Grand Theft Auto V – what we know so far

It’s been over three years since Grand Theft Auto IV was released, and as yet, there’s been no word from Rockstar Games on when the next instalment is due. Rockstar’s Dan Houser confirmed to The Times in 2009 that a new GTA will be made, and given that almost two years have passed since then, the game is likely well into development. Here I provide a rundown of everything we know about the game so far. The information is based on a mixture of fact and intelligent guesswork.

1. The Title

The new GTA will likely adopt the simple title of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’. In the past, some titles have taken the form of “Grand Theft Auto:” followed by the name of the setting (e.g. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City) but this was due to the fact that Vice City and San Andreas formed a ‘trilogy’ with GTA III.

As yet, there’s been no indication that GTA IV and its successors will form a similar trilogy. Even if they do, the title ‘GTA V’ will likely be used to avoid confusion with the previous trilogy, and to avoid it being mistaken as an episodic expansion for GTA IV. From a marketing perspective, Grand Theft Auto V is the most sensible choice as it clearly distinguishes the game from other entries in the series.

2. The Setting

A self-proclaimed internet-sleuth going by the name of “Supererogatory” on Twitter discovered information that suggests that the game will be set in Los Angeles. He discovered a casting call posted by Telsey & Company, the casting company regularly used by Rockstar Games, which describes characters for an “interactive project” from Take-Two Interactive called “Rush”.

Contained within the casting call are details of various outlandish characters, weed enthusiasts, gangsters and wacky celebrities – exactly the type of unsavoury miscreants you’d expect to find in a Grand Theft Auto game. Bearing in mind that GTA IV was codenamed “Frozen” prior to its release (some actors had no idea they were working on GTA IV) it is highly probable that “Rush” is a codename for GTA V.

Further validating this theory is a Twitter message posted by the actor Robert Esparza (which has since suspiciously been removed), several months before the casting call was discovered by fans, in which he claimed to have gotten his body scanned for a triple-A project by Rockstar Games called Rush. There are no other Rockstar projects I’m aware of that contain such outlandish characters. Many have speculated that it could be for “Agent” – the PS3 title announced by Rockstar in 2009 – however, since Agent is set in the late 1970s, the modern references contained in the casting call rules out this possibility.

GTA V could bring players back to the West Coast

Furthermore, references are made to “Beverly Hills”, “California” and “the sticks” – a term used to describe rural areas, which suggests that the game is set in Los Angeles and surrounded by Californian countryside.

Of course, the city wouldn’t be called Los Angeles in the game; but, rather, “Los Santos” as it went by in GTA: San Andreas. Whether the new game features LA on its own, or the entire state of San Andreas (Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas), remains to be seen, but at the moment there is only evidence for LA.

After GTA: San Andreas, many fans expected an even bigger map to appear in GTA IV, but Rockstar instead opted for ‘quality over quantity’, whereby they had a smaller, but much more detailed, map. The time required to produce such high-detailed art assets makes the possibility of seeing an entire state, a la San Andreas, in GTA V unlikely.

3. The Plot

We'll miss Niko.

Although the casting call provides details concerning a number of characters, it is important to keep in mind that these are merely additional (minor) characters. Actors for the “A list” characters will no doubt have been sourced from elsewhere. Therefore, there isn’t a great deal you can determine from these descriptions regarding the game’s plot.

One thing that does stand out, however, is that there are three FBI/ex-FBI agents. Even though they are minor, the fact there are so many FBI agents raises an eyebrow to say the least. There is a good chance that the FBI plays a central role in the game’s story.

Curiously, the list also describes a “Californian divorcee” called “Mrs. Bell”. Fans of Grand Theft Auto IV may recall that Phil Bell, a mafia goon who you meet later on in the game, often spoke about his divorce from his wife. This is either a massive coincidence, or, more likely, there’s a connection between the two.

4. Other Details

In addition to the casting call, domain registrations were found belonging to Rockstar that appear as though they may be intended for use in GTA V’s in-game internet. The registrations include CashForDeadDreams.com, which may be a parody of Cash4Gold (or Cash For Clunkers?), HammersteinFaust.com, which may be a parody of Goldman Sachs, and LifeInvader.com, which could possibly be a parody of Facebook. Other registrations were also discovered, and most of them seem to reference the recent economic downturn, suggesting that the game is set in modern times.

5. Announcement & Release

After GTA IV was completed, the series’ Edinburgh-based developers, Rockstar North, moved on to another project called Agent. We haven’t heard a single word about Agent since its announcement in 2009, thus we can safely assume that GTA and other projects have taken priority. At a recent investor’s call, Take-Two would only confirm that Agent “is still in development” – not a phrase typically used when something is imminent.

“All signs point towards an announcement being made in the near future, with a likely release date of 2012.”

The casting call and the domain registrations indicate that GTA V is further along in development than Agent. It is also worth pointing out that the casting call was posted in November last year, and that shooting for the project began in December, even though the call wasn’t discovered by fans until March. This gives us an indication of how far along the development is. These are not recent discoveries – if they are valid, which it appears they are, then the game must be at an advanced stage by now.

In addition to all this, some dedicated fans discovered online CVs/resumes belonging to actors which listed ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ in their work. Mysteriously, the actors in question changed it to ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ almost immediately after fans found it, before later claiming it was a typo. That’s fine, except some of those actors names did not appear in the Grand Theft Auto IV credits list!

All signs point towards an announcement being made in the near future, with a likely release date of 2012.

Adam Junner is Editor of the GTA Network of sites including the popular GTA IV resource GTA4.net and the brand new GTA V website, GTAV.net.

[Image of Niko by Pixeloo]

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