Grand Theft Auto V is a game born in the depths of the credit crunch, whose theme is “the pursuit of the almighty dollar”, its British creators say.
The budget for the game is a reported £163 million - a figure far higher than all but the biggest Hollywood blockbusters.
In Britain, retailers have laid in three million discs for launch day - paving the way for it to double the day-one sales of previous record holder Call of Duty Black Ops.
Analysts also think it’s a safe bet - the series has sold 117 million discs so far, and GTA V, with five years of anticipation, is expected to roar past the $1 billion take of 2008’s GTA IV. Analysts have predicted it will sell 20 million by March next year.
How exactly do you spend £163 million on a world that doesn’t exist? Below are ten of the reasons GTA V is the most expensive game of all time.
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The script alone is 1,000 pages long
The script for GTA TV is more than 1,000 pages long - with dozens of speaking characters, and voiceover and motion-capture taking months. Rockstar’s teams of scouts spent 100 days in Los Angeles, taking photos - and even spoke first-hand to FBI agents, gangsters, and prisoners, according to British game creator Dan Houser.
Los Santos isn’t just a place - it’s a real economy
For the first time, players will be able to use the game’s stock exchange - BAWSAQ (a rather rude Scottish in-joke) - to buy shares in firms. Players can own taxi firms - and the game offers an achievement for earning $200 million. There are also 21 houses for players to “buy” dotted around the city.
You play three characters, not one
Retired bank robber Michael says he dreams of a happy, family life, “... but, you know how it is”, before joining up with fellow criminals Trevor and Michael. Being able to “switch” will allow players to pull off missions that are far more complex than previous GTAs - the game offers six big bank heists as the backbone of the plot.
You can challenge friends at golf
The scope of “off-piste” activities in previous GTA games was legendary - this one beats them all. Not only can you play golf, you can play full 18-hole games online against friends - and do yoga, and visit the gym. Unlike in previous games, hanging out at “Muscle Beach” will offer genuine bonuses, giving temporary boosts in hand-to-hand combat after a visit.
This has the biggest licensed soundtrack of any GTA game
From hip hop stars such as Tyler the Creator’s Garbage to Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, the game has 17 radio stations (one presented by Cara Delevingne) and 240 licenced tracks, plus its own soundtrack music for certain events. Rockstar claim it’s the biggest yet.
There is a cameo by Cara Delevingne
Model Cara Delevingne voices one of the game’s 17 radio stations - Rockstar are well-known for using celebrity voice-overs (Ray Liotta’s growling, psychotic Tommy Vercetti MADE GTA Vice City), and expect more stars to come out of the woodwork after the game launches.
There is a whole lot of “great outdoors”
The leaked map showed gamers one surprise feature of the new game - a huge amount of it is outdoors. Players can hunt bears and deer - and go skydiving over the game’s Mount Chiliad. Rockstar games were behind the hit Western Red Dead Redemption, and seem to have used those skills to allow players to explore the wilderness.
You don’t just steal cars, you pimp them
In previous games, “redecorations” for your car usually involved a rapid respray and new plates to put the boys in blue off the scent. In GTA V, you can choose from 1,000 new paint jobs, wheels and horns - as well as extras such as roll cages and bulletproof tyres.
The legal bills alone could be in millions
The Grand Theft Auto series has been highly controversial - and the target of numerous lawsuits, totalling more than $1 billion. This episode has not toned down the controversy at all - the American ratings board noted that GTA V contained torture, nudity, marijuana use, and “a brief instance of necrophilia.” The European equivalent, the ESRB, noted characters “smoking from a bong” and said “cocaine use is also depicted”.
The people in the streets aren’t faceless dummies
The characters in the streets are far more “alive” than in previous games - where they mainly leapt out of the way as you drove past. Flipping a finger at someone can cause a reaction - sometimes deadly - and each area has inhabitants such as hunter and fishermen in Blaine County and down-and-outs living on Vespucci Sands.
The game is so enormous you use airports to get around
A map leaked by Brady games showed the sprawling extent of GTA V’s game world - more than 50 miles of landscape, including one city (Los Santos), mountains and four other towns. There are also undersea areas - one achievement is called none-too-subtly “You’re going to need a bigger boat,” and you can also fly from three airports, and buy planes. There is an achievement on offer for flying a jet underneath a bridge.
You get two games for the price of one
Gamers who buy GTA V tomorrow won’t be able to access GTA Online right away - it “unlocks” two weeks later, allowing players to take part in 16-player heists, and design their own (illegal) races through the city. The move should put GTA on more of an even footing with rivals such as Call of Duty, whose long-lasting appeal has always been the ability to meet friends online, and kill them.