Rockstar has revealed brand new information about Grand Theft Auto 5, including details on each of the three main characters' special abilities, new side missions, the return of San Andreas' skill system, and confirmation that players will be able to purchase properties.

For the first time in the series, each of GTA 5's three main characters will feature their own unique ability, including having the power to slow down time or cause extra damage.

Michael, the former bank robber, is able to slow down time while engaged in a gunfight, similar to Red Dead Redemption's 'Dead Eye' mechanic. Franklin, the repo man, can also slow time while driving, letting players react quickly to hazards and navigate traffic. And Trevor, GTA 5's sociopathic ex-army pilot, is able to temporarily deal extra damage and take less damage when injured.

Each ability can only be activated after filling an ability meter, and though Rockstar has yet to reveal exactly how the meter will fill, killing enemies appears to contribute.

Players are able to switch between all three characters "more or less at will", Rockstar claims, although there are particular sequences - including during the latest demo mission - where character selection will occur automatically, either during the gameplay or within a cutscene.

Switching between characters during free-roam essentially functions as a fast travel mechanic, allowing players to quickly jump between different points across the game's vast map.

The entire map is open to explore from the very beginning of the game, and Rockstar claims that the total playable area - including the underwater sections - is five times the size of Red Dead Redemption.

Mechanics from previous GTA games have also been re-introduced for GTA 5, including San Andreas' skill system and Vice City's property acquisition. Though it isn't yet clear how it'll feed back into the gameplay, players can acquire houses, garages, marinas, and businesses, and will be able to level up certain skills. For example, the more players engage in a certain activity, like running, driving or jumping, the more adept they'll become at it.

Multiple new types of odd jobs, sports and mini-games have been created for GTA 5, too, including base jumping, off-road racing, hunting and ATM robberies, along with ambient activities, such as hijacking security vans to earn cash and picking up hitchhikers.

Extensive player, vehicle and weapon customisation options are promised as well. You can expect to customise each characters look through tattoos, clothing and haircuts; add silencers, scopes, laser sights and other add-ons to weapons; and alter the paint job, window tints, grills and spoilers of vehicles. You can even tweak vehicle performance by upgrading the engine, brakes or suspension.

But new additions aren't the only things on Rockstar's hit list. The publisher claims that it has worked tirelessly to "refine the series' shooting mechanics", making a variety of tweaks to the camera and animations to allow for improved combat.

Players now have complete control of the targeting reticule while running to allow for better hip shooting, while a new 'combat jog' animation lets players run at full speed with their weapon unholstered, but not raised. A new combat roll also lets players dive out of the way of incoming fire, while the targeting camera has been slightly pulled back to allow for a wider field of vision.

Our guy on the ground, who got to see GTA 5 last week, claims that the shooting mechanics look like a combination of Red Dead Redemption and GTA 4.

He was also traumatised by the bit where a deer almost gets run over...

For much more detail on GTA 5, head through to Simon's impressions for a closer look at the latest demo and the new mission 'Blitz Play', take a look at the latest screenshots, or check out our video update.

GTA 5 launches on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 17, 2013.

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