Dissecting The New Grand Theft Auto 5 Character Trailers
I’m immune, mostly, to advertising. I tend to reject products that successfully pander to me, even when I want to buy the product anyway. There is one painful exception of course, and that’s the periodic onslaught of marketing preceding the release of a new Grand Theft Auto Game. So it is that after watching the three new character-focused GTA V trailers I am a pathetic ball of obediently consuming mush.
As it turns out, the trailers are shorter, individually, than the two previous trailers released in 2011 and 2012. But the information revealed in them is surprisingly dense, owing mostly to the focus on the three main characters. For the first time, we’re getting a look at how the three interwoven stories might fit together, and how Rockstar plans to balance things. In short, it looks like we’re almost getting three games in one, with three distinct stories and a ton of things to do.
Of course, the usual GTA staples are here in force. As usual, there’s an amazing soundtrack, a comical variety of weapons, and ridiculously fast cars. Added to this is a diverse environment, tons of explosions, and Juggalos. Wait, huh? Yes, there are Juggalos in GTA V. All that and more has been packed into this thing, probably because you said your prayers every night like good children and thus, Santa doesn’t hate you.
From now until September, my brain is going to be stuck in constant, almost angry anticipation. Yours too, judging from the reaction to these trailers on twitter. We understand, and since we can’t play the game for several more months, we’ve instead spent too many hours poring over the new trailers.
Read on for our full analysis.
“What do you want, Michael?”
With that, the first of the three trailers calls the player out personally, making them fully responsible for the mayhem they’ve caused in so many of Rockstar’s fictional American cities. It also reveals the theme for the entire game. In short, meet Freud’s psychic apparatus, ripped from the players, courtesy of playable protagonists Michael, Franklin, and Trevor.
Warning: Pretentious. Skip the next paragraph if you want to get right to the explosions.
Trevor is pure ID, nothing more than base desires fulfilled as quickly as possible as aggressively as possible. Mayhem, destruction and death for their own sakes, consequences be damned. Meanwhile, Rockstar has already revealed that Michael will justify his return to crime as a result of financial necessity, but as we see in his conversation with his therapist, he misses danger, he misses feeling like a badass, and he hates the boredom of settled life with his family, who apparently return the compliment. He’s just the ego, directing base desire to productive ends. Franklin is the most practical of the three. He isn’t in it for glory or adrenaline, he just wants out of the hood and he doesn’t want to die just another gang banger trying to do it. He’s super ego, essentially the need to feel good about the decisions we make. Even if those decisions aren’t actually good.
This lofty-sounding shit aside, through these characters we also see further confirmation that GTA V brings a return to the pure fun of a sandbox shooter that was, apparently, ripped out of GTA IV with a pair of pliers during an extended torture session.
The sense of humor is evident from the moment sober, psychiatric dialogue is juxtaposed with Michael’s kid calling him out on his “midlife crisis bullshit.” Whatever problems Michael has, at least here we aren’t given the chance to suddenly feel the energy sucked out of the room as his bad choices fail to bear good fruit.
Meanwhile, the fun of just losing yourself in the wanton destruction that made the series notorious is front and center. Trevor is not only a gleefully vicious character, he’s the kind of gleeful viciousness that defined your first time playing Grand Theft Auto, which is why it’s fitting that through him we see glimpses of how much there is to do in GTA V, right up to and including jacking a helicopter. And even Franklin’s arc, which appears to have the most serious tone, involves a lot of snappy dialogue and tightly scripted moments of cinematic violence.
Notably missing from all three trailers? The endless bleakness of GTA IV’s Nico. The American Dream might be a raw deal, but at least this time we’re laughing at it instead of crying. Whether or the crazy idea of having three playable characters with fully developed arcs in the same game ends up working remains to be seen, but based on this all-too-short glimpse, we can at least rest assured they definitely will not be interchangeable.