New details on Grand Theft Auto V have been revealed, courtesy of a 30-minute gameplay preview shown by Rockstar Games at its offices in London
The game's three main characters, which were recently fleshed out in a trio of trailers, will be fully customisable, allowing players to give them tattoos, change their hairstyles and improve personal stats like accuracy and lung capacity. Each character will also have a unique ability. Michael, the washed-out former bank robber, will be able to slow down time in gunfights, similar to Rockstar's Max Payne. Franklin, a low-rung hood from South Central can do something similar while driving, allowing him to dodge oncoming traffic more easily. Finally Trevor, the anarchic hillbilly from LA's boondocks can activate a kind of "rage mode," allowing him to absorb more punishment in combat and deal more damage with weapons.
Combat itself has been overhauled since Grand Theft Auto IV and is now, according to Rockstar, more akin last year's Max Payne 3. Running while shooting will now be much easier and the graphic death physics, powered by Rockstar's Euphoria engine, will return.
Grand Theft Auto V will also have a looser structure in terms of missions, focusing mainly on robberies and heists which players can organise themselves. A mission involving ramming an armoured van off the road will take planning right down to details like buying boiler suits and disguises. Players will also have to arrange things like getaway cars, stashing a vehicle in some convenient location beforehand. Aside from the three central characters, which can be switched between by pressing down on the Xbox or PlayStation's d-pad, extra help will have to be hired in to assist with the heists, introducing an element of risk and reward: A larger crew will mean a higher chance of a job going right, but also a smaller share of the loot at the end.
Players will be able to spend the money they earn on heists, not just on preparing their next robbery but on extra property which they can then earn rent on and vehicles. Earning and spending will reportedly play a large role in Grand Theft Auto V.
Rockstar also shared details on GTA V's location. Los Santos, a fictionalised version of modern day LA, is allegedly three times the size as the studio's former sandbox epic Red Dead Redemption, with the entire city being available to explore from the game's beginning. Suburbs, desert and even underwater areas will be traversable, with extreme detail added to each. If players go scuba diving, for example, they're likely to come across sharks, sunken wrecks and shoals of fish. Elsewhere, in the countryside, wildlife like deer and mountain lions will be present, as well as other people doing things like racing quad bikes and hiking.
The environment will also dynamically introduce missions. Switching to Michael in the gameplay trailer for example finds him walking down a street in central Los Santos. Walking past a hotel, he sees a young starlet being harassed by the press and, at the player's discretion, hops into her convertible and drives up to the curb to help her escape. Players will also be able to access a smartphone to check the in-game internet and emails, where missions might also be activated.
The city itself is said to feature four times the number of pedestrians walking the streets than in Grand Theft Auto IV. They'll also interact more closely with the player, calling the police or taking pictures on their smartphones if they witness a crime being committed.
There will also be side actitives including tennis, yoga, golf, base-jumping, the aforementioned scuba-diving and bike races. Players will also be able to rob people as they withdraw cash from ATMs.
Many of these features are reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a fan favourite in the GTA series beloved for its focus on player freedom, customisation and exploration. Following something of a backlash against Grand Theft Auto IV, which was comparatively linear and downbeat, GTA V looks to be a return to the bigger and more raucous thrills of San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto games before.
It's scheduled for launch on 17 September. For more details and opinion on Grand Theft Auto V, read this week's Why Games Matter blog.