Warning: may contain spoilers for those who have not kept up with the latest news and videos.
Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come for the fifth generation in the infamous, controversial, and bloody brilliant sandbox action-adventure franchise. Before I get too far into this, let me first start off by saying that my impressions are not strictly fan-based; I do have some understandable concerns about this title, so you needn't worry.
I was first introduced to the Grand Theft Auto series eleven years ago when Grand Theft Auto III was released. I was about seven years old when my father knocked on my bedroom door and tossed me a video game rental with a name I had heard previously, but remained ignorant as to what it was. After popping the disc into my Playstation 2, I sat there for a few moments watching the rather fascinating and violent introduction and finding myself enthralled with the open-world gameplay. Little did I know, those moments were actually hours—five to be exact—and while dinner was waiting, shouts could be heard from my bedroom to the sound of "That's right, trollop of the night, give me back my money," before my mother ushered me out of the room and into my seat at the table.
This is where I must insert the proverbial disclaimer, in which while I was originally introduced to the Grand Theft Auto series at an incredibly young age, I had a firm understanding that video games (in all forms) were for strictly anaesthetic purposes and were not to be re-enacted in the real world. But I won't get into that age-old debate.
From that point on, I was completely and irrevocably in love with the Grand Theft Auto games, and it wasn't until I played Grand Theft Auto IV was I able to comprehend the story and the purpose for what I saw before me. With that, I found myself going back to the previous games in the franchise (sticking closely to San Andreas, as it was my favourite) and finding understanding in what I was oblivious to years prior. However, it was never the story in the games that was the standpoint of my interest: it was the gameplay. It was because of Grand Theft Auto III that I developed this insatiable appetite for the ultimate open-world experience that reflected as closely to the real world as possible, while maintaining it's ability to be differentiated between the digital and the real. A year following my experience with Grand Theft Auto III, I discovered The Sims and my appetite had be sated for the time being.
Furthering my venture, I discovered the RPG genre with the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, the former of the two winning my favour. To this day, I feel as though if the Grand Theft Auto series were to be magically combined with that of the Elder Scrolls, with a hint of seasoning from the Hitman franchise, I would have found my perfect video game. However, the individuality of the three is most sufficient in terms of variety.
Now, four years following the release of the critically acclaimed instalment, Grand Theft Auto IV, we have finally caught the official wind of the next title in store, with the very familiar but bold moniker, Grand Theft Auto V. However, the experience behind the name did not seem so bold to me at first glance. While Grand Theft Auto IV was my game of choice for two and a half to three years since its release, I found it to be lacking that classic Grand Theft Auto feel, prevalent in the third generation (Grand Theft Auto III through San Andreas). I found as if the fourth generation took itself too seriously and was more about the story in terms of importance, which is why I had migrated to the Saints Row series for quite some time (even though Saints Row had proven itself to be in my favour as well.)
What I am seeing as of late is that Grand Theft Auto V does not take itself as seriously as its predecessor, and that is nothing but good to me. While the Grand Theft Auto series have never really been the go-to for over the top and outrageous action as the Saints Row series had proven to be dominant in, you would be hard pressed to find a GTA instalment that didn't have you on the edge of your seat. During my playthrough of Grand Theft Auto IV, I had this lackadaisical emotion, with the occasional chuckle. I felt as though it was missing...quite a lot, actually, from its predecessors. Whereas Grand Theft Auto V seems to go back to the roots of the third generation, but keep some of the serious tone from the fourth.
One of the many things that I'm concerned about is the execution of having three playable characters throughout the story. It's an undeniably interesting concept, especially for the Grand Theft Auto series, but will it work in its favour? Where the previous games have centred around a single protagonist, we now have multiple characters in which one of them is the antagonist, as mirrored in Heavy Rain. However, given Rockstar Games' undeniably canny ability to produce nothing but gold (albeit sometimes stained), I find myself not worried as much.
Next is not so much a concern, but a question. As seen in the second trailer for the game, dogs seem to be present in this game at last. However, will they be "killable?" Lord knows Rockstar is ballsy, but they're not stupid...at least I hope they're not. As if having MADD and many other Soccer Mom organisations come a-rat-a-tat-tat-ing on Rockstar's door with every complaint, threat, and cease-and-desist crocheted needlepoint possible, PETA will get in on the action and no organisation is more ruthless...or more annoying then they are. Personally, while I would prefer that the dogs (or any other animal) featured in Grand Theft Auto V aren't killable, I can't deny that it would be an interesting concept. However, in lieu of my opinion, I brought to light some basic ideas: if they aren't killable, what would happen if you shot one? Would they bark or yelp and then run away? What if you hit one with your car? Would it serve as the proverbial invisible wall and just damage your car, and the animal runs away unscathed?
Lastly is the game length and variety of secondary missions. Rockstar revealed today that the game will take between 25 to 30 hours to complete. While that's about the same time it took the average gamer to finish Red Dead Redemption and possibly Grand Theft Auto IV on a second playthrough, that's more than average (hell, that's about double the average) amount of time it takes to complete a game today. However, what I keep remembering is that GTA V is returning a lot of concepts and features from the previous games, which add onto not only the replay value, but the general completion time of the entire title. I can't say I'm not impressed.
On a closing note, I'm actually quite thrilled about Grand Theft Auto V, and I will make damn sure to not have a shift at work on the day of release; it will be a must-have launch title. Besides, who doesn't want to drive James Bond's classic 1964 Aston Martin in a Grand Theft Auto game? As a crazy, huge Bond fan, I was 300% sold when I saw it.