There are three words that define my childhood, in regards to gaming at least. I know I’m not alone in saying this, and I know that others get the same nostalgic feeling that I get when they hear these words. Although newer, flashier franchises have torn people away, there are still a select few who hold on, waiting for the return of their metaphorical messiah of gaming. No, the three words I’m thinking of aren’t Call of Duty, nor Medal of Honor. They're not Sonic the Hedgehog, or even Super Mario Bros. They are Grand Theft Auto.
On November 2nd, the announcement trailer for GTA V was released, and the Internet lit up with excitement, news, guesswork and facts. People, myself included, started dissecting the trailer with immense scrutiny, trying to shine light on any and all the subtle reveals and Easter eggs that we’re so used to expecting from Rockstar. What we know, according to a press release from Take-Two Interactive, is that the next entry in the franchise has a story that focuses on “the pursuit of the almighty dollar”. It takes us back to the West Coast, letting players loose on the modern day streets of Los Santos (Los Angeles’s fictional counterpart) and its surrounding landscape. What we think we know is that it will feature multiple protagonists (potentially returning characters from previous games), include the entire state of San Andreas – which consists of Los Santos, San Fierro (San Francisco), and Las Venturas (Las Vegas) – and will in some way involve blimps…
That last point may seem trivial. However, after re-watching the trailer you’ll notice that blimps appear prominently in a lot of shots, and we know Rockstar doesn’t do anything without reason. This mentality is necessary when watching a Rockstar trailer, as you're more likely to discover potentially interesting finds. One prominent rumor right now is that the older man (first viewed around the 40-second mark) may be one of our protagonists. He is featured at least two more times in the trailer (committing a heist at 46 seconds and driving a blue sports car at 50 seconds), and popular belief is that he looks like an older Tommy Vercetti, of GTA: Vice City fame. Even the voiceover sounds like an older Ray Liotta (Vercetti’s voice actor in Vice City). However, it has been confirmed by Liotta's representatives that he is not featured in the trailer. While this does not necessarily rule out the possibility of Vercetti being in the game (Rockstar may have hired a different voice actor) it does cast some doubt on its likelihood (because if a company like Rockstar wanted Ray Liotta, they’d probably get Ray Liotta).
There is also speculation that the character running from the cops (1:06) is Carl “CJ” Johnson, GTA: San Andreas’ protagonist. There is less basis for this due to the deep customization options available in San Andreas. CJ can look like he’s either one trip to Burger Shot away from a heart attack, or Mr. Universe, and everything in between. However, aside from some tattoos, the character in the trailer does appear similar to CJ’s default starting look, and we are revisiting his hometown 20 years after his story concluded. If Rockstar really is going for multiple protagonists, and if they are going to branch out to include the whole of San Andreas, then I imagine that we can expect another trailer featuring a different city, with a different character telling you his tale of woe.
This is all just speculation so far, but nevertheless the prospect of revisiting these former protagonists' years after their stories finished is very exciting to me. I was with these characters when they had nothing, and together we turned rags to riches. I watched them rise higher than either of us had dreamed, and then I left them at their peak with their story all wrapped up nicely. Now, it seems, that things may have taken a turn for the worse in my absence.
Rockstar never shies away from hard-hitting issues, from the corrupted, drug-ruled streets of 1980’s Miami in Vice City and the gang politics of 1990’s LA in San Andreas, to the realization in GTA IV that the so-called ‘American Dream’ isn’t all its cracked up to be. Rockstar always latches on to the key themes of the location and era and allows the setting to be just as important as the characters or plot. It seems that now they have they their sights on a bigger target, one that has affected more people recently than the above ever did; the global recession. From posters stating “70% off – Going out of Business”, to foreclosure signs, to people living on the streets, the trailer really pushes the theme that the economy is in bad shape. Could it be that Vercetti and CJ lost all their riches during the financial crisis, and now they’ve been forced to return to the streets as regular criminals once again? It would certainly allow for a more somber tone to the game, which Rockstar proved they could achieve with GTA IV.
It’s fitting that Rockstar would give us a trailer that reveals so much yet leaves us with more questions than before (primarily, when can we expect to play the game for ourselves?). However now that the dust has settled once again, all we can seemingly do is wait and dream of what else GTA V has in store for us. And while everyone else moves on, returning to their new franchises of choice, you’ll find me here, at my computer, watching the GTA V debut trailer on repeat again and again and again…