Currently in development by series creator Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto V has been pitched as "another radical reinvention of the Grand Theft Auto universe" by Rockstar founder Sam Houser. The first trailer released this week contains a substantial amount of information as to the direction Rockstar is pursuing. Let's take a closer look.

Locations

Heading back to a re-imagined Southern California, Grand Theft Auto V will be set in Los Santos – that much has been confirmed by Rockstar, and is shown clearly in the trailer. Series aficionados will recognise the location from 2004's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; geographically it can be considered analogous to Los Angeles.

The time period appears to be contemporary, from both the vehicle design and NPC clothing. At this stage it is not known if additional locations will be reprised from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, such as San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). Given that Rockstar have stated Grand Theft Auto V represents "...the largest and most ambitious game Rockstar has yet created", it would seem likely that additional locations will make an appearance, either on-disk or as future DLC.

Additional locations identified in the video include:

Rockstar releases another batch of GTA V PC screens
  • The Los Puerta & Del Perro Freeways.
  • Downtown.
  • East Los Santos.
  • Little Seoul.
  • Muscle Sands, Pleasure Pier, Vespucci Beach and Los Santos Bay.
  • Vinewood.
  • Los Santos Golf club.
  • The "Mile High Club" – "Downtown's newest and most exciting complex", currently under construction.
  • "Liquor Ace" bottle store and grocery.
  • A bar entitled "Tequi-La-La".
  • Mount Chiliad.
  • A wind farm, vineyard and oil refinery.

The protagonist

Rockstar releases another batch of GTA V PC screens

The trailer's narrator has moved to Los Santos for a fresh start, and possibly to escape a life of crime. He also has a passing resemblance to Tommy Vercetti from Grand Theft Auto III: Vice City. It remains to be seen if Rockstar will reprise this character given his advanced years, and it's extremely debatable as to whether or not Tommy's voice actor Ray Liotta is actually the narrator in question.

The narrator isn't the only character shown – there's two other men, one driving a convertible, and the other running from a police chopper. It also appears that all three characters team up to rob a jewellery store, hinting that Rockstar may indeed offer different character paths from the outset, rather than convergent story narratives later in the process as was the case with GTA IV's DLC packs.

Trademark Rockstar humour

Rockstar releases another batch of GTA V PC screens

Dark humour, in-jokes and the mockery of Americana hint at another classic Rockstar title. Those spotted in the video include:

  • Bugstars Pest Control: Putting the FU in fumigate.
  • A postal service with the motto: "We aim not to lose it".
  • A jetski branded the "Speedophile 2000"
  • An advertisement for "Pump Buddy Magazine" with the tag "Plenty of issues to work out."
  • A new food brand entitled "Up-n-Atom, Once It Pings Eat Like Kings!"
  • A construction company called "STD Contractors".
  • A brand of soft drink called "E-Cola", with the motto "Deliciously infectious!"
  • A pizza company called "Pizza This".
  • Shipping containers branded "Jetsam".
  • "Obey & Survive" – the motto of the Police.

Vehicles

Rockstar releases another batch of GTA V PC screens

It may only be a minute and a half long, but the video shows a surprising number of cars, trucks and various other means of transport, many returning from previous Grand Theft Auto titles.

The Buffalo, Caddy, Cognoscenti, Emperor, Futo, Landstalker SUV, Habanero SUV, Mesa Grande off-roader, Phantom truck, Phoenix, Pinnacle, Police Maverick, Pony Van, Serrano SUV, Rancher SUV, Rebla SUV, Tornado and Vapid Police car have all been identified, each appearing to have unique license plates.

In addition, the video hints that bicycles, motorbikes, a blimp, jet aircraft, jet skis, a seaplane, a crop duster and even a surf board could be possible alternate methods of transport.

Additional points of interest

The music used in the trailer is by Small Faces, and is called “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake” from the 1968 album of the same name. Many people will be familiar with the britpop band due to their more popular hits "Itchycoo Park" and "Lazy Sunday".

Rockstar releases another batch of GTA V PC screens

The number 2405 appears on a kerbstone outside a house, leading many to speculate that the release date may be the 24th May 2012 or 2013. Rockstar North is a British developer, so this date format is correct from their perspective, although in the United States the number would need to be presented as 0524 to achieve the same effect.

It wouldn't be a Grand Theft Auto title without weapons, however there's little firepower on display in the trailer. About all that can be positively identified is the AK-47 rifle, although as it is fitted with a silencer there may be an element of gun customisation included.

There are hookers milling about outside "Liquor Ace", hinting that Rockstar have no intention to water down this instalment. There's also a quick section where a real estate sign is erected, which could be an indication that property can be purchased, but it's equally (or more) likely to suggest that Grand Theft Auto V is heavily informed by ongoing global financial problems. A "going out of business" billing, and frequent references to homelessness also corroborate this.

Dogs and birds make an appearance, as does a general outdoor theme including hiking, camping, and beachfront activities.

Visuals & final thoughts

It's too early to say whether or not this trailer represents the visual quality of the final product, although it does show great promise. Rockstar may use a modified version of their RAGE engine, as utilised in Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption and Midnight Club Los Angeles, amongst others. They also have considerable geographic data on record for the greater Los Angeles area from previous games, including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Midnight Club Los Angeles and Team Bondi's L.A. Noire. As the game engine and story location will be well understood by Rockstar North, their production time may not be as long as many anticipate.

In any case, Grand Theft Auto V represents a massive undertaking for Rockstar, and will be an extremely significant title for some years to come. If Rockstar can learn from mistakes made with Grand Theft Auto IV, and produce a more rounded experience comparable to San Andreas – regarded by many as the pinnacle of the series thus far – then expect an extremely complex, detailed and wholly compelling game in either 2012 or 2013.