Running and gunning, shooting up cops, killing hookers and taking back your money, stealing a tank, completing murderous rampages, these are all things that the game series Grand Theft Auto pioneered and brought to the masses. Whether you played the original overhead games in the series, or were only introduced to the GTA criminal world when it hit the third dimension, many a gamer that's picked up a controller has an extensive virtual criminal record thanks to this series.
As well as this, the third title and its sequels expanded the scope of a game world, providing a huge, free roaming environment, and GTA IV brought that world alive, with the highest praise being heaped on it for its immersion as a real, living world, beyond how the gamer interacts with it.
So where does that leave developer Rockstar North, when it comes to making the next one?
This time set in fictional Los Santos and its surroundings in the state of San Andreas – suggesting there may be some familiar landmarks for older gamers – GTA V draws inspiration from real life contemporary Los Angeles. Based on the trailer alone, it seems that Rockstar has built upon the last game's immersive city environment and added to it, increasing the numbers of AI civilians going about their lives as well as of course improving visuals.
From the voice over about a man attempting to leave his old life behind, we can assume a strong narrative will back up the traditionally rampant game play. Add in the fact that our protagonist is said to be a father and there could be some interesting morality thrown into the mix. It might make shooting up the city a little less tasteful if you occasionally have a child in tow. Or not: as are the wonders of freedom in GTA.
The inclusion of some sporting activities, including a Gym suggest that there could be some RPG like elements included, harking back to the original San Andreas game where working out would increase your character's stamina and strength. With many contemporary games adding character stats and unlockable abilities and weapons, it wouldn't be surprising if Rockstar decided to have some sort of character attributes that affected gameplay.
Considering the recent rumour about Red Dead Redemption developers Rockstar San Diego helping out with the production of GTA V, we could see an honor rating similar to the one used in RDR. Perhaps this will have an impact on not only the people around the main character, but his relationship with his child(ren) as well?
Combat wise, it seems likely that Rockstar will stick with the tried and true cover system, though perhaps with the recent development of Max Payne, we'll see quite a rooted one. While of course it makes sense to duck down when the bullets start flying, it might be nice to see gameplay that requires tactically moving up for a better position, as well as popping shots around the corner. Though it might be difficult to do sporadic combat with this in mind, it would certainly refresh a cover system that has become quite saturated in contemporary titles.
Some are also hoping that the game's minimap won't display enemies, adding more tension to combat situations, while others wish for a bullet time like effect, if only for the final enemy kill.
Multiplayer was in a fledgling state with GTA IV, but it's expected to see much more focus in this new title. While there hasn't been much in the way of information on this topic, we do know that the Crew system seen in Max Payne 3 will be carried over, essentially allowing players to form groups that they game with across multiple titles.
Vehicles are of course a big part of any game with “auto” in its title, and GTA has been well known for some fantastic in-car action, as well as expanding into bikes and planes in recent years. Eagle eyed Max Payne 3 multiplayer gamers have spotted images on one map, of aeroplanes that appear to have be taken from within a game. However, they don't feature in Max Payne 2 or 3, suggesting they could have come from GTA V. Pictured is a private airliner, as well as a military transport plane and jet aircraft. The first and third in that list can both be spotted in the trailer that came out last year.
One other bit of news that has appeared about the game is that the PC version was developed alongside the consoles, potentially allowing for a very close release date between the platforms. Its still thought that the PC iteration will come afterwards, but perhaps only by a couple of weeks.
With the release date purportedly pushed back in the UK to November and Rockstar making it clear it has no plans for a playable version at E3, it looks like we'll need to wait until the latter parts of the year to learn anything more concrete about a game that is surely one of the most hotly anticipated in 2012.
By Jon "Whoopty" Martindale, Contributing Editor to MegaGames