It’s very nearly time to start girding your loins and strapping on your seatbelts (optional) for Grand Theft Auto V, the upcoming entry in the series that has become a titan of open-world crime caper simulators, and which takes players back to the city of Los Santos (modeled after Los Angeles) that was first encountered back in 2004 as the setting of GTA: San Andreas.

GTA V will almost certainly be the last game in the series to be produced for the current generation of consoles (no PC release has yet been announced), though the developers have already said that it feels like a next-gen game. The size and scope of it, as well as the system for switching between three playable protagonists, is groundbreaking for the series and GTA V is a huge investment for Rockstar Games.

The Guardian has published a feature on GTA V based around a pretty fascinating interview with Rockstar co-founder and vice president of creativity Dan Houser, who is described as extremely talkative, energetic and – in his own words – “scattergun” in terms of his creative process.

GTA IV was a classic New York tale of an immigrant coming to America in search of a fresh start, a nice apartment and a decent job (not to mention plenty of bowling), only to be disillusioned by the amount of crime and poverty, and Rockstar has done a great deal of research in the interim years to ensure that GTA V will capture the spirit of Los Angeles. Houser, who is originally from London, took the team on research trips to LA for total of about 100 days and tried to learn as much as possible about it in order to recreate the city as Los Santos:

“LA is this embodiment of 20th-century American desires: the houses, the gardens, the tans, all slightly fake. It’s the end of the western world — the suns sets and then it’s tomorrow. But the industry is movies or, equally phoney, real estate. It’s people trying to escape their pasts and reinvent themselves. If GTA IV was a classic New York story, this is the endpoint of the American dream.”

GTA V features three protagonists, whom the player can choose to switch between at almost any time during gameplay. Michael is an ex-criminal attempting to life a quiet family life in retirement, thanks to a sweetheart deal with the FBI (think along the lines of Ray Winstone’s character in Sexy Beast). Trevor is his sleazy, short-tempered former partner who drags him back into the criminal underworld. Franklin is a younger friend of Michael’s who has scaled up from being a street gangster to being a scam artist.

Michael, Franklin and Trevor in 'Grand Theft Auto V'

The game was in development for four years, with a budget of $265 million, features approximately 100 hours of gameplay, and the script is over 1000 pages long. Though GTA IV eventually allowed players to explore Liberty City as different characters in The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned, GTA V is the first game in the series to feature multiple playable protagonists within the same game. Houser said that this approach opened up a lot of opportunities for the writing team:

“Having three protagonists allows us to create nuanced stories, not a set of archetypes. Rather than seeming like you’ve got this super-criminal who can do everything effortlessly, they’re all good and bad at different things.

“We liked the idea of a protagonist retiring with a family, and how awful that would be. We’ve never done anything like that and you don’t really see it in games – to feed into these concepts of parenting and pseudo-parenting.”

Houser also briefly touched on the fact that none of the playable protagonists are female, a factor which some players have found to be a weak point in the GTA series compared to the heavily-customizable options available in Saints Row 4, saying simply that, “The concept of being masculine was so key to this story.” This could mean any number of things, from Michael’s attempt to live as a family man to the characters falling into crime as an effort to prove their masculinity. It might also have been interesting to explore themes of masculinity through the eyes of a female character as well (perhaps having to prove herself in the “man’s world” of the LA crime scene) but maybe the Rockstar writers just want to stick to what they know.

Grand Theft Auto 5 Los Santos

Finally, Houser was asked about the possibility of a GTA movie, which seems like a logical place to go given the current drive towards making successful video game movies and the elements of homage to classic crime thrillers and mafia movies in the GTA series. The developer’s feelings on the matter seemed to be that strapping GTA into a 2-hour Hollywood movie would be far too restrictive:

“We’ve been offered, many times, and it’s never appealed. The money’s never been close to be worth risking one’s crown jewels. Our small dabblings with Hollywood have always left us running back to games. The freedom we have to do what we want creatively is of enormous value. The second you go near Hollywood, people seem willing, or have been forced, to lose a lot of that control. That sort of amorphous ‘that won’t test well’ attitude is exactly how we don’t work. We’ve always tried to think of stuff that’s innovative and new, and to go into a world where that’s not encouraged would be horrible.”

It’s with good reason that GTA V is currently topping pre-order lists; a staggering amount of work has gone into the making of this game, and the end result will be bigger than any of the previous entries in the GTA series. Tell us in the comments if you think the biggest GTA game so far is also going to be the best.

Grand Theft Auto 5 releases on PS3 and Xbox 360 this September 17th.

Source: The Guardian