We've got a week to go before what will likely be one of the biggest games of the year, and likely this console generation, drops. Grand Theft Auto V is going to be a massive hit, and likely a great game. In fact, I suspect it'll be the best entry in the franchise. Here's why.
Look, Grand Theft Auto IV was a lot of things, most of them good! But the controls were a bit clunky and hard to use, sticking with the grand tradition of the franchise. This was a game where you have to struggle to beat someone up. Since then, Rockstar has put out two flagship games; Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3. And both have obviously had a profound effect on the franchise, if Grand Theft Auto V's video are anything to go by.
Max Payne 3 in particular stands out. There wasn't much to it, as a game, but it had a top notch combat system that was essentially the game in a nutshell. One can't help but feel Payne was a dry run for the next Grand Theft Auto, and that's a good thing.
In addition, the game seems to be a lot deeper and more complex than previous entries. That you're able to choose how to run heists, and switch between perspectives during a mission, is something you rarely see in games, period. True, moral choices were a part of GTA IV, but it seems that this system has been made a lot more complex.
One addition to the series that hasn't been talked up enough is the fact that you've got eight skills that you can improve by completing side missions and playing mini-games. One of the biggest problems I had with GTAIV was the fact that the side missions didn't really achieve anything other than getting your cousin to annoy you. Here they'll help you get the skills you need to keep playing the game; that makes playing virtual golf almost worth it.
Beyond that, this game actually has a virtual stock market and other subtle gameplay touches. It's probably going to be the most immersive GTA yet.
Nico's story was engaging and well-written, but also pretty dour and grim. It was a story that wanted to be taken seriously, so running around dressed like an idiot blowing things up was left to the Saints Row franchise. Here, it seems that screwing around is not only back, but doing ridiculous things in the game world is actually encouraged.
This seems especially true of the multiplayer; Rockstar has noted that your crew can invest in a company, and then go around destroying competitors, for example. Or you can orchestrate an over-the-top heist. Or just run around shooting each other; the choice is apparently ours.
Speaking of humor, I can't wait to see what they do with Trevor. Rockstar has more or less admitted that Trevor is what they view most players as being, within the game: Amoral, idiotic, profane, and prone to doing stupid things mostly to see if he can actually pull them off. What little we've seen of the guy indicates that he's simultaneously the worst person in any room and the comic relief. Rockstar is often funniest when it's biting the hand that feeds, so what happens with Trevor should be... interesting.
And if nothing else, it may have the single best soundtrack of the entire franchise. Every track has been smartly, and carefully, chosen in the press materials, and recent leaks show that the trend continues. It's a minor thing for the games, but there's something to be said for having the right song at the right time, and one suspects this game will feature that a lot.