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"Grand Theft Auto V": An inside look

Going behind the game's $265 million budget

September 16, 2013|By Ryan Smith | For RedEye

Crime doesn’t pay, as the old adage goes, but the opposite is true in the video game world. Developer Rockstar Games has sold more than 125 million copies of its bullet-ridden “Grand Theft Auto” titles over the last decade and a half, and some experts are predicting that the fifth entry—which releases Tuesday for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360—could shoot its way to the highest grossing game of all time. Already “GTA V” has broken records for its massive cost—with a reported $265 million price tag.

Where is that NASA-sized budget going and what’s all the fuss about, you ask? Here’s a peek behind the “GTA V” curtain:

SIZE MATTERS

An entirely new spin on the idea of losing yourself in a video game, the sprawling megalopolis of Los Santos (a not-so-cleverly-disguised L.A.) in “GTA V” reportedly eclipses the entire playable area of three of its previous games combined. If you were to scale it to real life, the world is roughly as big as the city of San Francisco or the borough of Manhattan. Beyond the usual skyscrapers and urban cityscape, players can drive their stolen vehicles through vast suburban sprawl, farmland, mountains—all the way to the ocean. What’s left, outer space?

THREE (ANTI) HEROES

Previous games asked players to inhabit a single aspiring crime lord, but “GTA V” boasts a trio of playable gangbangers. There’s Michael, a retired bank robber living on the down low in a witness protection program. Franklin, meanwhile, works as a repo man for an Armenian luxury car dealership that runs scams on ambitious yuppies with new money. Finally, there’s Trevor, a career criminal and extremely volatile individual that Rockstar calls its “most psychopathic criminal” ever. Yikes. Instead of walling off the characters into separate chapters of the story, players will be able to switch between them on the fly. Each has unique skills, meaning you will need to shift between characters during certain missions to succeed. Rockstar compares the format to a multithreaded ensemble TV series that like HBO’s “The Wire.”

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES

If it has a steering wheel, handlebars or a control stick, it looks like you’ll be able to take control of it in “GTA V.” Rockstar has been mum about an official list of vehicles, but a strategy guide leaked online revealed that you’ll be able to hijack sports cars, vintage cruisers, taxis, police units, buses, dirt bikes, fighter jets and, yes, even a submarine. Is it too late to change the name to “Grand Theft Sub?”

WELCOME DISTRACTIONS

All of the criminal activity can get exhausting, which is why in “GTA IV,” protagonist Niko Bellic could play pool, go bowling, watch a comedy or strip show and even go on dates between heists. “GTA V” features even more distractions, most notably the ability to buy property and run your own medical marijuana shop (called—get this—Smoke on the Water). If you don’t want to mess with managing brick-and-mortar shops, you can play at Gordon Gekko and enter a volatile stock market wracked with corruption and insider trading. Other activities include base jumping, tennis, golf, triathlons and hunting.

BUT IS IT ANY GOOD?

Probably. Rockstar has been stingy with review copies—probably assuming most people will ignore reviews and buy the thing anyway. From what we do know, however, “GTA V” looks a lot like “The Sims” combined with the narrative of a premium cable drama. The most criminal thing about it will likely be the kidnapping of gamers' free time.

RYAN SMITH IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR. 

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