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Rockstar Games revealed a massive flood of details about Grand Theft Auto V today. The game sounds like it's going to be a major upgrade on its predecessors in several important ways.
There's one catch with our list: all we can go on right now is Rockstar's word. We haven't tried out the game and only one trailer's been released thus far. Some of Rockstar's claims might turn out to be overblown. However, if they can deliver on everything they're promising, this might be the best game in the series thus far.
For every fun mission in a GTA game, there's often four or five "filler" missions that don't move the plot forward. Before you rob the jewelry store, you need to first pick up your friend from the airport, buy some explosives, take your boss' mistress shopping, and so on. Sure, it padded out the total gameplay time, but it dragged down the overall quality of the campaign.
With GTA V, though, Rockstar is trying to make sure that more of the campaign missions are meaningful. Expect several complex heists in the same vein as GTA IV's bank robbery job "Three Leaf Clover." While there might still be some filler content in the game, it'll at least be easier to stomach if there's a big campaign moment around every bend.
The Most Ambitious Story Yet
Grand Theft Auto V has three main characters instead of one. Michael, Franklin and Trevor each have distinct personalities and stories. The result is the most complex story the series has ever seen.
The execution of this idea is the really fascinating part. Most games with multiple playable characters would force you to switch between them at set points in the game. However, GTA V lets you swap characters at will. You can even do this during missions. For example, at the end of a bank heist, you can drive the getaway vehicle as Trevor or shoot pursuers as Michael. The possibilities for both story-telling and gameplay are overwhelming.
A Huge Game World
It was a bit disappointing to learn that GTA V was going to have only one city - Los Santos - instead of the three seen in GTA: San Andreas. It sounded like Rockstar was sacrificing size for detail. That would be an understandable trade-off but, as a San Andreas fan, I was sad we won't be able to see San Fierro and Las Venturas updated with current-gen technology.
As it turns out, though, GTA V's world will have both size and detail. Rockstar says that the game world will be bigger than Red Dead Redemption, San Andreas and GTA IV's worlds combined. It even includes a fully explorable ocean floor. Gamers might be too busy exploring this massive world to miss those other two cities.
No Simulation Bullshit
Once upon a time, I said that GTA: San Andreas felt like an elaborate Tamagotchi. You had to continually feed your character and hit the gym in order to keep them in shape. Otherwise, they would become slow and weak. GTA IV ditched the fitness mechanic in exchange for something more annoying: friendships. You had to continually schedule man-dates with your fellow criminals in order to keep them happy enough to supply you with free equipment. None of this nonsense will be in GTA V.
Instead, Rockstar is focusing on filling the world of GTA V with fun side content. The Los Santos area will offer players multiple outdoor activities, including BASE jumping, tennis and golf. Expect these minigames to have some depth, too. For example, the golf game will take place on a full 18-hole course. If you're feeling lazier, you can watch a full collection of cartoons and other in-game mock entertainment.
It's Just More Fun
Fairly or unfairly, GTA's gameplay mechanics are measured against pure shooters and racing games. That's just how it goes with hybrids. Rockstar seems intent on making Grand Theft Auto V measure up favorably against games in both genres. The feel of the shooting gameplay is said to have come "a long way" since GTA IV. Furthermore, the cars will stick to the ground better instead of feeling like boats with wheels.
Hand-to-hand combat, perhaps the rawest part of GTA IV, is due to receive an upgrade too. It'll never be as important as driving and shooting but nonetheless, Rockstar's giving it some attention. They promise it will be "fun and strong," so perhaps the days of mindless button-mashing are over. It's too much to expect GTA V to be the best brawler, shooter, and driving game around but if it can be stellar on all fronts, this could be a tough game to quit.