GTA III, San Andreas, IV, Vice City Stories and Red Dead Redemption Spoilers Within
Has there ever been a GTA game that didn't end well for the protagonist? Claude, Tommy (especially him) and CJ were undoubtedly beneficiaries of the out-and-out violence they'd inflicted on their respective worlds. Sure, they'd lost a few friends along the way, but in the end none of that really mattered. Even Vic Vance, who was gunned down in the opening moments of GTA: Vice City, got to ride off into the sunset at the end of his Stories spin off.
The only one who potentially lost big, of course, was Niko Bellic. Depending on how you played the game, Niko's cousin Roman could end up dead, with the remorseful gangster saddled with the death on his conscience.
With GTA 5 however, you'd have to expect Rockstar to make harder calls than before, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of the lead characters bit the bullet. With one protagonist, killing them meant that the post-game rampages that players love would either be forfeited or turn the game into something more akin to Casper the friendly gangster.
Here, however, there's room for one of these guys to get killed. The obvious choice is Trevor, the maddest bastard in town. His throat even has 'cut here' tattooed on it. Every bit of media I've seen so far featuring the man has him going all-out to either murder or be murdered by everything in the world, from gangsters to particularly headbutt-resistant walls.
But then again, that he's the obvious choice means it probably won't happen: going by the films that Rockstar love basing its games on, these types usually make it out alive. They're more experienced at dodging bullets, after all.
What about Franklin, the up-and-coming gangster who represents the youthful foil to the other two middle-aged madmen? Again, the setup is there: a tragic, all too-early end to an ambitious life, as his lust for money and power finally catches up with him. Franklin's girlfriend even chastises him for 'changing' in the second trailer, possibly sensing that he's getting too big for his boots.
It could happen, but surely if anyone is going to find all of the carnage he's wrought eventually bringing him down it'll be Michael. Just like his namesake in The Godfather Part III, the ageing gangster was out. Then they pulled him back in.
Where GTA 5 is concerned it isn't all the other two's doing, what with the trailers often dwelling on Michael's desire to get back 'into the game'. That said, there's more than a hint of tension from the retired bank robber that Trevor has dredged up some bad noise from Michael's past.
All the elements are there. After all, isn't Michael already the 'winner'? He represents the Vercetti's of this world, lounging around counting their cash. But those past incidents - along with newer ones - could be set to conspire to bring him down. It'll be all the more tragic if he falls well after he needed to keep running.
The question then is, if this does transpire, who will be responsible. Mob wars between feuding families are a given, and have been since day one of the series. Towards the end of the PS2 run, however - such as in San Andreas - a new threat emerged in the shape of government corruption.
I'm not talking about LAPD Officer Tenpenny, who was a paper tiger. Instead, it was the likes of James Woods (in a wonderfully creepy turn) as Mike Toreno, a shady government agent who regularly threatens to have people, their wives, or even their kids killed should they not bend to his will.
Toreno and CJ's interactions are some of the most interesting parts of San Andreas, as they show that the character has stepped out of his own world and into a far more insidious one. A similar trick was pulled in GTA 4, when Niko found his hand forced into working for the UL Paper Company's G-Man with no name.
With Michael living in witness protection, though, it would seem that he's not really going to be fond of biting the hand that feeds. Then again, didn't we see him killing FIB agents in the trailers and gameplay footage? Not really the smartest move if he wants to keep them onside.
He could very well be trapped: caught between a family that seems to despise him and his own doubts over his future - as well as his so-called friend's actions - Michael is my pick to not make it out of this trip to Los Santos alive.
Is it possible that all three of them will ride off into the sunset and smog? Absolutely. But Rockstar is a company increasingly looking for pathos. Niko Bellic's gruelling journey is an obvious example, but nowhere better has it been demonstrated than in Red Dead Redemption. Like its world and mechanics, I expect Rockstar to also better both of those in this area when the final curtain is drawn.
GTA 5 Essentials #5: Beginnings and Endings is the last in VideoGamer.com's GTA 5 Essentials series. Read the rest of the articles below.