Grand Theft Auto V will have three protagonists that the player may switch between almost anytime, Rockstar has revealed to Game Informer.

The three characters are all male, and each character has his own personality, motivation, and skillset. The tone of the world changes depending on which character is currently the player’s ‘lens’ into the world – similar to the way it did in the two Episodes From Liberty City, The Lost and the Damned, and The Ballad of Gay Tony.

Michael is a wealthy retired bank robber living in Los Santos’ equivalent of Beverly Hills. He also happens to be in the witness protection programme. He hates his wife, doesn’t understand his kids, and is basically an older guy getting sucked back into crime.

Trevor is a drugged-out psychopath who lives in a trailer out in the desert. He’s also a war veteran with flight experience, and so can fly any plane in the game. Details on third character Franklin are scant at this stage, but it is thought he works in repossession.

GTA V also allows play as both protagonist and antagonist, as the characters exhibit different behaviours, and even have their own unique minigames to partake in.

Each protagonist has a fully fleshed-out story arc, generally involving the American Dream of getting rich and acquiring power.

Some missions will involve two or even all three men, and they may be switched between at critical points. An example: the three men must infiltrate Los Santos CIA stand-in the IAA to extract a target who is being interrogated.

A wealth of new Grand Theft Auto V info drops

Franklin is on an adjacent building with a sniper rifle and Trevor hovers overhead in a chopper as Michael rappels down the side of the building. Once Michael gets to the target and is surrounded, he may shoot his assailants himself, or switch to Franklin and use him to take them out.

While making their escape, the player may use Trevor to pilot the chopper (which is now being pursued by police helos), shoot the other pilots using Franklin’s rifle, or shoot out the back of the chopper using Michael.

The game will also involve several complicated, multi-tiered heists. Their planning as well as execution comprise a big part of the missions.

Outside of the missions there will still be plenty to do, says Rockstar, although dating will not feature this time around as it didn’t fit the nature of the characters, reports Game Informer.

However, each character has a cast of friends to hang out with, including – for the first time in the franchise’s history – family. For example, Michael’s son Jimmy is a whiny, lazy, pot-smoking 20-year-old, and the pair have “this awful, confused father-son relationship,” says Hauser.

Some characters will be familiar, having featured in GTA IV and Episodes from Liberty City, but no-one from the SD era of GTA games will feature.

The city‘s character will be extremely wide-ranging, reports Game Informer. Los Santos is a Los Angeles amalgam, full of contrasting geographies – a desert, rural areas, beachfronts, wine country, the wilderness, a military base, and a Salton Sea region. It’s bigger than Red Dead Redemption, GTA IV, and San Andreas combined.

A wealth of new Grand Theft Auto V info drops

It also more closely resembles a living city, as Rockstar has made people and cars do specific things around the map at specific times during the day. Players can see the gardeners and cleaners waiting at bus stops in east Los Santos in the mornings, then find them tending the gardens and houses in Beverley Hills during the day.

The franchise's system of casual encounters with random pedestrians the player may interact with has been expanded, with these minor characters now fully motion-captured and more talkative. Red Dead Redemption’s dynamic mission system – incidental scenarios the player can choose to ignore or engage in – will also feature. Players may discover two cars surrounded by dead bodies in the desert, hitchhikers, broken-down cars, or muggers, for example.

Speaking of cars, there will be more vehicles than in any previous GTA V game, including BMXs, mountain bikes, road bikes, dirt bikes, trucks, planes, ATVs, jet skis, and helicopters.

Entertainment along the lines of GTA IV’s TV shows will return, says Houser. There will also be a plethora of extracurricular activities to do including yoga, scuba diving, triathlons, jet skiing, base jumping, and a full golf course. The team learned from Red Dead Redemption and GTA IV that it’s better to have one minigame that’s fun rather than five half-assed ones, he said. Players cannot buy real estate, but Rockstar suggests there will be more to do with money in the game.

Most non-mission activity has moved from within phone menus onto the game’s map for ease of access, says Game Informer. The phone itself is a modern smartphone that players may use to surf the Internet.

Finally, all game mechanics have been rebuilt from the ground up. This means cars hold to the ground better, and that driving, melee, and shooting have all been evolved.

GTA V is expected to arrive next year for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A new trailer for the game will be released next Thursday. The full print issue of Game Informer is on shelves today, and it's also available on Mac/PC, iOS, and Android.