The things that stick out to me about Grand Theft Auto V are not the major things I was supposed to focus on when I saw the game in action at Rockstar HQ this week. But I'll tell you those smaller things first, anyway.
There's a nine-hole golf course in this game. You can play it. You can choose your clubs.
There is also a yoga mini-game in this game.
And ATM robberies you can interfere with.
And cars you can customize.
Sorry if I'm getting distracted from the main points of GTA V, but that's so very GTA, isn't it? The main mission path is well and good, but it's all the stuff that we can do on the side that draws us in. It's the swirl of activities—the casual corner-side chaos we can cause—that makes this series so captivating.
GTA V is the first full-sized new Grand Theft Auto from Rockstar since 2007's Grand Theft Auto IV. It's been in development for several years and it's coming out in less than four months. But we know about as much about the game as we do of a book whose cover we haven't cracked. That's normal. Rockstar keeps most of the surprises and many of the features of their sprawling games secret until gamers can discover them with controller in hand. Until then, as is tradition, Rockstar reveals small portions of their games through trailers and through the occasional one or two-hour-long demo. They usually play the game in front of the press, as they did with me, proving that their game really runs though understandably not yet letting a nosy reporter just hop into the action and drive anywhere.
Rockstar first told the world that Grand Theft Auto was coming back in late 2011. About a year later, they finally showed a little more in a second trailer and in a cover story for Game Informer magazine. In that time they shared two major details about the game: 1) that it's set in Rockstar's version of southern California, 2) that it stars not one playable protagonist, but three.
When I asked them what merits this game getting a number at the end—we're not moving ahead a console generation was we were with GTA III and GTA IV—this three-character thing is what they point to.
On the occasion of releasing a third trailer for the game (three-in-one, actually), Rockstar is showing the game again. This new showing gave me my first chance to see it with my own eyes. On a sunny day earlier this week, I took a short walk from Kotaku's New York City headquarters to Rockstar's in lower Manhattan. Visitor pass around my neck, I sat on a couch in Rockstar's demo room, fixed my eyes on a massive TV and watched some actual Grand Theft Auto V in action. I was flanked by reps from Rockstar, one who mostly chatted with me about the game, the other who played it. The one who played it used a PlayStation 3 controller, though the game's also coming to Xbox 360. There was no fakery. I got up and looked at the PS3 debug kit the game was running on. This was the real thing..
Rockstar's main point, this time around, was to make clear how huge a change the three-character thing is to the series. When I asked them what merits this game getting a number at the end—we're not moving ahead a console generation was we were with GTA III and GTA IV—this three-character thing is what they point to. They say that it fundamentally changes the GTA structure we've known from all the recent games. Coupled with one other major change they told me about, that sounds about right. This isn't three GTA games mashed into one; it's something that is designed to flow like no GTA—frankly, no other game I've ever seen—before it.
The other big change to the series that might merit the number at the end of the title? GTA V is a heist game. It's a three-criminal, third-person, open-world action-adventure that involves about five or six major heists—major acts of thievery that will involve lots of missions to set them up, choices by the player about how to commit the heists and, Rockstar claims, the kind of big moments that previously were saved for the ends of their games.
There's a lot to get to. Let's break this down.
WHAT THEY SHOWED
The Rockstar people didn't show me any of the game's big heists, so I'll get back to that stuff lower in this preview. What they did show me was almost entirely focused on the game's unusual three-character system. They started showing me that by launching the game and loading a scene with Franklin standing in a helicopter. Franklin is the younger black guy seen hanging out in strip clubs in this week's trailer. He lives in Los Santos and is a repo man for an Armenian car dealer. He wants to move up in the criminal world.
As we looked over Franklin's shoulder we were seeing the game from about one virtual kilometer up, the Rockstar rep told me, noting that the landmass of GTA V is 3.5x the size of that of Rockstar's sprawling 2010 western Red Dead Redemption. Five times bigger if you count the new game's underwater areas. (Note: If you read other new GTA V previews, you can play spot-the-similarities, as I'm sure many of the details I'm sharing were shared with other members of the press. Here's another measurement from the cheat sheet of details I got and I bet they got too: the game's bigger than Rockstar's GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption combined. It's large!)
Franklin's helicopter was flying over the rural back-country of Blaine County, the so-called red state region to the blue state city Los Santos (read: GTA version of Los Angeles). It was day time. There's a weather system in the game and a 24-hour day/night cycle, but all I can report is clear blue skies. Good visibility! We were looking down at mountains with scrubs of pine trees on them. The city was on the hazy horizon, the ocean beyond.
Then the guy controlling the game had Franklin jump out of the chopper.
Good thing Franklin was wearing a rainbow parachute.
I wish I had a stopwatch going so that I could tell you how long it took Franklin to drift to the ground. Thirty seconds, maybe? A minute? Parachuting is a thing in this game, the Rockstar reps told me. It hadn't been in GTA IV though was added in the episode/expansion The Ballad of Gay Tony.
Franklin landed on the ground, walked past some people who were fishing by a stream. We spotted an RV and a dune buggy. I'd seen deer on the mountain as we drifted past. And a wildcat.
The Rockstar guy who was playing the game hit a button (or pulled a trigger? I didn't ask) and up popped a circular menu with three headshots in it. One for Franklin, one for mid-life-crisis white guy/sorta-family-man Michael and one for crazy balding white guy lout Trevor. Those are the game's three announced protagonists. The Rockstar guy picked Trevor.
Suddenly it was as if some deity overhead grabbed the game's camera, pulled it to the heavens, up, up, up and then shifted it to the other side of the map, and lowered it down. OK. It was just a glorified loading screen, but it was cool.
Now, we were on a beach. Still day time. Trevor was in his socks and briefs, blood smeared on chest and back, the apparently dead bodies of west coast members of GTA IV motorcycle gang The Lost strewn everywhere.
This week Sony officially revealed the PlayStation 4 at an event in New York. Within seconds of that event concluding, fanboys across the Internet took to their favorite message board and began to spin the announcement to best suit their console of choice. Over the last few days, a few big myths have popped up about the PS4, so here are five of the biggestthat just arent true:
Despite what some Nintendo or Microsoft fanboy may have told you, there has been no price announced yet for the PlayStation 4. Pricing likely wont be officially announced until E3, as that show is meant for retail buyers to put in their holiday 2013 orders and thats where the companies court the big guns like GameStop and Best Buy. While Amazon did put up a placeholder price of $1,000 (which theyve removed); youre an idiot if you believe that. That price is just to deter people from pre-ordering until Amazon gets an official allocation number from Sony around E3 time. Expect the system to come in two models, with the higher end one running between $399 and $449. Sony wont make the $599″ mistake again, and the only reason the PS3 went for that price at launch was due to the cost of a BluRay drive back then. The PS4 does not have that problem, and the system is using pretty affordable AMD hardware (as the next Xbox will as well).
Games Werent Running on the System at the PlayStation Meeting
The games demonstrated at the PlayStation Meeting on-stage, such as Killzone and Knack, were absolutely running on early PS4 hardware. The Killzone demo was being played on stage in realtime with a Dual Shock 4, and Sony even took the same demo and played through it differently on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this week. Knack was also used to demonstrate the PS4-to-Vita remote play with Mark Cerny playing the game on the Vita being streamed from the PS4 hardware.
The Xbox Will be More Powerful
Prior to Wednesday, everything we knew about the PS4 (codename: Orbis) and the new Xbox (codename: Durango) came from hardware leaks. The PlayStation Meeting confirmed all of the hardware leaks about the PS4, which leads some people to believe the leaks about Durango are true as well. If they are, the PS4 has one really huge advantage in its 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. The Xbox is rumored to have 8GB of RAM as well, but its DDR3. That puts the Xbox into a big bandwidth bottleneck in comparison to the PS4, as DDR3 is only able to process about a third of the data as GDDR5. In order for Microsoft to update the RAM to GDDR5 prior to their announcement in April, it would require a big revision to the current development kits (most likely a completely new system board) in order to accommodate the faster RAM. In terms of CPU and GPU, the Xbox is also expected to ship with the exact same x86-based AMD Jaguar CPU, and a nearly identical GPU as the PS4.
No Start and Select Buttons on the Dual Shock 4
The Dual Shock 4 has two new buttons, Share and Options, in the place of the traditional Start and Select. The controller technically still does have Start and Select, theyre just accessed through the Options button now. And as most games would usually only use one of those two buttons, losing them isnt as big a deal as Nintendo and Microsoft fanboys are trying to make it out to be.
No Used Games
This is a myth that still made end up being true, from a certain point of view. Both next gen consoles are rumored to take measures to prevent or curb the play of used games on the console. At the PS Meeting this week, Sony Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida said that he expects used games to play on the system, but when Engadget (and other sites) pressed him on the matter he said, We have to really name our system services to explain more about it. That is leading many people to believe that the PS4 will use some kind of system-wide Online Pass that many companies use today to charge people extra when they try to play a used game on the system. The Xbox is also rumored to be using a similar method to curb used games.