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Grand Theft Auto tipped for records
Zohair Ali, from London, is first in the queue to pick up a copy of Grand Theft Auto V at the flagship Game store in Westfield Stratford City
One of the most eagerly anticipated video game releases is expected to smash sales records after going on sale worldwide.
Stores across the UK opened their doors at midnight for the special launch of Grand Theft Auto V, which reportedly cost around £170 million to make and market - more than films such as Avatar.
Online retailer Amazon has already sold out of the game which cost more to make than many Hollywood blockbusters and, in certain circles, generated a similar hype.
Experts estimate it could generate £1 billion during its first year on sale when gamers are predicted to snap up some 25 million copies - breaking current records. It has received rave reviews from critics across the board who have labelled it "one of the very best video games ever made".
Keza MacDonald, games editor at IGN.com, said: "Grand Theft Auto V is not only a preposterously enjoyable video game, but also an intelligent and sharp-tongued satire of contemporary America," she added.
"It represents a refinement of everything that GTA IV brought to the table five years ago. It's technically more accomplished in every conceivable way, but it's also tremendously ambitious in its own right.
"No other world in video games comes close to this in size or scope, and there is sharp intelligence behind its sense of humour and gift for mayhem. It tells a compelling, unpredictable, and provocative story without ever letting it get in the way of your own self-directed adventures through San Andreas. It is one of the very best video games ever made."
But the launch of the latest iteration in the Grand Theft Auto series has not gone as smoothly as planned. The Scottish creator Rockstar has launched an investigation into whether copies of the game were dispatched days ahead of its official release.
Fans burst into the Stratford, east London, branch of GAME - one of the chain's 300 stores which opened at midnight - following a countdown on Monday night. They were led in by Londoner Zohair Ali, the first in the queue to pick up a copy at the flagship shop at Westfield Stratford City. Mr Ali punched the air in delight while other gamers rushed to the tills to buy their copies.
Kevin McFeely, from GAME, said the company opened as many branches as it "physically could". He said: "Our customers really want to get their hands on this game. People are just really excited in terms of the things that they can do on GTA that they could never do before."