A gamer looks forward: Grand Theft Auto V
If you've been anything close to a regular reader on this site over the last month or so, you'll know that I've laid out a few one-off articles concerning a few different subjects. One of those subjects, the only non-movie related one in fact, was about my experience with the GRAND THEFT AUTO series as a whole. But now that the trailer for GRAND THEFT AUTO V has dropped I feel compelled to write another, because there's a refrain that's been going round and round in my head ever since I first watched the footage: GRAND THEFT AUTO V is the game for movie lovers.
Not just a game, but the game. Hence why - though I of course could be wrong - I happen to think that some of you will care when it releases. Rockstar has never been shy about how the worlds and language and characters of cinema have influenced its work, especially when it comes to the GRAND THEFT AUTO series. And yet... it seems to me to be that GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 is up to something much sneakier. See, what V appears to be doing is going a huge step beyond merely wearing its influences proudly by threading those same influences into the gameplay and story scenarios themselves. No more are missions simply hits to gain favor with a GOODFELLAS-type crime boss - now they're multi-tiered heists straight out of HEAT, with the possibility of living out the entire escapade through the ability to switch between any of the three controllable characters at set points during the course of the adventure. No longer are you playing as a single man who must desperately fight to become a jack-of-all-trades if he is to survive the strange new criminal world in which he finds himself - now you can become one of three separate characters at any time based on your needs of the moment, characters who all have their own skills, relationships, and distinct place in Rockstar's world of Los Santos.
I've always believed, be it consciously or unconsciously, that the best stories are those that are just removed enough from reality that we can step back and see the bigger picture while at the same time engaging enough on an emotional level that we can't help but be connected to the events that we witness. It's why I think fantasy and horror are two of the best storytelling genres, and it's also why I imagine that GRAND THEFT AUTO V to be the best in the series yet.
If you watched the trailer, I'm sure you noticed that its full of larger-than-life set pieces and stakes that resonate across more lives than those of the three main characters. And yet, the game also appears to be replete with the small touches and personal moments that serve to ground the entire experience, be they 1) the side events you can participate in like scuba diving in the fully-detailed Los Santos coastline, yoga, golf, or base jumping, 2) the ability to wander through (at least) one character's home and interact with a family that he already has a detailed history with before the game even starts, or 3) the personal hopes and dreams and failures and victories and psychoses of each character you will both encounter and control. The balance between epic and intimate is already there, and if Rockstar can maintain it through the endgame then I'd say we're in for something very special indeed.
And the crazy thing is, I'm sure that I've only barely scratched the surface of GRAND THEFT AUTO V's opportunity. The game's size is described as being larger than that of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV, SAN ANDREAS, and RED DEAD REDEMPTION combined (which is just wild), while each of the three main characters (an ex-bank robber, a hustler involved in an ongoing car scam, and an ex-military drug addict who is currently a bank robber) will receive their own fully-fleshed out story arc that is bolstered by a continuous interweaving with those of the other two.
The sheer amount of possibility for both fun and one-of-a-kind emotional engagement is massive and mind-boggling and all I think I can really say at this point is this: Rockstar has always grown by bounds with every release, and GRAND THEFT AUTO V has all the hallmarks of the greatest leap yet.
It is currently available for pre-order in advance of its release in Spring 2013.