If hype is what you wanted from a video game launch, then Grand Theft Auto V(GTA V) is your best bet. Grand Theft Auto V is set to buckle the trends set out by the latest in ‘box set’ crime dramas such as Breaking Bad. Rockstar’s future for entertainment places gaming and reality right at the heart. As the popularity of services such as Netflix grows, some have predicted the fall in gaming and especially the fall in violent, action games such as Grand Theft Auto. They are completely wrong.
Understanding that many have been waiting five years for this sequel in the GTA series, it would be silly to say that Rockstar hasn’t put any effort into making it the best GTA yet. GTA V is a majestic triumph of game development and technical detail – to a degree thats what sets these games apart. But this time round, everything is a lot bigger. GTA V is set in the fictional city of Los Santos, a play on words from Los Angeles, taking the template set out by the previous games – GTA V is bigger, busier and better. Los Santos is bigger than all the maps of the previous games combined; something that Rockstar wanted to make clear. Its brash, edgy, sadistic and nihilistic values are all still correct and present. Not much has changed here. But for every gruesome slaughter on screen, there is in fact a vast degree of technical accuracy and technical engineering.
The city of Los Santos itself is a parody of Los Angeles, this description follows through the entire game – a parody of a scary and realistic future where criminals rule. Given the amount of time and money spent on this mega blockbuster of a game, the fact that it is so realistic is not surprising. GTA V is the most expensive game ever to be assembled – £170 million spent on developing the UK’s greatest video game. Rockstar’s highly detailed, extensive and action packed copy of Los Angeles is exceptionally thrilling. It feels like a city that you would live in, not virtually enjoy.
Unlike previous games the world is free to roam upon starting. Normally the player will be tasked with missions to unlock districts and progress through the storyline. The environment is highly realistic and interaction with members of the public is, as usual, volatile at times. Exploring the mountainous terrains, vast cities and then bustling industrial districts – GTA V is one of Rockstar’s most diverse games. Trucks cause jams, deer cause accidents and the odd stray dog might just give you a health scare. When players first start we meet a character called Michael, an ex criminal, he quickly gets drawn back into the world of crime. In contrast to other games, Michael is not the only playable character in the game and as you follow him through his story of crime and low level thuggary – you also meet Franklin and later Trevor; maybe one of the most violent characters yet within GTA.
GTA V has a sense of freedom that no other game has got, its vast, extensive map holds more secrets than any other role playing/open world game. The game is expected to attract over £1bn in revenue for Rockstar and will be the best selling game of 2013. The franchise has sold over 135 million copies since its debut in 1997 – something unrivalled.
GTA’s developers, Rockstar, are based in New York, but their origins are a little bit further from the bustle of Los Angeles as you might have thought from playing the game. Despite its remarkable accuracy and striking resemblance to the famous city – Rockstar is in fact based in Scotland, UK. The first game was developed her in the UK in 1997 and later sold millions of copies worldwide. Now a subsidy of Take-Two Interactive, the firm hasn’t ended up like most developers when being bought by a massive multi national American company. Rockstar is still very much a ‘British’ company and the fact that were an ever growing multi-national market means that the more GTA that Rockstar makes, the better out exports and global position stands in the world. As it stands GTA V is expected to make £500 million in the first couple of days. It is undeniable that Britain has made and marketed one of the most phenomenal entertainment series ever made. It is one of the first video games that has been compared to or even surpassed the experience of a Hollywood blockbuster, who’s budget would still be considerably less than GTA V’s. DMA Design, the previous name of Rockstar, has now become one of the worlds most famous developing icons. Britain is famous worldwide for its artists, writers, dramatists and national identity. But these aren’t modern Britain. These aren’t an accurate portrayal of what life might be like in a city or suburb today. Of course Grand Theft Auto is also not an accurate representation of every citizen in the UK or around the world. But it goes further than Shakespeare or Charles Dickens might have been able to in describing some of the conditions we live in today. They aren’t far apart, Shakespeare’s works included acts of murder, adultery and hate; equally so do Grand Theft Auto, they are common issues, translated through a popular media. Grand Theft Auto is now one of Britain’s greatest exports and most diverse cultural movement of the digital revolution.
Upon its first launch in 1997 GTA faced harsh criticism and debate about whether the title should be banned. Its fierce, controversial and sometimes discriminative outlook on women, crime and violence has meant that it has been one of the most debated games ever.
As the industry matures and GTA itself develops, it will have to learn to take on board this criticism that some gamers provide. Where some issues lay, is when gamers can not differentiate between a game and real world. The fact is, this game hasn’t even been out 24 hours and reviewers have already slated the title for sexist representations and derogatory descriptions. But that is the nature of the beast, the mere fact people have pointed this out means that the issue is still a major problem – but it isn’t one that is fixable by banning a title. When so many people, put so much of their identity into a brand, merely pointing out a flaw ends up causing some form of an argument. Many factors affect those who end up committing crimes and are prejudiced, video games to not end up being the final cause. Those who argue that the violence of todays generation stem from video games, need to look beyond the joystick. Look back to the Vietnam War, the first televised battle – it shocked a nation and those scenes of children burnt, running from a village are indescribable. The later media bombardment of war, death, crime and misery has slowly desensitised us to such acts of travesty; the evolution and adoption of all technology as its main cause, not video games. The path to desensitisation is already a path we’ve taken and there looks to be no way back – even today we are still told of horrific events in Afghanistan and the Far East. As a race we have become desensitised to horrific stories and accounts of crime, these video games merely visualise the current society we live in; in some cases a society we might not want to live in. So as millions of gamers buy into the next title of the highly successful series, we just hope that many gamers differentiate between the virtual world and the ‘real’ world.