Fans of the Grand Theft Auto series have, at this point, largely come to know what to expect from the development team at Rockstar Games. A little graphic, a little gripping, more than a little crass, but always extremely polished. Much the same was expected from Grand Theft Auto 5 long before it was even announced, but the evidence and rhetoric that’s been used to describe the game and drum up excitement seems to be implying more of a change than many might have predicted.

The developers may not have unveiled the game at Gamescom like we’d hoped, but the time since has offered a few juicy tidbits. The newest screenshots highlight rural dirtbiking, parachuting through a forested canyon, and a taste of Los Santos’ finer things. We’d like to assume some of the activities look a bit more exciting than others, but who are we to judge?

Obviously the team behind Grand Theft Auto 5 will be striving to outdo the last installment, both in terms of mechanics and the larger game world itself. Rockstar has explained their preference to keep quiet on details until the launch is a bit closer, but the writing on the wall is slowly becoming clearer, and much more promising. With massively improved graphics visible in all assets released so far – not to mention fighter jets! – and some claims that Los Santos and the surrounding environments will be four times larger than Liberty City, fans may have the most complex and realized open world in the series yet to look forward to.

If the screenshots offer any insight into possible game design and aren’t just nice to look at, they most likely imply just how much of the fictionalized California setting will be utilized to round out the urban crime and carnage. The GTA V announcement trailer showed just how much the city environments will shine when the game is released, despite it being unavoidably throttled by current consoles as compared to the PC. But if the standard game world offers players the chance to truly escape to the countryside and mountains to engage in extreme sports, as opposed to isolated missions or set-pieces, that’s a completely different story.

The chance to immerse players into the shoes of the still-mysterious main character would be heightened by such a commitment to realism…whether that’s a good thing in a game no doubt filled with explosions and mass mayhem is a debate for another time. It goes without saying that the undertaking would eclipse most of Rockstar’s development work to date, offering a possible explanation for the lack of any urgency or marketing just yet.

Fans could have a lengthy wait ahead of them, but it might be worth it in the end. Grand Theft Auto 5 is expected to have a mid-2013 release for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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Source: Rockstar Games