Grand Theft Auto V.  Ever since we caught a glimpse at a very brief teaser trailer earlier this year, buzz has been going crazy for it.  And well deserved, too.  For years, Rockstar Games' open-world over-the-top action series has been pleasing fans, starting back on the PlayStation 2 and eventually moving into this generation with Grand Theft Auto IV.  Now, next year, it'll be making its biggest strides to date, and we've got a first look.

Rather than focusing on one down-on-his-luck anti-hero as previous games have done, Grand Theft Auto V will instead focus on three main protagonists.  

You've got Michael, who's been living the sweet life as a retired bank robber, after making some sort of deal with the FBI.  Unfortunately, he's hastily thrust back into action when his wife goes through all his cash.

Trevor doesn't have it so easy.  This character abuses drugs like nobody's business and really uses violence to his advantage way too often.  He's been in the military, but now lives by a code of crime in order to get by in Los Santos.

Finally, there's Franklin, a man who sells cars to stupid young kids, only to find a way to get them back when his boss, an Armenian businessman, defaults on the loans.  He's getting tired of the gig, though, so when he crosses paths with Michael, a dangerous destiny unfolds.

A big change-up from previous games, Grand Theft Auto V will enable you to switch between any of the three main characters at any time, provided you haven't started a mission in the game.  It appears that the main story will be tying in with some sort of grand bank robbery, and, as you might expect, something goes wrong that leaves the characters wondering what to do next.  (That's not the official Rockstar synopsis, but, judging by screenshots we've seen, that's assumed to be part of the story.)

What's more, the mission structure will change quite rapidly over the course of the game.  You'll have to take part in different kinds of heists, with each character bringing certain skills into it, and other missions will become increasingly difficult, like being asked to shanghai someone from an office building or take down enemy choppers that are in pursuit.  As with previous Grand Theft Auto games, the world will really open up, and you can get into quite a bit of trouble if you prefer – though we're not sure where that will leave the other members of your party hanging if you do so.  (Can you imagine getting a Wanted rating with all three at the same time?!)

Grand Theft Auto V will introduce a new scoring mission, and in some cases, you'll need to perform up to speed just to complete some of them.  Doing so will allow you to partake in new activities, such as side missions and finding hidden goods – a staple in Grand Theft Auto games.  What's more, each character will also be able to take part in hobbies, with each one having particular activities that tie in with them.  Though Rockstar didn't break these down, we will see a variety of sports making a return, including triathlons, jet skiing, base jumping, tennis, golf and…yoga.  Because raising havoc can be quite stressful, you know?

Unlike other Grand Theft Auto games, however, the characters will be decidedly low-key for part five.  No celebrity actors will be taking part in the game – a change of pace from previous efforts that featured the likes of Ray Liotta and Samuel L. Jackson – and you also won't be seeing "old favorites" resurface, like Niko Bellic from GTA IV.  It's an entirely new story.

Rockstar has rebuilt the game from the ground up, so it feels entirely like its own entity.  The city of Los Santos is the biggest to date for the series, and also features fresh new shooting mechanics, driving and melee combat, built from scratch.  There will be some familiarity – beating folks to collect money and the return of pursuits – along with plenty of new surprises.  Look for a variety of vehicles in the game as well, including planes, BMX bikes and plenty of cars and jet skis to mess around with.  And like previous games, you can just jump right in – though you're not guaranteed to keep it in one piece.

More story details behind the game are expected to be unveiled in the months ahead, starting with a new trailer that will be making its debut tomorrow.  (We'll have it linked in our news section for you.)  But so far, it's sounding like the best GTA to date, especially with the different paths you can take and all the stuff you can do.

We'll have a follow-up preview, along with hands-on impressions, in the months ahead.  Though an exact release date wasn't given, it's expected to drop sometime around May 2013.  That's a long wait for a sweet life of crime…but it'll be worth it.