Like cops at a bank heist gone wrong, GTA 5 is closing in fast. Set to raid retail shelves on September 17th, Rockstar’s latest effort is giving gamers a whole fortnight’s headstart – to buddy up, sharpen skills and see the sights of Los Santos – before the title’s online elements emerge.
First unveiled back in August of this year, GTA 5‘s multiplayer mode, dubbed Grand Theft Auto Online will utilize the game’s entire 49 square-mile map, allowing up to 16 players to collaborate, kill and crash into one another across 500 varied missions.
Speaking to Game Informer this month, Rockstar North President Leslie Benzies described the expansive feature suite as something the studio has been actively trying to implement since Grand Theft Auto III.
“We’ve always wanted to create a world with the complexity of a single-player Grand Theft Auto game with the addition of real players. We wanted a world where people could spend years without getting bored of playing the same content over and over. I think we’ve managed to achieve something very close to our dream.”
In addition to the mode itself, gamers will also be able to get their hands on an inventive character creation system — one that ditches the painfully unrealistic plastic surgery-style setups of other games (here’s to you Mass Effect), for a more natural, Sims-like approach.
“I’ve always felt character creators in games to be a bit wacky, pulling the ears and noses to change the way they look seems wrong. That’s not how humans are made in the real world. […]in Grand Theft Auto Online [you] choose your mum, dad, and grandparents, then out pops your character.”
Players who end up looking less Prom King and more Swamp Thing can take some comfort in the knowledge that personality options are also being made available here. Gamers can take their pick of excessive partying, couch hugging & even criminal tendencies, though their particular impacts upon gameplay, while easy to assume (i.e. smokers having less stamina, violent types enjoying combat bonuses) remain unconfirmed at this point.
Further tidbits gleaned for the interview include:
- Character progression over narrative progression — players level up, but don’t receive an “overarching narrative”
- Progress is measured in money earned, whether as cash in the bank or as expensive assets, such as cars and housing
- Avatars have no dialogue of their own, though they still appear in quick cutscenes.
- Online mission types include “heists, robberies, assaulting gang hideouts, hijacking armored vehicles, races […], tennis, golf and base jumping”
- Of the game’s 500-plus online missions, some can only be tackled as a multiplayer group
- GTA Online is set in the aftermath of the main game’s conclusion, characters from that story will appear
- Missions are branching. Pleasing one contact can open up more options. For example: working with Lamar grants access to Simeon’s car thief missions
- Gaining favor with certain characters can also lead to in-game assistance i.e. a biker gang tearing up your opponents, security contractors delivering precision airstrikes and a hacker masking your mini-map location
- PSN/ XBL Friends and clan/’crew’ members will be the first to appear in your game world, followed by strangers of a similar skill level
- Gamers can customize the type of players they’d like to play alongside, from chaotic trolls to top sharpshooters
- The game will track your stats and highlight the missions best suited to your preferences (though all missions will remain playable)
- In addition to a personal character rank, crews will also receive an overall figure
- Like CJ in GTA: San Andreas, each multiplayer avatar is a newcomer to Los Santos
- Lifestyles choices alter starting skill sets, though they can all be upgraded
- Shotgun passengers are in control of in-car radio, waypoint markers and the game’s cinematic camera (uh-oh)
- Select/Back button gives easy access to wardrobe & gesture choices — no more heading home, or to the nearest GAP store knockoff to change your gear
- Self-absorbed gamers can now take selfies
- Limited, context sensitive voice commands — yelling into a headset during a robbery will frighten and/or encourage cashiers & hostages
- Crew leaders are responsible for apportioning out loot, including money and reputation points, following each mission
- Friend invites are conducted through the player’s in-game smartphone, and take players right into the action
- Vehicle handling can now be tweaked at garages across the city
- Crew leaders receive an in-depth group chart, in which particular roles such as sniper and lookout can be assigned. Mission particulars including time of day, weather and difficulty can also be edited prior to play
- Players who enjoy performing a certain role will receive priority for that position i.e. a sniper won’t often be asked to handle the getaway vehicle
- Earning enough cash for a “high-end residency” opens up heist options similar to the main game — these missions are multi-faceted and require preparatory tasks, such as buying weaponry, stealing a suitable car etc. These duties can be performed together or divided amongst the crew to save time
- Players can become ‘passive,’ preventing other players from interfering with them (perhaps by making the character temporarily invulnerable/invisible?) Gunfire cancels this mode.
- Cash is kept on your person unless deposited in a bank using ATMs. Transactions will draw from both your petty cash and this bank balance. However, money stolen from your body by other players is permanently lost, though wronged parties can place a bounty to exact revenge
- Every apartment can accommodate at least two cars, with flashier houses holding up to 10
- Customized or expensive cars can now be insured, so that players never lose access to them in th event of an accident. Mechanics can also be hired to fix up the cars at home
- Players can host parties in their homes
- High-speed chases will appear on Rockstar’s custom TV stations, alongside other pre-made content
- Missions will be tweaked regularly like an MMO, to prevent abuses, difficulty spikes and so forth
In other GTA 5 news, Rockstar’s Dan Houser recently revealed that the game will feature over 100 hours of unique content, with more adventures set to arrive in the form of future updates. Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Houser also dismissed concerns over the lack of a female GTA protagonist (female avatars are available online, however), by focusing on the concepts of masculinity at the heart of GTA 5’s storyline. The studio head also reiterated ‘Lazlow’ Jones’ recent comments over the lengths the game’s creators had gone to in order to achieve authenticity, stating:
[We were] “Out and about, all night long with weird people, strange cops showing us around, a lot of first-hand research […]”We spoke to FBI agents that have been undercover, experts in the Mafia, street gangsters who know the slang–we even went to see a proper prison. These poor buggers in the middle of the salt flat desert, miles away. It was eye-openingly depressing.”
All told, Grand Theft Auto 5 looks to be offering up a fantastically enticing package, even at the game’s slightly inflated price tag. Rockstar appears to have crafted an experience that apes the addictive qualities of an MMO, while still retaining the chaotic criminal hijinks the series is known for. Could this be the GTA to end all sandbox rivals – find out when Game Rant reviews the game next week.
Are you excited to play Grand Theft Auto Online? What’s the first thing you’ll do to this So-Cal sandbox? Can GTA 5’s multiplayer attract more attention that Halo, COD & Minecraft Online? Have your say in the comments below and be sure to check out our rundown of GTA V‘s pre-order incentives.
Grand Theft Auto V releases on September 17, 2013 for Xbox 360 & PS3.