247’s Dave Cook gives you the facts and discusses how Rockstar’s changes could make this the best instalment yet.

Rockstar really does know how to manage expectations. The original Grand Theft Auto 5 reveal trailer landed November 2nd last year and since then information has been doled out sparingly, like a cruel master teasing a starving dog until it learns to behave itself.

But last night the data floodgates opened and the internet was drowned in a sea of GTA 5 goodness. Game Informer made Rockstar North’s sprawling crime epic its December cover spread and with it, an 18-page feature that blew the doors clean off.

Before I get into the finer details, let’s just have one more long, lingering look at the Game Informer cover shall we?

It was long rumoured that GTA 5 would star three protagonists and last night’s reveal confirmed it. But who are these men, these criminals, and why have they decided to raise hell on the streets of Los Santos?

Three’s company

From left to right their names are Trevor, Franklin and Michael and in the spirit of GTA 5’s focus on money and financial aspirations, they each represent different tiers of the social class ladder.

Trevor is a poor redneck who lives his life as a career criminal and “Revels in chaos”, Rockstar’s Dan Houser told Game Informer. He’s a dependent drug user who is known for violent outbursts at the drop of a hat, and is also an old accomplice of Michael’s during his bank robber days.

Houser called him an anarchistic character who does what he wants on the wrong side of the law, “If Michael was meant to be the idea of some version of criminal control – or some sort of bourgeois criminal who tries to go straight and gets sucked back in – what about the guy who didn’t want to do that?”

“Rockstar has confirmed that players will be able to switch between any of the characters on the fly almost all of the time, and that these three unique perspectives on the topic of money will make Los Santos the most believable and engaging stage yet.”

Keeping in line with the theme of money and the pursuit of wealth, Franklin is a repo man and hustler on the side, and in a weird bit of role-reversal, also sells cars to the poor at a price they can afford. He’s the youngest member of the group, and the smartest.

Finally, GTA 5’s most prominent character is 43-year-old Michael, who has moved to Los Santos under witness relocation to escape his old life as an East Coast bank robber. He hates his money-hungry wife and is completely disconnected from his two kids.

His dream of a better life in San Andreas has quickly fallen to tatters as his money runs dry, prompting him to turn to crime once more. Rumour has it his plot arc and reasons for his return to crime will echo Vince Gilligan’s series Breaking Bad, in which cancer-stricken chemistry teacher Walter White turns to the drug trade to make money for his family.

Rockstar has confirmed that players will be able to switch between any of the characters on the fly almost all of the time, and that these three unique perspectives on the topic of money will make Los Santos the most believable and engaging stage yet.

The decision, Houser as revealed, comes from Niko’s moral turmoil in GTA 4, which saw him complaining about his past life of violence and wanting to remove himself from the criminal equation, but then mowing down a street full of innocent pedestrians. It made no sense.

So by spreading the narrative across three very different people who all view the world in a different light, the notion of moral indifference across the cast becomes a more believable reality. It also serves to break up the monotony tied to previous GTA titles.

For example, say you just finished a key story mission in GTA 4. You would typically take on four or five mundane side-missions or fetch quests to unlock the next one. In GTA 5 you can break that up by switching character and tackling each of their key missions if you get bored.

When you do switch character the camera zooms up above Los Santos like some glorious Google Map and zooms back in on the next character. It sounds like it’s smart design, and as Game Informer pointed out, gives you a quick contrast between Michael’s Beverly Hills mansion and Trevor’s beaten up shack in Blaine County.

Characters are just one part of the dense cocktail that make up a solid Grand Theft Auto experience. In each instalment the game world itself has proven to be just as identifiable and as engrossing as the characters tearing around it. Los Santos is a world like no other.

Rockstar’s biggest open world yet.

Los Santos is bigger than Red Dead Redemption’s frontier, GTA 4’s Liberty City and the old San Andreas combined. Just try to imagine what that looks like and then ask yourself how your social life is going to suffer as a result. It’s going to be big, so you better be ready.

The return to San Andreas was a no-brainer for Rockstar North, Houser explained. Part of the decision came from the unexplored traits of California, from the rampant porn trade, the false glamour of Hollywood and of course, the sense of decay that comes with homeless people on every corner.

Just like its real-life equivalent, Los Santos is a complicated place with a clear class divide. Money talks in GTA 5’s world and if you haven’t got it, well then a life of crime, drug abuse and poverty are your potential reward.

“Many gamers were hoping that GTA 5 would focus all three cities from GTA; San Andreas, but that was an unrealistic goal according to Houser. He told Game Informer that the team opted for one city in order to focus their efforts in making it the best hub they had created.”

The inner cities are surrounded by peaceful suburbs that come with a hefty price tags, while the neighbouring countryside of Blaine County and other areas devolve into wastelands full of redneck values, dilapidation and a lawless nature.

Many gamers were hoping that GTA 5 would focus all three cities from GTA; San Andreas, but that was an unrealistic goal according to Houser. He told Game Informer that the team opted for one city in order to focus their efforts in making it the best hub they had created.

So in many ways it marries the lessons Rockstar North learned from GTA 4’s Liberty City setting, and the efforts of Rockstar San Diego when making Red Dead Redemption’s open frontier. The resulting play-space is massive, rich in detail and feels natural.

Travelling around such a vast region is important, so you’ll be pleased to learn that GTA 5 doesn’t cut back on transport, with a variety of motor and pedal bikes, cars, boats, trucks, off-road vehicles and planes on offer.

In a neat twist, Trevor is the only licensed pilot in the group, so only he can fly aircraft. Rockstar revealed that planes will be available from the start of the game, so you won’t need to glitch or jump your way into any military bases this time.

There is a military base of course, as well as the entire Mt. Chiliad range, Salton Sea region and all of the neighbouring countryside to explore. You can fly, drive, surf on the waves and even perform deep sea dives, although there’s no world on collectible pearls yet. We’re sure at least one person will be gutted by this fact.

Men on a mission

Perhaps one of the common criticisms of GTA games – as big and ambitious as they may be – is that with so many layers of mechanics and scripts running throughout every second of gameplay, certain mechanics feel limp compared to other titles.

Facets of the GTA make-up such as shooting and driving have varied in quality throughout the series, but in GTA 5 Rockstar North has taken real steps to make each individual mechanic as accomplished as a game dedicated solely to each function.

For example, shooting is said to have evolved beyond any Rockstar open world game to date, and actually stands beside dedicated shooters out there today. Houser stated, “We feel like we’ve evolved it on from where we had it in any previous game a long way.”

“GTA 5′s plot is wrapped around a series of heists carried out by the game’s three protagonists, and these missions riff on the popularity of GTA 4′s ‘Three Leaf Clover’ missions, which saw Niko planning a bank job, recruiting a crew and raising hell.”

Driving has also improved beyond GTA 4’s slack mechanics, giving you the option of pulling off wild hairpins and drifts. It’s a big step up from Niko’s shopping trolley turns and resistant manoeuvres, and in the end backs up GTA 5’s attempt to bring the series back into the fun zone.

Houser even went as far as placing GTA 5’s driving mechanics alongside racing games, and that fans of racing sims will find a lot to love about the way Rockstar’s cars handle on the road. So if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Steve McQueen from Bullitt then you’ll get a kick out of GTA 5.

Fisticuffs have also improved, and no we’re not talking Street Fighter levels of finesse here, but few could honestly say that GTA 4’s melee combat was worthy of praise. Although Rockstar North understands that most players will opt for guns over their bare fists, it’s something they wanted to improve upon regardless.

Why go to all of this effort? It’s because GTA 5’s plot is wrapped around a series of heists carried out by the game’s three protagonists, and these missions riff on the popularity of GTA 4’s ‘Three Leaf Clover’ missions, which saw Niko planning a bank job, recruiting a crew and raising hell.

It was a superb mission because there was such a great build-up to the heist itself, and this vibe will run throughout GTA 5. Heists ad other key missions will see all three characters present, and based on gameplay screens revealed by Rockstar, will involve some pretty mad stunts.

“Giving players three points of view during missions and in the open world is intriguing and if Rockstar pulls it off with fluidity and style it could set a precedent for the series. ”

One heist sees the crew rappelling down the side of an IAA – GTA’s spin on the CIA – office block and breaking in through the windows in order to save an informant who is being interrogated inside. But first they have to prepare for the hit. The team begin by collecting a chopper provided by the FIB, and then perch it above the rooftop of the IAA building.

Once there, Michael leaps out and begins his walk down the structure while Franklin provides sniper cover from afar. The player remains in full control the entire time, and upon finding the right window, must smash their way inside to grab the target.

As Michael dangles there with his gun out, using the target as a human shield, a pack of IAA operatives have drawn their guns on him. At this point the player can remain as Michael or switch to Franklin to snipe the attackers. It’s fluid and it gives a different perspective on the action.

With the operatives dispatched, Trevor arrives to extract the group. Once in the air players can control the chopper at Trevor, unload at their pursuers with an assault rifle as Michael or snipe pursuing craft as Franklin. It’s entirely up to you.

Giving players three points of view during missions and in the open world is intriguing and if Rockstar pulls it off with fluidity and style it could set a precedent for the series. If anything it gives rise to more content, plot detail and character than ever before.

We’re waiting.

GTA 5 isn’t out until Spring 2013 so there’s a lot of waiting around to be had until then. It’s almost unbearable for some gamers, and who can blame them, given the immense hype surrounding Rockstar North’s potential opus?

But just like gamers waiting around killing time, there will be plenty of things to do during your downtime in Los Santos. You can take in some yoga, buy yourself a new outfit, drink in some entertainment, or play a full round of golf. The options are staggering.

Many gamers will be pleased to learn that dating has been removed from the mix, as it was something Rockstar North felt went against the nature of GTA 5’s ensemble cast. No matter which way you slice it, it’s clear that Rockstar isn’t cutting back on content, and looks set to deliver a staggering array of content.

With so much to do and see, you can bet that GTA 5 information will come thick and fast following Game Informer’s reveal, and as always VG247 will be on hand to report it as it happens. There’s just the little matter of the game’s second trailer to get through first. Look out for it on November 14th.

Disclosure:

  • This article was written in-part with the help of information gathered in Game Informer’s December issue, bought digitally by Dave personally for £2.99 via the magazine’s iPad app.

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