Thousands wait to steal cars, shoot guns in new video game

SEATTLE -- When players get their hands on "Grand Theft Auto V" on Tuesday, the gaming world will get another titillating dose of the sex and violence that has come to define the series in the eyes of millions -- many of whom have never played it.

Early reviews of the game confirm a checklist of activities from any good criminal's daily planner: bong hits and lap dances, torture and tasers. They also herald the return of what The New York Times called "the most immersive spectacle in interactive entertainment."

And in a world that's learned to take "Call of Duty" and Quentin Tarantino in stride, it's a combination some predict could result in the most lucrative entertainment launch in history.

"GTA is easily one of the biggest game releases of the year," said Steve Butts, editor-in-chief of games and entertainment "The previous game is still one of the biggest entertainment launches of all time, and there's no reason to think GTA V will be any different."

Launched in 1997, the "Grand Theft Auto" series is one of the most successful in video-game history, selling more than 125 million units. Along the way, the series has transcended the gaming world to become a cultural phenomenon through its rare mix of popularity and controversy. Samuel L. Jackson, Dennis Hopper, Ricky Gervais, Peter Fonda and Debbie Harry are among the voice actors who have lent their talents to the series.

Flipping the script on the typical good-versus-evil story, gamers play "Grand Theft Auto" titles as criminals -- from two-bit hoodlums trying to work their way up the ranks of organized crime to seasoned, rough customers hell-bent on revenge for wrongs done to them by other crooks.

Much of the franchise's appeal is its status as an "open world" game. While most video games, even those with story lines attached, keep the player busy on a predetermined course of action, open-world games allow greater freedom to explore.

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