The lights are on
Rockstar gives us a new look at the
expansive territory gamers can explore in the latest GTA game.
Reading numbers on paper is one thing.
However, seeing is believing when it comes to getting your head
around just how large the Los Santos territory is in Grand Theft Auto
V. When we visited Rockstar headquarters in New York City for the
cover reveal, the team rattled off several impressive facts about the scale. The
total playable area (including the underwater areas) is five times
bigger than the frontier in Red Dead Redemption. Taken as a whole,
this square footage is bigger than GTA San Andreas, GTA IV, and Red
Dead Redemption combined. As impressive as these stats are, the expansiveness doesn't really sink in until you see Franklin hanging out of a
plane at 13,000 feet.
The sense of scale is breathtaking.
Looking out to the left as Franklin jumps from the plane, I can see
clear to the Alamos Sea (the GTA version of the Salton Sea). Far in
the distance to the right is downtown Los Santos, with skyscrapers
reaching high into the sky despite the considerable distance from the
jump location. In between lies a vast mountain range filled with
trees, animals, and a wealth of dynamic activities. As Franklin
descends over a ridge and guides himself toward a stream, I notice
deer and wildcats roaming the mountain range and a park ranger
cruising the winding cliffside roads.
Franklin successfully navigates himself
to the side of the road, where two men are fishing the stream next to
their Winnebago. Though the wilderness is vast, Rockstar promises
several things to do in these open expanses. Vehicles like ATVs are
parked at the side of the road just waiting for someone to hop on.
Depending on which of the three characters you are controlling, the
location, and the time of day, you may experience dynamic events like
hitchhikers, broken-down cars, and ATM robberies. You can also kill
time by hunting in these territories (sorry, no fishing).
The Bender And The Wet Suit
At this point in the demo we jump to
Trevor, the most unpredictable of the three playable characters. The
camera pulls away from Franklin high into the sky like a satellite
before triangulating on Trevor's position and descending back to
Earth. He's passed out on a beach with a bottle of liquor in his
hand wearing nothing but his underwear, socks, and a pair of shoes.
Bloody scratches, bruises, and scars pock his body, which Rockstar
says are dynamically generated. The beachfront around him is littered
with the bodies of the west-coast chapter of The Lost, the biker gang
that first appeared in The Lost & Damned DLC for Grand Theft Auto
IV. These rough-looking characters have patches of dried blood on
their jeans and cuts, but I couldn't tell if they were just passed
out from a bender or ended up on the losing end of a skirmish with
Trevor, with whom they frequently clash.
Once Trevor drunkenly struggles to his
feet he leaves the bikers behind and hops into a Dinghy (a boat that has appeared in several previous GTA games). Cruising
out into the body of water, I notice the vastly improved wave
technology, which looks more like the technology driving the open
waters of Assassin's Creed III than previous GTA games. The boat
rocks forward and backward naturally as the waves roll by.
Some boats in Los Santos include scuba
equipment, which Trevor grabs to head underwater. Plunging into the
ocean depth reveals another world players can lose themselves in.
With schools of fish, waving seaweed, and a diverse ocean-floor
terrain, it's teeming with just as much life as the mountainside.
Trevor heads toward a giant shipwreck, which has attracted the
attention of other divers as well. Rockstar wouldn't give
specifics, but promises you can find several types of useful items in
As he moves around the hull of the ship
he encounters the last thing a diver wants to see - a great white
shark. Trevor audibly gasps in fear as it approaches, but Rockstar
says as long as you don't make sudden movements or swim too near
the sharks they may disregard you. Trevor quickens his pace toward
the surface to escape the sticky situation.
Heart Attack And Vine
With our brief glimpse of the ocean
life coming to an end, the playtester jumps from Trevor to Michael,
who is walking out of an office building in Vinewood. Since he can't
stand his family, the career criminal spends the majority of his
downtime drinking whiskey, watching Vinewood action movies, and
visiting his therapist.
As he turns the corner he runs into a
fading actress named Pamela Drake, who says to anyone who will listen
that back in the day a big-time Vinewood mogul wrote the film A
*** In Paris specifically her for. Like the street preacher in
GTA IV, Drake is one of a series of recurring pedestrians that offers
chatter. Depending on whether you approach her with Trevor, Franklin,
or Michael, she will react differently.
San Andreas fans look back fondly at the gang wars between the Ballas, Grove Street Families, and Vagos. Though modern day Los Santos is very different from the golden era of street gangs featured in that game, Rockstar has confirmed that the Ballas are still going strong.
When you ride into gang territory, they don't automatically attack you like they used to. The thugs mind their own business unless you antagonize them by drawing a weapon. Their extreme distaste for authority, however, is much more apparent. Whenever the police roll into their neighborhood, the Ballas will open fire on the boys in blue. This can be used to your advantage when you're trying to lose the heat in a chase. Drive into gang territory and they will immediately attack the police, giving you a window to escape.
Michael continues down the street and I
get a glimpse of the street life in the more populated sections of
Los Santos. Much like in the Elder Scrolls games, the pedestrians in
GTA V don't stay in one spot all day, preferring to move around
from activity to activity. The AI is also much more responsive to
your actions. In this instance, Michael walks past two celebrity
lookalikes. The first is a stand-in for one of the Republican Space Rangers (which returns with
new episodes in GTA V). The other is dressed as Impotent Rage, a
new liberal superhero with a hit TV show. When Michael pulls out his
smartphone to take a picture of the Space Ranger, the actor strikes a pose for
him. Whenever you take a picture in Los Santos, you can share it with
friends via the Rockstar Social Club. Nearby, another man is offering
a tour of celebrity homes. If you jump on board, he will tell you
the sleazy backstories of the stars featured on the tour.
Passing a tattoo parlor (which you can
enter if you wish), Michael notices a woman hiding behind a bus in a
nearby alley. The woman is Lacy Jonas, a celebrity who calls herself the
voice of a generation., This isn just one of the several dynamic missions that may pop up on your map when walking through a neighborhood. Why is she in the alley? Paparazzi have staked
out her car (which is hilariously called a Benefactor Surano). Michael nonchalantly
walks up to the vehicle, smarts off to the cameramen, and peels away to pick up Lacy.
The paparazzi don't give up that
easily. As Michael takes off in the sportscar, they give chase in a
van. Lacy angrily voices her reservations about being photographed right now because she feels fat (she's not). When Michael asks what she
did to generate so much attention, she replies, "I'm really
famous. I didn't do anything!" Michael eventually shakes their
pursuers and heads up to the safety of Vinewood hills.
Though our glimpses into the lives of
Franklin, Trevor, and Michael were brief, they effectively
communicate just how diverse the experiences will be depending on
which corner of the open world you're in. The wildnerness both above and below water give players ample reasons to explore, and the heart of Los Santos feels just as vibrant and teeming with life as Liberty City did in GTA IV.
To learn more new details about GTA V, check out our other feature that went up today on the new heist system. If you haven't
already, we also suggest you watch the brand new trailers and dive into
our extensive coverage we released during our cover story last
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
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