GTA 5 trailer analysis: cats, dogs, smog, and more new features spotted

Rockstar say the long-awaited PC version of Grand Theft Auto V will “take full advantage of the power of PC” and feature “across-the-board graphical and technical improvements” including “increased draw distances, finer texture details, new wildlife, and upgraded weather.” So I thought I'd take a closer look at the E3 trailer to see if I could find any evidence of this. It's also worth noting that Rockstar captured this footage on a PlayStation 4, so it might look even better on PC.

The trailer opens (0:04) with a shot of some waves crashing against a cliff. This looks like the east coast, which boasts some of the game's most beautiful natural scenery. It's an ideal place to show off the improved lighting, which dances across the waves as they swell and break. Like Liberty City in GTA IV, the world map is essentially an 'island' with water on all sides. The reflections on the ocean seem to have been ramped up on PC, making the water look, er, wetter. I can't say the wetness of the water really affected my enjoyment of the game on Xbox, but it's a nice addition all the same.

In the next shot (0:06) we see a cougar stalking deer in what is probably the Chiliad Mountain State Wilderness, a large forested area to the north-west where you can go big game hunting as Trevor. The biggest difference here compared to the 'last-gen' version of the game is that grass, which sways in the wind and is disturbed as the cougar creeps through it. There's a lot of extra foliage in these countryside shots, which makes the rural areas of San Andreas feel much wilder.


Then we get our first glimpse of some of the new wildlife in the PC version: hammerhead sharks (0:09). If they're anything like their great white cousins, they'll eat you if you get too close. If you're feeling brave, it's possible to kill one up close with a knife—or if not, you can snipe them from a boat. The ocean floor is littered with detail, including shipwrecks, crashed planes, shoals of fish, and a few other secrets I won't spoil for you. You'll need a diving suit or a submersible to see it all, though.

The biggest mountain in the game is Mount Chiliad, but there are others, as you can see here. In this clip (0:12) a couple of coyotes dash through the scrub as the sun casts a hazy glow over the landscape. It isn't always this foggy, though—on a clear day, from Chiliad's peak, you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Los Santos poking through the clouds far in the distance. Cycling to the peak on a mountain bike is a lot of fun, and increases your character's stamina in the process.

The next few shots (0:17) show a lumber mill, a stone quarry, and a factory, with workers going about their daily lives: nosing through clipboards, driving dump trucks, and taking coffee breaks. The variety of pedestrians in the world is dizzying, and you can interact with all of them—hikers, bodybuilders, drunks, pensioners, bikers. I spent a good few hours just wandering the streets talking to people. Insult a group of gangbangers on a street corner in the rough part of town and they'll pull their guns. Do the same to a yuppie downtown and he'll fling his coffee in the air and run away shrieking.

Then we see (0:26) the first of the game's three protagonists, Trevor. When you leap into a character you'll find them in different situations—Michael will be lounging by the pool, Franklin will be washing his car—but Trevor's are always a little more eccentric. Here he wakes up with a killer hangover at the top of a mountain. Sometimes he wakes up wearing a dress. We also get another glimpse of that new grass here, and a different angle on Mount Chiliad and its surrounding peaks.

After a brief glimpse (0:29) of Sandy Shores, the rustic desert town Trevor calls home (and cooks meth in), we cut to an impressive shot (0:31) of a freeway at night. The increase in traffic here over the 360 and PS3 versions of the game is pretty dramatic, and it actually feels like a freeway now, rather than a wider road with slightly more cars. The city looks fantastic at night, incidentally; a sea of lights stretching for miles into the distance. A quick shot (0:34) of a tanker truck driving through a puddle shows that the rain effects have improved too, because it isn't always sunny in San Andreas.

A bug log which leaked from Rockstar last year suggested the game would have DirectX 11-powered smog effects, and that's what I think we're seeing here (0:36). I don't remember the 360 version ever looking like this, although it could just be a result of the extended draw distance. Los Angeles is notorious for its choking smog, so it seems likely they'd include it as part of the weather system. The following shot (0:38) of a group of homeless people sheltering under a bridge shows off the new dynamic shadows and lighting. Los Santos is going to look amazing as you cruise the streets at night.

Next up, another shot (0:41) of the city, this time at sunset. This is Strawberry—based on the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles—and home to Franklin, the second of the game's three anti-heroes. As Franklin washes his car (0:43) we see a woman in the background walking what looks like a pug, and if you look closely at the orange wall in the background you'll see a cat dropping down. Both are new additions to the PC version, so we may also see other city-dwelling animals like foxes and raccoons. The next shot (0:45) of Franklin shows him walking through Strawberry at night with his dog, Chop. The sidewalk is packed with NPCs, including a prostitute lingering by the curb. Yes, you can still pick them up.

Santa Monica Pier is one of Los Angeles' most recognisable landmarks, and now we see (0:47) its Los Santos equivalent, Del Perro Pier. Each district of the city has a very different atmosphere. As you stroll past the perfect lawns and palatial homes of Rockford Hills you'll hear wannabe actors braying into their phones about auditions; on the golden beaches you'll see bodybuilders flexing to impress sunbathing ladies; in the poor areas you'll bump into twitchy meth-heads and stumbling drunks. It's an exaggerated parody of a modern American city, but also an incredibly convincing one.

Looking over Rockford Hills now (0:49), we see the shadow of a passenger jet. That's new, and likely a result of that new lighting. Jets can be stolen at the airport and flown, as well as crop dusters, fighter jets, and an array of helicopters—including one you can use to pick up cars, which is a lot of fun in multiplayer. We then cut to (0:50) protagonist number three, Michael, a retired old school crook in witness protection. He's doing yoga here, an optional minigame, and also an important part of one of the game's best, and funniest, story missions. As you might expect, he doesn't stay retired for long.

More shots (0:53) of the city at night now, including a glimpse of the interior of Michael's car, which shows the dial on his speedometer moving—another new addition for PC. The original was sorely missing a proper in-car view, so does this mean we'll be getting one? It would be quite a feat for them to model interiors for all of the game's vehicles, but I'd love them if they did. The final shot (0:58) of the trailer shows the city at night with another teeming freeway. You can see the skyscrapers of downtown Los Santos in the background, as well as the Maze Bank Stadium. Just look at all those cars.

And that's the trailer. It's testament to the amount of detail in the world that I was able to squeeze 1,000 words out of just under two minutes of footage. If you're wondering, the music is a remix of a track called From Nowhere by Dan Croll. This was on the last-gen version's soundtrack, on Radio Mirror Park , but we'll probably be getting new music too—and hopefully a customisable station that allows us to import our own music, with added DJ chatter, like in the last game. Grand Theft Auto V is being released in autumn/fall on PC, and I can't wait to explore its incredible world again.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.