The first trailer for “Grand Theft Auto VI” hit YouTube in a surprise, ahead-of-schedule post on Monday, promising a 2025 release for the latest installment in the mega-popular video game franchise.
True to rumors, the video game will be set in fictional Vice City, reminiscent of Miami, and appears to feature the first playable female character in the franchise, which has been criticized for its treatment of women, minorities and LGBTQ people.
The early release of the trailer, prompted by a leak online, came on the eve of Tuesday’s scheduled first glimpse for GTA VI.
“Our trailer has leaked so please watch the real thing,” Rockstar Games, the company behind GTA, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The video zoomed to almost 40 million views on YouTube in just over six hours.
“I feel like this GTA will lean much more into the absurdity of America, much more than GTA V did,” wrote a member of a Reddit forum devoted to spotting references in the trailer.
“Oh absolutely,” replied another member of the forum.
“Florida is the #1 craziest place in America, a place where you can get an AR-15 (assault rifle) and a free turkey with a roofing service. I’m so hyped.”
Set to the Tom Petty song “Love Is A Long Road,” the GTA VI trailer opens with a female character named Lucia being released from prison in what appears to be Florida.
In one scene an alligator walks in through the front doors of a corner store. In another, a woman in a bathing suit is twerking on the roof of a moving car.
There are also flashes of the usual GTA themes: police raids, car crashes, arrests, and illegal car stunt gatherings referred to as “sideshows” in the real world.
Near the close of the one-minute-and-30-second trailer, the Lucia character tells her male partner in crime: “The only way we are going to get through this, is by sticking together, being a team.”
The pair go on to burst into a store with pistols drawn and bandanas covering the lower halves of their faces.
Fans were quick to infer the scene meant rumors of a “Bonnie and Clyde” type crime couple, with GTA’s first playable female character, are coming true.
“Major Bonnie and Clyde vibes,” one member of the Reddit forum noted.
“Grand Theft Auto VI continues our efforts to push the limits of what’s possible in highly immersive, story-driven open-world experiences,” Rockstar founder Sam Houser said in a statement.
– Little off-limits –
Released a decade ago, GTA V has sold around 190 million copies, according to Rockstar-parent Take-Two Interactive, making it the best-selling game in the United States for the past decade based on both unit and dollar sales.
The entire GTA franchise has sold a mammoth 410 million units so far, according to Take-Two.
Wedbush analyst Nick McKay estimated that predecessor GTA V and an ongoing, online multiplayer extension of the game have brought in nearly $10 billion in revenue.
With the wild success has come a wave of controversies.
Critics have from the beginning accused the series of glorifying violence and encouraging players to engage in criminal behavior — allegations Take-Two executives have denied.
GTA V players sell drugs, fight, rob, go on car rampages and more.
Gameplay options also included assaulting prostitutes and going to strip clubs, raising the ire of activists.
GTA V included transgender characters, but “they were sex workers that were grotesque caricatures of transgender women,” said Blair Durkee, associate director of gaming at nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD.
Videos of players beating those trans characters with baseball bats in the game can readily be found online, according to Durkee.
“We certainly hope that GTA VI will reflect a more inclusive attitude toward LGBTQ characters and players,” Durkee said.
GTA protagonists have historically been flawed but likable characters in a virtual world “that takes its cues from the craziness of what we read about in the news every day,” according to McKay.
The release of GTA V a decade ago came with the launch of an online multiplayer option.
“I can play according to the main storyline, or I can just explore the world and cause mayhem to fill the time,” McKay said.
“Very little is off-limits to the player.”