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Grand Theft Auto V is a fat, full-bodied game, overflowing with things to see and do. But above all else, it wants to be one thing very badly: a good heist game.
A new screenshot says it all. Michael stands in the foreground wearing a mask worthy of Hannibal Lector. He’s flanked by a monkey (Trevor) and a skull (Franklin). These are your protagonists, and they’re dressed for business.
Crime has always been central to Grand Theft Auto’s DNA, yet now the vision has been focused, sharpened. The crux of GTA V is less jacking cars, and more planning and executing heists. Picture the opening sequence from The Dark Knight, then apply it to a world where you’re the orchestrator of the rules.
And, ironically, in a world suffering through the worst recession for eighty years, GTA V is all about the allure of the dollar bill. Green and greed rule. And yet to perform these heists, do you opt for outside help, yet forfeit a measure of profit? Or do you rely solely on your trio to get the job done? It’s these sorts of questions GTA V leaves you to answer.
Of course, with three characters at your disposal, it’s important to be able to switch seamlessly between them. Happily, a recent demo of the game has revealed just how simple this is. By pressing the corresponding button on the D-pad, you can go from Franklin to Michael in a matter of seconds. Leave Franklin’s shoes for any stretch of time and he’ll go about his day as normal. Will you ever develop a sense of ownership over these men? It’s impossible to answer right now, but it’s a risk Rockstar is willing to take.
Lost in Los Santos
The world itself is bigger and more diverse than any game in the series yet; Los Santos is home to beaches, rolling hills and chalk-red desert. And then there’s the city itself. As Luke Reilly describes in his excellent write-up on the game, “GTA V is a window into a slightly-twisted parallel world. Like its real-world inspiration, Los Santos’ Vinewood is a glossy, bustling, but thoroughly lived-in place. Rockstar North has stocked it to the brim with eye-catching stuff from every angle but has made equally sure to coat everything with that layer of grit and grime no city can shake.”
Roam the streets and you’ll come across people who request your help. This equates to a side-mission in most games, yet Rockstar has gone to great lengths to integrate these non-essential asides more organically into the world. Do you acqueicse? Of course the choice is yours.
Clearly, however, there’s more to do than ever before. You can dive into city’s inky waters and explore the subaquatic life. You can have a game of tennis on Michael’s tennis court. Fancy buying property? You can. Desire a new paint job on your car? Visit the nearest Pay ‘n Spray. Or get a tattoo. And a haircut. There’s a full golf course, and screenshots promise numerous aeroplanes. Best of all, the map is open to you from the start. Rockstar has moved on from the notion that artificial restrictions are necessary.
Indeed GTA V is the product of a developer who has refined and honed its craft. Rockstar has clearly learnt a thing or two from its other games too. Red Dead Redemption introduced wildlife, a feature GTA V borrows. Max Payne 3 mastered slow-mo gunfights, and these very sorts of gunfights appear in GTA V too.
With the September release date fast approaching, we’ll soon be able to play the game in full. From what we’ve seen however, GTA V looks beautiful. It promises to be richly detailed, presenting a twisted version of a famous city like only Rockstar can; a world of greed, its three bank robbers front and centre. Chasing those Benjamin Franklins has never looked such devilish fun.