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Today, Rockstar released the first trailer for the inevitable juggernaut that will be Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar has been pretty quiet the past few years after the release of GTAIV. They published L.A. Noire, but they didn't develop it - leaving that responsibility to Australia-based Team Bondi. In fact, other than expansions for Red Dead Redemption and GTAIV, Rockstar really hasn't done much of anything the past few years.

But it looks like that is going to change soon.

The trailer was released on Rockstar's official YouTube channel, and can be seen below:

No release date was given with the video, but I can't imagine it hitting shelves any earlier than late 2012.

Grand Theft Auto V - Vinewood sign

Let's take a closer look

Grand Theft Auto V - hiking in the mountains
A couple holding hands hikes up a scenic mountain along with a third person. Could this be the family that the narrator wants to start? I wonder how high up you can climb before hitting an invisible wall...

Gameplay and plot details are also scarce, but we do get a few valuable bits of information from the trailer. First and foremost is location. Unlike GTAIII and GTAIV (which took place in Liberty City), this is the first numbered GTA game that will take place on the west coast in what appears to be a new version of GTA's equivalent of Los Angeles: Los Santos. It's unclear whether this game will include the entire state similar to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. We do get to see large chunks of the countryside, including rolling hills lined with windmills, campers hiking up some Sierra Nevada-like mountains, and a sign pointing to the Los Puerta freeway - all of which suggests that the map will be very large and extend well beyond the extent of the city limits.

But so far there's no sign of San Fierro or Las Venturas being visitable locations in the game.

Hopefully, that map will not be set on a large island like all the other GTA games. The representation of Grand Theft Auto's America as an archipelago always irritated me, and the landlocked map in Red Dead Redemption gives me hope that we'll see a similarly-realistic map in GTA V. Setting the earlier games on islands made sense, since the character in GTA III couldn't swim, fly, or drive boats. So water made a naturally impassable barrier for keeping the player within the game's playing area. But since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City allowed you to drive boats and even fly helicopters, it became completely unecessary to use water as a barrier, since an invisible force field still had to keep the player from sailing too far out of bounds. A flat expanse of never-ending land blocked by an invisible barrier would have worked just as well, and I was very disappointed when they took the archipelago approach in San Andreas and again in Grand Theft Auto IV.

Grand Theft Auto V - Windmills Grand THeft Auto V - Drill baby, drill!

The game's map will apparently extend far beyond the city limits, as these screens indicate. They also show an interesting juxtaposition of the energy economy debate.

I'm also looking forward to getting a better idea of the scale of the game. The Grand Theft Auto games may be famous for their large, open-world environments, but they've never really managed to truly represent the size and scale of a city. Streets are always just one lane going each way (with a few rare exceptions). City blocks are usually only a hundred feet or so. And the city can be driven across in a manner of minutes (like 3 minutes). Traffic has also always been very sparse. No game since The Getaway on the PS2 has ever had believably dense traffic. L.A. Noire had much better scale to it's map than the GTA games. But L.A. Noire only depicted a small fraction of Los Angeles, and it still suffered from the problem of sparse traffic. Considering how frequently "tailing" missions come up in these sorts of games, I'm really looking forward to seeing a game with full-scale streets and properly dense traffic. I doubt GTA V will deliver, but I just want to throw that hope out there.

Grand Theft Auto V - couple walking dog on the beach
Will pets finally appear in a GTA game?

As for the game's narrative, it seems pretty conventional: reformed criminal moves to new city to start a new life. Sounds like it's pretty much the same basic set up as GTA IV, except instead of an eastern European looking for the "American Dream" and a chance to start over, we're going to have a "retired" ex-con (possibly Mexican based on his light accent) looking for the "Hollywood happy ending" and an opportunity to start a family. Nothing terribly creative here. Although the first clip even shows a couple walking on the beach with a dog. So it looks like pets might finally make it into this game. Will children be there too? If so, maybe your character will finally be able to live out the dream that he sets forth on at the start of the game!

Although, personally, I was kind of hoping that the next GTA game would feature a female protagonist. All the GTA games have featured male protagonists and have come off as being somewhat misogynistic. I thought a female character would be a refreshing change of pace, and an opportunity to open up whole new areas of social interaction, character customizeation, and (of course) sexual themes (particuarly humor). Ah well, I guess it'll be back to visiting strip clubs, picking up hookers, misogynistic humor...

Grand Theft Auto V - Immigrant labor and pesticides
These poor immigrant farmers don't seem to enjoy their working conditions. Especially the part of the deal that requires them to be sprayed with pesticides...

The trailer also looks like it is going to deal with some hot-topic issues in today's society. Several clips seem to imply that the game will contain themes lifted directly out of today's political discussions. One clip shows Hispanic immigrant workers in the field (and being sprayed with pestacides LoL). Will building an electrified fence along the border ever come up in the game? Another clip shows a person nailing a "Foreclosure" sign in front of a house. I bet he's not happy with the banks. The juxtoposition of a car driving along a windmill-lined California countryside, with a scene of a "Brute" Oil well casually drilling outside of the city mirrors the political debate regarding renewable energy versus the sustainability of domestic fossil fuel production and consumption. The further juxtoposition of elites playing golf and looking out at the view from their penthouse balconies with scenes of immigrant farm workers, a begger holding up a "Need money" sign, and urban homeless sleeping in tents under an overpass also implies that socio-economic inequality may be a major component in the game's narrative.

Grand Theft Auto V - Playing golf Grand Theft Auto V - A house being foreclosed
Grand Theft Auto V - Need Money Grand Theft Auto V - Inner city poverty

Themes of wealth disparity are all over in this trailer.
TOP LEFT: affluent citizens enjoy a casual golf game. TOP RIGHT: A home being foreclosed on.
BOTTOM LEFT: A less-fortunate citizen holds up a sign asking for monetary hand-outs. BOTTOM RIGHT: The poor living in tents under an overpass.

For the more superficial of you out there, it seems that the graphics have received a major overhaul over Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. The lighting looks smooth and vibrant, texture look detailed, and pedestrian models don't look nearly as flat or plastic as in previous games. And the outdoor environments look fantastic! It's not Alan Wake-good, but it looks at least as good as Red Dead Redemption, and probably much more varied. We also catch a glimpse of some new vehicles including: a jet ski, convertibles (with retractable tops), and even a possibly flyable jet fighter are all shown in the trailer! A blimp can even be seen in several clips, although it's unclear whether it can be piloted by the player.

Grand Theft Auto V - Convertible with retractable roof Grand Theft Auto V - jet ski

LEFT: A convertible with retractable roof. RIGHT: A jet ski.
Both of which look to be new driveable vehicles in this game.

Grand Theft Auto IV is one of my favorite games, and is (in my opinion) Rockstar's masterpiece. I could go on and on about why I loved GTAIV, but I'll refrain for the purposes of brevity (this blog has already gone on too long for just a trailer breakdown). But needless to say, I am very excited.

Grand Theft Auto V

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