April 2, 2013 at 12:36 PM ET
There are many tried and true formulas in the video game industry—killing terrorists in “Call of Duty,” bopping mushroom-like creatures on the head in “Mario,” cerebral meditations on capitalism expressed by shooting things in the face in “BioShock.” Few of these magic formulas is as sacrosanct as Rockstar’s secret recipe for “Grand Theft Auto,” a game that, despite (or because of) its endless controversies, never ceases to impress gamers and their critics alike. If there was ever any doubt that Rockstar would shake up the “Grand Theft Auto” paradigm with its upcoming “GTA V,” the official box art unveiled today put that errant speculation to rest.
Like all the series’ titles since “GTA III” first brought open-world anarchy to consoles back in 2001, “Grand Theft Auto V’s” box art is a cartoonish mural depicting some of the colorful cast of characters that will populate a fictionalized version of Los Angeles. The game’s three protagonists—Trevor (holding a sniper rifle), Franklin (armed with a handgun) and Michael (riding a jetski)—take up most of the bottom left portion of the violent mosaic.
This makes the new box art more akin to “Grand Theft Auto 4’s” box art, which featured protagonist Niko Bellic prominently, than older “GTA” titles, which mostly centered on the various gangland stereotypes and high-end vehicles the player would confront in the game. And for all its predecessors’ controversies, it’s worth noting that “GTA V’s” graphics don’t showcase some cel-shaded version of a sexy woman sticking her tongue out or doing something similarly suggestive—a trope that has taken up valuable packaging space in “GTA” games since “Vice City” was first released in 2002.
This time, the token female character is grinning with a come-hither look as she glances momentarily away from her iPhone-like smartphone (notice that its logo is a basket of fruit rather than a single Apple). Oh how far we’ve come.
“Grand Theft Auto 5” will come out on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 17. Rockstar is already accepting pre-orders for the new game, and has made the new cover art available as a downloadable wallpaper along with some other images from the game.