Just over two months out from Grand Theft Auto V’s release, Rockstar Games have released a trailer comprised entirely of gameplay footage. In doing so, they have shared a wealth of information regarding setting, characters and how we’ll be spending our time both on and off missions. However, in doing so they have revealed more than possibly intended, with tiny details visible in the video that raise further questions about the game.
The city of Los Santos and the surrounding countryside is looking to be the most diverse setting of the GTA series. Glittering skyscrapers, decaying ghettos, ritzy houses along canals, palm tree lined beaches, pristine wilderness and rocky mountains all make an appearance. To have such a broad palette of settings is ambitious, and initially had me worried that they might contradict one another in such close proximity. Thankfully, it all appears to blend seamlessly into one vibrant and believable world.
GTA IV and its expansions showed us what it was like to view a game world through three very different sets of eyes. Its protagonists each pursued his own story, which at times overlapped with the other two. GTA V goes even further, blending three new protagonists and their individual ambitions into one concurrent plot. Players will be able to switch between Trevor, Franklin and Michael in real time both when on missions and in their own personal time.
The trailer showed examples of both cases. The mission example showed Michael calling for sniper support from Franklin, while Trevor flies their helicopter. This situation appears fairly heavily scripted, however, and I wonder if the ability to switch characters will always be active in missions, or only available in set moments. Also, I noticed that when highlighting a character to switch to, a list of their stats comes up in the corner of the screen. Whether these will be fixed character specific proficiencies, or fluid stats that players can build up over time (as in GTA San Andreas), remains to be seen.
The off-mission examples of character switching showed the characters going about their daily lives as you take control, with Michael returning from a bike ride with his son and Trevor midway through a police chase. While this makes them feel much more real than if they were just lazing about at home waiting to be called, the transitions may lose some of their voyeuristic charm over time. Michael’s example featured some fairly canned dialogue, and the possibility of switching to a character only to find them in the middle of nowhere with half the police in the state after them sounds more like work than fun.
Diversions and leisure activities are extraordinarily broad, featuring parachuting, sports, scuba diving, hunting wild animals, investing in real estate and many more. As with the stats, we don’t know if these will be confined to specific characters to bolster characterisation—for example, Michael the money man buying stocks and Trevor the psychotic redneck going hunting— or left free for any character to do anything.
Customising cars and clothes has made a return, and this time it looks like Rockstar have got it right. Just at a glance, the options for clothes, tattoos and car modifications look many and varied. Even better, scrolling through them shows the changes in real time, without the painstaking fading to black or using change rooms of GTA IV and San Andreas. I always felt discouraged from buying up all the options in those games, as it just took so long to individually buy it all and then scroll through my wardrobe one item at a time.
The core gameplay itself seems largely unchanged, with only a few minor tweaks visible so far. Driving controls seem to have been tightened up a little from GTA IV’s heavy handling, as we see the player’s car weaving effortlessly through traffic without taking a scratch. Shooting looks the same as before, but with a game-pausing weapon-select wheel added for easy gun changes. It’s hardly revolutionary, but should help keep the action flowing. I very much hope Rockstar has overhauled GTA IV’s clunky melee fighting, but this trailer has provided no clues on that front.
Missions apparently give players some degree of customisation, allowing them to choose how to go about a heist, and who they’ll bring along. Details on this are a little vague, and the example given only shows a choice between two heavily scripted options. I doubt this will go much beyond GTA IV’s limited moral choice system, wherein a handful of missions would give the player two options, usually a merciful one that would pay off later, and a harsh one that was generally less rewarding. That said, such choices at the very least encourage multiple playthroughs of a game, and GTA V is already looking to be something I’ll play over and over again.