GTA 5 turns 10 today. One decade, 10 years, 120 months, 521 weeks and 3,652 days after Michael, Franklin and Trevor terrorized the game’s false slant in Los Angeles, Los Santos. At the time of writing, the fifth installment in Rockstar’s main perennial crime simulator series is ranked seventh on the list of most played games on Steam; It competes with the likes of Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3, and boasts today’s highest concurrent level of over 130,000 players on PC. As you probably know, the game also spanned three full console generations, across the PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S cycles.
When it comes to GTA 5, numbers matter. That’s why it became one of the best-selling video games of all time, selling nearly 185 million copies. These numbers are part of the reason why Rockstar is one of the largest and most valuable game developers in the industry today, and also partly why it’s set to celebrate 25 years of existence later this year.
With GTA 5, the numbers confirm its success. But which numbers are most important to me? 29.28 and 75.84. Or to be more specific, 29.28 square miles and 75.84 square kilometers – the dimensions of the sprawling Los Santos map in Grand Theft Auto 5. Because without such a sophisticated playground, specifically designed for virtual crime and extreme hedonism, I don’t think any of the above numbers would have Possible.
GTA 6: Everything we know so far
A large part of GTA 5’s ongoing popularity stems from its multiplayer offshoot, GTA Online, of course. Before last year’s move to PS5 and Xbox Series consoles, GTA Online was essentially a free add-on game included with the purchase of the single-player base game, but can now be purchased independently. However, no matter how attractive GTA Online’s open-world appeal is, it couldn’t exist without the introduction of a story mode and the fascinating world in which it unfolds.
Anyone with even a passing interest in open-world games can certainly relate to that combined feeling of amazement and fear that grips you when you first step onto a new map. There’s so much potential in these moments, as the new expanse before you promises tales of intrigue – scripted and unintended – about love and loss; Full of friends and enemies alike. These instances are among the main reasons we play open world games, right? To get lost in the endless possibilities that a good sandbox can offer, whether imaginary or closer to reality.
Grand Theft Auto games have always fallen into the latter category, but the series’ progression from its 3D world to an HD world (GTA 3, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas featuring the former; GTA 4 onwards featuring the latter) has increased this sense of realism to New levels. In 2008, GTA 4’s Liberty City featured a miniature version of New York City, complete with a central tourist district resembling Times Square, buildings reflecting the iconic New York City skyline, and a building of the Statue of Liberty holding a coffee cup. Instead of a burning torch.
In 2013, the San Andreas Archipelago in GTA 5 was a completely different beast. This time around, this map was designed to reflect real life in Los Angeles, and this map looked massive from the start. From the international airport to the south, to the city of Los Santos and its many areas (including the Hollywood-like city of Vinewood), the towering Mount Chiliad, and the secluded Blaine County town, it seemed like a vibrant, thriving world. Civilians of Amnesty International Live within its boundaries rather than merely existing. The game’s story mode narrative, shared between three different playable characters for the first time, thrusts you into every nook and cranny of the 75.84 square kilometres, on land and sea, with quests tailored to suit each individual environment.
Whether you’re a GTA 5 fan or not, you probably know all of this already (although I suspect if you’ve read this far, you probably do). But while the strength of GTA Online is often cited as the driving force behind the long-term success of the fifth mainline series in the Grand Theft Auto series – anchored by the likes of Doomsday Heist, the DJ-spanning After Hours update, and its update… Dr Dre – starring The Contract add-on – I don’t think enough has been said about Los Santos itself. Set against Skyrim’s 37-square-kilometre world, San Andreas’ wider landscape was groundbreaking 10 years ago, and as with The Elder Scrolls 5, its intrigue is a big reason why players have kept coming back for more than a decade.
Add to that the fact that its latest release on current gen consoles looks absolutely stunning — not to mention the extra oomph that the PS5 Dual Sense’s haptics add to mundane actions like revving a car’s engine or aiming a gun — and Los Santos continues to earn its place among the best settings. Video games at all, after a full decade. From Rockstar’s editor-driven performance scene, to its thriving subcultures like the stunting community, there’s plenty to do off the beaten track in LS; So much so that it’s a great place to hang out, as much as it is a digital space to develop narratives and engage in virtual crime.
Whatever the future holds for GTA 6, it has a lot to live up to in terms of location alone. And if that’s not enough to get you excited about what lies ahead for Rockstar and its open-world crime simulator series, I don’t think anything will.
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