Liberty City stories

Liberty City stories

The new GTA

The job of a good trailer: answer only what is necessary, and answer it well. The GTAV trailer just about does it, though it took an additional press release to cement the pitch. “[The game] heads to the city of Los Santos and surrounding hills, countryside and beaches,” it clarifies. In the interim was the gobsmacking notion that Rockstar could actually deliver the interstate majesty of San Andreas with the street-level minutiae of GTAIV. If it doesn’t, perhaps it’s for the best. And besides, expectations are different now, switched from macro to micro.

It’s in this realm, where the lowering of a convertible’s hardtop can be met by stunningly animated indifference from a Venice Beach princess, that GTA really pushes the envelope. Draw distance is so last-gen. Even the farewell shot of the GTAV trailer – a view of downtown LA from the vantage point of a sleek private jet – is more about lighting and particles. The interaction of sun and smog, in fact, is the star of every scene. The best day/night cycle in gaming has, we assume, only improved since Red Dead Redemption.

Like the Koyaanisqatsi-themed teaser for IV, this one opens with a voiceover; it does not, however, end with a reveal. Instead we’re left to speculate – wildly, of course, across the entire Internet – that the game will feature multiple protagonists. Is that really CJ being chased by the cops? Claude backpacking up a mountain? Tommy Vercetti in the over-the-shoulder close-up? The speculation machine is in overdrive, putting two and two together to equal five, 55, or whatever sounds good in the moment. It can’t be Tommy, they say, because Ray Liotta’s not involved – as if the two are somehow inseparable.

GTAV is, naturally, the biggest production Rockstar has ever undertaken. In the air, the game features both commercial and military jet aircraft, alongside the odd blimp or two

Another rule of the teaser trailer: the payoff has to at least hold up to the best of the valid theories. If this story about “pursuit of the almighty dollar” isn’t some franchise-spanning where-are-they-now type affair, then it’s going to need one amazing ensemble cast. If the map is essentially LA, then nothing but a tour of every Panavision money-shot Michael Mann ever did will do. Show jets and we must fly them; V-neck sweaters and we must buy them. And if there are wind turbines over them thar Vinewood Hills, then we must fly between them in our V-neck sweaters, preferably without crashing into invisible walls.

Can it be trusted? Yes. GTAIV delivered everything shown in every one of its trailers, and there’s a deliberate candour to GTAV’s. Released at a console friendly 720p and plagued with saw-tooth jagged edges, its contents are realtime current-gen, warts and all. A PC version is inevitable, if not on day one. FXAA has made aliasing on the platform almost extinct. Why, then, if not to send a message, would Rockstar choose second best? Simple. When you’ve pulled off the impossible, bettering the world of GTAIV in what appears to be every respect, only through imperfection will your audience ever believe it.

“Grand Theft Auto V is another radical reinvention of the Grand Theft Auto universe,” Rockstar president Sam Houser declares in that press release. More than just burgers and car customisation, surely, and more than this trailer’s chosen to give away. Timelines? Heroes? Other plurals? From the company that gave us Table Tennis, who could possibly say?