When it comes to establishing a solid atmosphere for a Grand Theft Auto title, location is everything. It's not enough to simply throw players into a splotchy suburb of some anonymous metropolis - the city needs to be alive, teaming with civilians and traffic. It needs to have an identity, a social structure, some evidence of reality buried beneath the layers of cynicism and dry humour.
Through the years, Rockstar has excelled at maintaining this illusion. The missions and storylines that play out through the duration of the game tie into the cities themselves, along with the characters (and innocent bystanders) that populate it. Although the concept of "free roam" gameplay is nothing new, the Grand Theft Auto franchise, through its use of vast cityscapes that mirror and mock major American locations, push the envelope on exactly what gamers consider to be true immersion.
Grand Theft Auto V heads to the city of Los Santos, San Andreas - Rockstar's take on Los Angeles, California. With an estimated population of 3.8 million, the city is most famous for being home to the movie industry. It is also known for its sandy beaches, insane highways and gang-related crime; the latter of which has earned it the unenviable title of "Gang Capital of the World".
Los Santos featured previously in the GTA series, in the 2004 installment Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It should be noted, however, that Los Santos in GTAV has been completely re-imagined and bears little resemblance to its previous incarnation.
Many districts in Los Angeles County have been recreated in GTAV. These include, but are not limited to: Hollywood (Vinewood), Downtown Los Angeles (Downtown Los Santos), Koreatown (Little Seoul), Venice (Vespucci), Santa Monica (Del Perro) and Hollywood Hills (Vinewood Hills).
Set in the present day, GTA5 focuses on the theme of money with emphasis on the stark contrast between wealth and poverty; between those living in exclusive Vinewood neighbourhoods, and those barely scraping by in the notorious Skid Row district, just a few miles away.
The GTAV map includes countryside, mountains, towns and beaches in addition to the city. It is therefore extremely diverse and a refreshing change from Liberty City's rigid and somewhat claustrophobic layout.
The countryside environment offers a different experience from the city. Gone are the towering skyscrapers of Downtown Los Santos, congested freeways and LS gangbangers, replaced instead with rivers, wind farms, farmhouses, mountains and enormous redwood trees.
The rural landscape will by no means be boring; it will feature side-missions and tasks to keep players busy, as well as a whole new garage of vehicles to play with. Each of the small towns scattered throughout the map will have its own unique layout and populace, meaning there will be plenty for players to explore.
The player will also have the ability to explore underwater and look for treasure (but watch out, other NPCs might be after it too) and put on some diving equipment and explore the underwater caves of the City of Los Santos.
GTA V will also feature wildlife that is specific to certain areas with animals including: Dogs, Rabbits, Cougars, and a variety of Birds and Fish which you can hunt for.
GTA V also features a vast geographical landscape including: Mountains, Rivers, Lakes, Military Bases, Farmland, Desert, Dense Urban Environments and a whole lot more.
A new desert region will also be appearing in Grand Theft Auto V which is known as: Blaine County. Blaine County is a region of Los Santos which is very similar to Bone County which was featured in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Within Blaine County lies Aloma Sea which is a salt-rich lake where you wouldn't particularly want to go fishing -- along with Aloma Sea is the mountain: Mt. Chiliad.
Within Blaine County there is another town named: Sandy Shores. Sandy Shores has a population of around about 3000 and has a welcome sign when entering the town. Sandy Shores is the home to a liquor store and a motel and the town is riddled with run-down trailers, campers, houses and a minute amount of businesses.
Prior to Rockstar announcing that GTA V would take place in Los Santos, there were many theories circulating around the web about where the game would be held. In the end, we took a look at a few of the most prominent (and reasonable) candidates. If you're in the mood for a bit of nostalgia (or just want to see what brilliant ideas we came up with), the old Setting section is still available for viewing. Enjoy.