Call in sick, lock the doors and settle into that well-worn butt groove on the couch: a new Grand Theft Auto game is upon us.
Grand Theft Auto V debuts Tuesday on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, following years of anticipation, speculation and unrelenting hype. As one of the most expensive video games ever made, and the latest instalment in a series that has sold 115 million copies to date, expectations for the game are -- to put it mildly -- high.
Grand Theft Auto V revolves around retired bank robber Michael, his insane former partner Trevor and a young repo man named Franklin as they team up for a series of daring heists in the city of Los Santos, modelled after real-world Los Angeles. Players will be able to switch between the three characters at will to follow the game's intertwined storylines, or they can simply explore Los Santos looking for things to see, do, steal and shoot.
As hundreds of Canadian electronics and video game stores get ready to open at midnight tonight to begin selling the game to legions of frenzied fans, here are five ways Grand Theft Auto has changed the way video games are made and played.
It's all about the Benjamins
Estimates of Grand Theft Auto V's budget reach as high as US $265 million, including its five-year development time and a massive marketing campaign consisting of primetime TV commercials, skyscrapers draped with giant vertical billboards and more. Analysts predict the game will ring up $1 billion in sales in its first six months.
Nothing is sacred
While many action games take themselves very seriously, Grand Theft Auto walks a line between thrills and mockery, poking fun at the excesses and absurdities of American pop culture. With GTA V set in the Los Angeles analogue of Los Santos, barbs will be aimed at everything from Hollywood celebrities to yoga pants.
Music to steal by
Continuing a tradition that began with 2001's Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto V will feature more than 100 licensed songs on its in-game car radio stations, from Elton John to Waylon Jennings to Snoop Dogg. Some artists jump at the chance to have their music featured in a Grand Theft Auto game because of the incredible exposure if offers.
Grand Theft Auto III essentially invented the open-world action game genre, in which players are free to roam at will and spend hours fashioning their own brand of mayhem. The virtual city of Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto V will be roughly three times the size of Grand Theft Auto IV's sprawling Liberty City, with more than 100 hours of potential play time.
Hot coffee, hot buttons
From the ability to pick up hookers and murder them post-coitus to the infamous "Hot Coffee" scandal over a hidden sex mini-game, Grand Theft Auto has long been a magnet for controversy, most recently when an eight-year-old Louisiana boy shot and killed his grandmother after playing the game. The game's creators maintain it's entertainment intended for adults. Let the tykes play Disney Infinity -- this one's for grown-ups only.