Posted June 13, 2013 by John Hofstadt in Featured, Microsoft, Sony

What To Expect From Grand Theft Auto V

The “Grand Theft Auto” series has been used as a yardstick with which to measure for the industry since 2001’s “Grand Theft Auto 3.” Every new GTA lets us know where gaming is at in terms of technology, design innovation, and of course, matters of taste and maturity. Rockstar’s flagship series carries the cross of being the video game by which the public judges video games. The franchise is so popular that GTA 3 can even be played on the top android phones. So what can we tell you about the upcoming “Grand Theft Auto V,” and what does that tell us about being a gamer in the 2010’s?

The Apex of the Open World

The big selling point in the GTA games is not the violence; it’s not the gritty subject matter or even really the gameplay, in the purest sense of the term. All of the driving, shooting and adult content comes second to the games’ ability to create a living, breathing environment. Even the violence is only a symptom of the freedom that these games offer the player, and GTA V looks to be the apex of the open-world concept. Where San Andreas gave us an enormous environment to explore and GTA IV gave us a more detailed, well-realized environment, GTA V is giving us a world that, at a glance, is nearly indistinguishable from our own.

Photo of a “Grand Theft Auto” car by AXLiberty via Flickr

This sounds like we’re over-hyping it, but to see the game in action is a sight to behold. Destructoid gives us its immediate impressions in a recent article. Drive around the outskirts of Los Santos and you might run over a deer (that’s right, this game features animals, a scarcity in GTA, including sharks). Take a helicopter tour and you’ll be able to see skyscrapers all the way across town, no more fog to hide distant sights. If this is what a current-gen open world game looks like, the mind boggles at what the Playstation 4 will offer the developers at Rockstar.

Personality Code

When Valve was developing “Half Life 2: Episodes 1 and 2,” it was met with the challenge of realizing a whole personality for Alyx Vance, your crack-shot sidekick, within the medium. Any developer can take a class and learn how to write convincing dialogue and cutscenes, but programming NPCs that feel like real people is relatively uncharted territory. Even in GTA IV, the pedestrians become less believable upon closer inspection.

GTA V is looking to break new ground in character development in video games, in writing and in the in-game behavior of NPCs, and even in how a player character’s personality is expressed in the gameplay. For instance, Michael, one of the three playable characters, is an expert shooter who allows players to slow down time during a gunfight, while Franklin can do the same for the player when behind the wheel of a car, according to Game Informer.

Meanwhile, pedestrians have entire daily routines with garbage men only showing up in the morning and afternoon rush hours as everyone comes home from work. In terms of character behavior, GTA V aims to leap across the uncanny valley.

New Ground in Storytelling

Much has been made in previews and early impressions about the three-character structure of GTA V’s storytelling, as in CNET’s look at the game. The series has been breaking ground in storytelling and ultimately pushing towards the idea that writing in a game can be as good as writing in a film or a novel or a classic TV drama like “The Sopranos” or “Breaking Bad.” The story in the new game is not without its ridiculous heists and over the top gun fights, but it looks to help create a more believable world in which the game takes place.

Believability seems to be the key word here. If Rockstar wants GTA V to provide absolute freedom in an environment nearly indistinguishable from the real world, well, it’s no surprise that “shut up and take my money” seems to be the universal response.

John Hofstadt

Although John fits the description of a gamer, he doesn't want to be pigeonholed. He loves reviewing games, movies, television and sometimes even albums. You might not agree with his opinions, but he loves to share them anyway.