The biggest compliment I can pay GTA 5 having seen it in action is that it looks to be exactly what I expected. Which is to say the funniest, deepest and most engaging open-world game of this or any console generation. In GTA 4 and Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar delivered a pair of perpetually lifelike, unendingly playable sandbox experiences to PS3. With its newest effort, it looks set to complete the hat-trick in style.
New GTA 5 info revealed
It’s hard to pick highlights from my behind-closed-doors, half-hour-long look at the game, because almost every moment feels golden – it’d be like a Match Of The Day producer trying to edit down a barnstorming 9-9 draw. Instead, I’ll try to walk and talk you through the entire presentation. A Rockstar rep is holding the controller, but I’m feeling every shot, every blow and every leap, beginning with street hustler Franklin – the adrenaline junkie among the trio of protagonists – jumping from a helicopter high above the San Andreas shoreline. 1km over the Alamo Sea, to be exact.
Seconds later, the parachute opens and the camera has panned out to show the world. And what a world. If your retinas felt blessed by the expanses of West Elizabeth and Nuevo Paraiso, then they’ll be in eyeball heaven when they see this. Below, soft sand forms a perfect marriage with shimmering sea; in the distance, the skyscrapers of Los Santos glimmer in the smoggy summer sun. In closer proximity peaks, valleys and passages of water too numerous to count abound. The setting is as beautiful as it is vast. And where to land is totally up to you.
Here on the western side of GTA 5’s gargantuan map – all of which is opened up from the beginning, so there’s no more island-unlocking – one tempting drop-in spot is a military base around 100m to Franklin’s right – although our rep is having none of that. Closer, I note a road winding precariously around one particularly menacing peak; our host explains that it’s an ATV racetrack. Animals scurrying below are just too far away to make out, but it’s clear that, like Red Dead, we’re about to drop in on a living, breathing wilderness complete with its own ecosystem. And a really pretty one, in its own barren way.
It doesn’t just look beautiful – it sounds it too. This is the first Grand Theft Auto game to feature an original score, with scene-setting music kicking in whenever the occasion suits it. A gentle breeze of harmonics accompany Franklin’s descent, and our Rockstar guide confirms that this kind of thing happens, on an organic basis, all over – not to the point of feeling intrusive, but to ratchet up the tension or enhance the calm where appropriate.
Fret not, radio stations featuring hilarious skits and massive hits – a staple of the series – are back too, confirmed later on when co-protagonist Michael takes to the freeway with Fergie’s Glamorous blaring through the windows. More on that later.
Our Rockstar guide sets Franklin down by a stream, feet away from fishermen tossing lines into the water. Even in this remote outpost of the map, there’s evidently plenty to do: races on the aforementioned ATV track, animal hunting, picking up hitchhikers to take back to more populated territory (or bump off in a lay-by). For now, however, it’s time to get up to speed on Franklin’s background before moving on to the next character.
At the game’s outset the South Los Santos resident is working as a car repo man with his pal Lamar – completely above board, at least to his knowledge. But his Armenian boss, Simeon Yetarian, happens to be a con artist, deliberately selling cars to people who can’t afford to keep up the payments, and it’s in this way that Franklin gets sucked into the criminal underworld via a chance meeting with Michael. (Later to link up with third protagonist, the hilariously insane Trevor.)
Trevor is the next character we’re introduced
to, waking up on a beach by the Alamo Sea,
in his Y-fronts, surrounded by prone bodies
The latter is the next character we’re about to be introduced to – waking up on a beach by the Alamo Sea, in his Y-fronts, surrounded by prone bodies in a scene troublingly reminiscent of my teenage weekends in Hastings – but before we get to that, it’s worth detailing exactly how these three human pieces fit into a single puzzle.
Character switching is handled by an onscreen weapon wheel which sits on the lower right of the screen. You hit up on the right stick to control Franklin, right to switch to Trevor, and left to become Michael. (Down triggers multiplayer, but there are no details on that element yet. Sorry.) Other than in three-man missions – an example of which will follow later – everything you do with a character pertains only to him, be it racking up dirty moolah, buying new threads or improving individual attributes.
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