Rockstar has announced through the newest issue of Game Informer that Grand Theft Auto V will feature three protagonists. The names of the three characters are Michael (right), Trevor (left) and Franklin (centre).

This is the first time a main instalment in the series’ 15 year history will have more than one character playable, though technically the argument could be made that Grand Theft Auto IV had three protagonists thanks to the inclusion of Niko Bellic in the main game, followed by the addition of Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez in its DLC: The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony.

Players are able to swap as each character on the fly at any time during the game by pausing the game and then zooming in on the map in a similar vein to Google Earth and swap into that character. One example given was how players could swap from Michael in the Beverly Hills-inspired area of Los Santos to Trevor, who’s based in the desert.

In his mid-40s, Michael is in the Witness Protection Program as a retired criminal after setting up a deal with the FIB, the GTA’s version of the FBI. He’s married to Amanda, who can be pretty much described as a gold-digger of sorts. He also hates her. Needless to say, the feeling is very much mutual.

He also has two children in Tracy and Jimmy. Going by the piece, Tracy is introduced playing a Just Dance-like game. Jimmy, meanwhile, is a 20-something who had a bit of a tendency with pot and has an “awful and confused father-son relationship,” according to Rockstar creative boss Dan Houser.

Trevor is in his early 40s. Having previously been a military pilot – which leads to the game giving you air vehicles like planes and helicopters almost immediately off the bat rather than later down the line like in past games – he’s now a career criminal and used to do heists back in the day with Michael. He’s also said to have a drug dependancy and is described as a loose cannon.

And in his mid 20s, Franklin is a car salesman who attempts to sell cars to people who can’t really afford them. He comes across Michael during the game in need of a hustler.

The mission seen by GI was a heist mission featuring all three characters. In it, a helicopter is commandeered before the group attempts to scale down a building. Players can repel down the building in a repelling mechanic that is similar to that of Rainbow Six: Vegas.

Once a chase is commenced during the mission, players can choose to pilot the copter as Trevor, provide sniper support as Franklin or be cover support as Michael.

Speaking with Game Informer, Houser said the nature of the three characters and the game’s story would bring out the best that Rockstar has seen to date.

“We’re all starting to feel that it’s our strongest plotted game because characters are so intertwined,” he said.

“I think making that work has certainly been challenging given our inexperience and lack of skill, but we’ve done our best to come up with something we think is giving this much more densely plotted experience that we couldn’t have pulled off when you always need the lead character in every moment.”

Returning to Los Santos

Last year’s announcement of GTA V saw Rockstar announce the game would take place in Los Santos and its resounding areas and countryside rather than a full blown San Andreas like in 2004. Speaking with GI, Dan Houser said Rockstar was keen on making an LA-inspired setting.

“Sam [Houser, co-founder and president, Rockstar Games], my brother, more than anyone, but also the lead artist Aaron Garbut were both really interested in the idea of doing a proper Los Angeles,” he said.

For his part, Garbut said it wanted to focus on the more contemporary aspect of the modern Los Angeles for GTA V’s telling of Los Santos than the 90s-influenced gang culture of San Andreas, saying it was inspired by the real thing rather than going back to previous iterations.

“We wanted the world to feel fresh,” said Garbut, “so, like Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto IV, our reference wasn’t the city from the earlier games. Instead, we went back to the real place, the real locations.”

That said, there are relics from the old days. Just for sentimental sake.

“Some elements found their way back in, but more through nods to the past than trying to recreate the original.”

Game Informer said in its feature that the world of GTA V is the largest in series history, even saying it’s bigger than that of GTA IV’s, San Andreas and Red Dead Redemption combined with room to spare.

Other tidbits

Here’s some more bits in a bullet point list. No multiplayer stuff was mentioned besides that Rockstar was “very pleased with the direction it’s heading.”

  • Most downtime activities will be available to all three characters, but some will be exclusively available to others due to the trio’s individual unique abilities.
  • Despite the return to San Andreas and Los Santos, don’t expect a return of the RPG system from 2004. So no getting fat and stuff, though you can customise clothing for each character.
  • The TV system from GTA IV returns, but no specific word on the content for it.
  • The romance system from IV is outta here, though (Dan Houser: “We definitely would bring it back in the future, but not in this game. It just felt like it was going to be overly complex”).
  • Outdoor activities include yoga, jet skiing, base jumping, tennis, golf and – wait for it – triathlons.
  • Characters from the Grand Theft Auto IV arc (GTA IV, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony) will make an appearance, but Niko nor characters from the PS2 era of GTA games won’t be in it.
  • The economy of GTA V will be “very vibrant and fun,” according to Dan Houser. “There won’t be property but there will be loads of other stuff.”
  • The phone returns, but it’ll be “more contemporary” than it was in IV.
  • NPC appearances have now been fully mo-capped. One example is a Jesus-looking preacher in white robes whilst speaking to the crowd that’s gathered around him.
  • The game will contain the same dynamic mission system that was featured in Red Dead Redemption.
  • Like in IV, there won’t be any celebs as part of the voice cast (Dan Houser: “I don’t think there would be many celebrities that would be available even if we wanted to spend the money on them for the amount that we’ve used them for”).
  • After going dark in IV because of strict gun laws in Liberty City, meaning the player had to call on a friend or back-alley gun shops, Amnunation returns.
  • Vehicles include BMX bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, helicopters, planes, dirt bikes, ATVs and jet skis. Cars too, naturally.

The print issue of the magazine is due to be on shelves by November 16, but the digital issue went out at 3pm on the US East Coast/8pm GMT/9pm CET.

Grand Theft Auto V launches next spring for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A PC version is yet to be announced by Rockstar, but history dictates that will follow the console version months after its release.

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