A rich ex-con now dissatisfied with his cosseted life; a kid from South Central looking to escape his gang-infested neighbourhood; a maniac drug dealer with abandonment issues... Rockstar has released trailers on all three lead characters from the forthcoming Grand Theft Auto 5, and it looks as though they're going to take us on a bizarre, explosive and deliciously seedy ride come September. GTAV is set in the sun-drenched urban sprawl of Los Santos – a cruel, knowing pastiche of LA. Players control all three lead characters, swapping between their disfunctional lives at will. As usual, there's a huge open world to explore, but the action is structured around a series of narrative missions, this time taking in eight major heists. And the personal lives of the game's central trio will provide much of the context.
So let's take a look at each one in turn:
Michael is the retired career criminal, now living in a huge mansion in the exclusive Rockford Hills area of Los Santos. But as the trailer shows, he's bored of his new life, fed up of his combative family and yearning for the excitement of his old existence. There is, of course, a nod to The Sopranos, with much of the voice over coming from a chat between Michael and his shrink. But we also see Michael fighting with his flabby playboy son, Jimmy – and it looks like the tension between these two will be a key component. We get glimpses, too, of at least two missions; the raid on the government agency I was shown previously, and the robbery of a security truck. There's also a dramatic car chase on a runway while a jumbo jet takes off, which shows the extent of Rockstar's cinematic ambitions. Oh and there's Radio Gaga!
To the strains of Jay Rock's Hood Gone, we meet the youngest member of the trio in a conventional set-up: the black kid trapped by gangland violence in a dead-end part of town. This is clearly the Los Santos take on LA's South Central and the action is all police chases, helicopters and strip bars. Franklin's 'escape route' is a job working repo for a bunch of Eastern Europeans dealing luxury cars – which is, we suspect, what brings him into the clutches of Trevor and Michael; and the latter, it seems, will see his young charge as a surrogate son. But this video is very much an 'origins' teaser and does little but channel John Singleton and Hughes Brothers references at us.
You can tell the team at Rockstar North had an absolute ball coming up with this character. Trevor is like a demonic cross between Randy Quaid in National Lampoon's Vacation, Joe Pesci in Goodfellas and the A-team's Howling Mad Murdoch. A drug dealing red neck to his core, he's also ex-military and a capable pilot – hence the scene with him kicking someone else out of his helicopter. But mostly we see him here pretty much punching his way through Sandy Shores, the outlying trailer park he frequents with a cast of misfits and meth addicts. There are stunts, explosions, dick jokes, more explosions... We're getting the feeling his story will be the comic relief in this triforce of madness.
So yes, not a lot of fresh detail about the game, which is hitting 360 on 17 September, but lots of scintillating clues about the scope and sensibilities of the narrative. Clearly, we're getting a departure from the darker more urgent tone of Grand Theft Auto IV, toward an atmosphere guided by GTA III and its two immediate successors. I'd still have been fascinated to see a woman in the series' first multi-character line-up, but clearly these three contrast enough to be interesting.
Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and make sure you're back here on Thursday afternoon – we have a preview lined up that will shed much more light on Rockstar's intentions...