In ‘Grand Theft Auto V,’ a new video game out Sept. 17, players plan and execute major heists, just like in movies such as ‘Heat’ and ‘Ocean’s Eleven.’
NEW YORK – Theft on a grand scale is emphasized in Grand Theft Auto V, the upcoming installment in the billion-dollar video game franchise.
Since 2001′s Grand Theft Auto III — the game that elevated Rockstar Games to headliner status — the series has offered varying takes on the criminal element, from the ’80s Miami drug wars in 2004′s GTA: Vice City to the immigrant experience in 2008′s GTA IV.
But in GTA V (out Sept. 17 for PS3 and Xbox 360, ages 17-up), it’s all about the heists, while robbery and vehicle theft play a huge part, too.
IN-DEPTH: Paying a visit to ‘Grand Theft Auto V’
In a recent advance demo of the game at Rockstar’s New York offices, the three main characters – Michael, Franklin and Trevor – pull off a job reminiscent of one in the movie Heat. In preparation for the heist, the characters have stolen a garbage truck used to block the road and a tow truck used to ram the prey, an armored car.
Players take part in the planning, just as George Clooney and Brad Pitt did in Ocean’s Eleven. “We give the players choice on how they will do the heists and (make) them put in the legwork and prep, as well as choosing a suitable crew,” says Imran Sarwar of GTA V development studio Rockstar North in Edinburgh, Scotland. “What we want to do now is give the players choices, to really feel like they’re planning the heist and preparing for it, and then to have that pay off in a big, satisfying mission shaped by their decisions.”
The scene, which occurs about a third of the way through and is just one of many heists players attempt to pull off, shows how players will get to control all three of the main characters, a first in a Rockstar game. And the characters won’t be sitting idle when they aren’t on screen, says Rockstar North president Leslie Benzies. “The player might switch to Michael as he’s shopping with his wife, or to Trevor as he’s being chased by the cops, or Franklin as he’s chilling in front of the TV. The player might then take Franklin out to rescue Michael from the shops and go for a drink, or help Trevor deal with the cops.”
Rockstar North is creating Rockstar’s largest game world ever. The virtual Los Angeles (in the game it’s “Los Santos”) and the surrounding Blaine County countryside is larger than the world of 2004′s GTA: San Andreas, 2008′s GTA IV and 2010′s Red Dead Redemption combined.
Over the years, Rockstar has sold more than 125 million GTA games. The most recent edition 2008′s GTA IV was the most popular, with sales approaching 25 million.
Of course, controversy has followed the franchise’s success. GTA III and GTA: Vice City (2002) drew criticism because players could do business with prostitutes and shoot them afterwards. Then, 2004′s San Andreas became notorious because hackers found the hidden “Hot Coffee” code that could be unlocked to see the game’s main character have animated sex with his girlfriend.
Non-gamers may focus on that reputation, but gamers are more interested in the massive open worlds that the studio’s designers create. “The real appeal for players has always been the incredible freedom they are allowed and the incredible attention to detail,” says David Kushner, author of Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto. “Of course, you can wreak havoc if you want to, but you can also drive an ambulance.”
With the arrival of smartphones and tablets, the gaming landscape has changed immensely in the five years since the last full GTA game was released. But Kushner expects V to be another blockbuster. “Grand Theft Auto is kind of like Star Wars,” he says. “The fans are always going to show up, (and) I’m sure they will be breaking records again.”
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