Grand Theft Auto V came out this Tuesday, and it’s probably the most important game release of this generation. Few games will be as accessible to so many as GTA V, and even fewer carry the same weight. Players can look forward to spending hundreds of hours ripping through Los Santos in cars, bikes and planes, while causing havoc and mayhem in a 49-square-mile virtual depiction of Los Angeles. Freedom lies in the hands of the player, and anything goes.
GTA V may also be the most expensive video game production yet. So far, the game itself has cost $265 million to produce, and experts say that it could make as much as $1.5 billion in its initial year – more than almost any Hollywood blockbuster.
Millions are on the edges of their seats, ready to step into Los Santos and experience a fully-realized, simulated world built by Rockstar Games.
“The graphics look fantastic, and the gameplay will follow suit with the series in general,” says Ryan Lough, a history major at San Francisco State. Ryan remembers playing the original GTA on his old PC, a distant ancestor of what these games would grow to become. “It’s seems like every Grand Theft Auto game is based off Scarface. Eventually, I think the series is gonna lose it’s wow factor, but it’s visually stunning.”
Rockstar appears well aware that their game is built on the corpses of a million little video game characters. As developers, they strive to build newer and more interesting worlds with the intent that each new one is more compelling than the last. GTA 3 opened up its world like no other game before and is considered the godfather of open world, sandbox-style video games. GTA 4 was a satirical paradise, poking fun at corrupt government officials, pampered celebrities and what’s left of the American Dream. The narrative driving each games gets more complex with each iteration.
GTA V places players in the shoes of not one, not two, but three different protagonists. The first is Michael, a retired bank robber who lives with his dysfunctional family. The second is Trevor, a drug-fueled desert loner. Last but not least is Franklin, a young black man striving to escape the “hood”. The three “heroes” are joined together in their shared desire to rob banks and make money.
The game is massive, on a scale unlike most other games on the market. Activities can range from the standard fare of shooting cops, stealing cars and robbing banks; to yoga, scuba diving and hiking. This Southern Californian simulacrum isn’t just empty space, it’s incredibly dense and filled with advanced artificial intelligence and razor-sharp Rockstar satire, all presented with a dark sense of humor from the game made infamous for killing virtual prostitutes.
In addition, it looks like Rockstar put a lot of focus on multiplayer. Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, and Call of Duty is the best-selling game; online multiplayer is becoming more of a must in modern gaming. GTA 4 was praised for taking near-unlimited freedom of the game vanilla and allowing for a shared experience online. It looks like GTA V has taken that a step further.
Arguably, the biggest reason this game is so important has to do with the state of how games are sold today. The two biggest video game companies are Activision and Electronic Arts. Both are known to annually release new additions within their respective franchises like Call of Duty or Madden. While some complain about paying another $60 for a game whose previous entry was only a year beforehand, there’s nothing inherently wrong about this practice. Along with the ever-increasing amount of games, both console and smartphone, that rely on microtransactions – those nuisances that cost a dollar for a power-up in Candy Crush or a new set of uniforms in NCAA Football – for extra revenue, it seems to be the way the market is trending.
Rockstar on the other hand, has made a strong case for releasing games that are intricately deep and garner mass appeal, as well as releasing a game in different franchises every few years. GTA 4 was released in 2008, and their stock has almost doubled since.
“It looks like it’d be worth playing through,” says Ricki Herrera, an English major at San Francisco State. “The story seems engaging and I don’t doubt going on crime sprees will be fun.”
It’s no secret that next generation gaming is upon us. The Playstation 4 and XBox One will be released in a few months rendering everyone’s beloved 360s and PS3s obsolete. Grand Theft Auto is about as big a name as can get in the gaming world, and the GTA V is being released on the heels of this dying game-system generation. One way or another, GTA V will be instrumental in the future development of video games and the industry as a whole.