SAN FRANCISCO - Unabashedly brutal "Grand Theft Auto V" hits the streets Tuesday in a sequel that promises to enthrall fans of the blockbuster videogame franchise.
Rockstar Games spent five years crafting the new instalment and the time has paid off for gamers, according to a slew of reviews giving the title top marks.
"GTA V has been worth the five-year wait," said computerandvideogames.com digital manager John Houlihan.
"You can really see the maturity in this version, the graphics look sensational - it really is like being in a virtual copy of LA."
GTA V is set in a fictional city of Los Santos based on real-world Los Angeles and its nearby hills and beaches.
The videogame franchise has won legions of fans and cadres of critics with game play in which triumph depends on acts such as carjacking, gambling and killing.
Play in Grand Theft Auto games has included simulated sex with prostitutes and drunken driving. The latest version is said by reviewers to be rife with more of the same, along with profanity-packed dialogue.
"GTA is essentially the 'Sopranos' of videogames," Tech Savvy analyst Scott Steinberg said, making a reference to a hugely popular US cable television series centred on Mafia characters.
"Everyone talks about the series as violent, but compared to what you are seeing in the movies and on television GTA is relatively tame. Certainly, it is a mature game for mature audiences, and should be consumed accordingly."
GTA V is billed by the New York City-based videogame publisher as the "largest and most ambitious" title to date in the franchise that has sold more than 114 million copies since its debut in 1997.