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Grand Theft Auto V: Official gameplay video

Rockstar releases the first official Grand Theft Auto V gameplay video.

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The Grand Theft Auto games have always been about scope. They're sandbox worlds where players can engage in the minutiae of life and the thrill of crime without consequences.

Writing about the fourth installment of the franchise, Chris Baker noted its "surprising narrative richness". The headline for his review was 'It's not just about killing hookers anymore'.

You can still do whatever you want - there's just a lot more to work with. 

The game even got some things right about gangland alliances and illegal economies, according to noted sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh.

Fancy a game? Tennis in Grand Theft Auto V.

Fancy a game? Tennis in Grand Theft Auto V.

Grand Theft Auto IV indoctrinated a generation of game players, and the conversation about the series largely shifted from how morally dangerous the games were to whether or not they should be considered works of art.

Now, five years after that edition appeared, the nerd-gods at Rockstar Games have released a five-minute trailer for its long anticipated follow-up. And the universe of the franchise looks bigger and more involving than ever.

Grand Theft Auto V takes place, as the narrator says almost smugly, in a world of "urban decay and untouched wilderness, beaches and backwoods, the sublime and the ridiculous".

The three protagonists in Grand Theft Auto V.

The three protagonists in Grand Theft Auto V.

This time around, there are three protagonists, among which you can apparently switch at will. There's Michael, the bank robber-cum-family man; Franklin, the street-smart hustler; and Trevor, who just seems like a very angry person.

The central narrative thread is a series of heists these three pull off that, in standard GTA style, are up to the player to plan, execute, and staff.

You can still do whatever you want – there's just a lot more to work with. Feel free to cruise the streets in luxury coupes, hassle innocent citizens, and in general wreak havoc upon your own not-so-little slice of southern California. There are even activities and mini-games that feature everything from jet-skiing and flying a plane to playing tennis and doing yoga.

Will you also feel the full moral weight of your misdeeds, as Chris Baker said one did when playing GTA IV? I suspect your mileage in that respect may vary.

Grant Theft Auto V is out September 17 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. 

Slate