By now we've all digested, regurgitated and re-digested that US mag's first look at what's bound to be the biggest game of 2007. But when Rockstar asked CVG to come down to its office and see the same presentation first-hand, it would have been rude not to. There's only so much feel for a game you can get from bullet-point nuggets of others peoples' information. CVG needed to see the mighty GTA IV for itself and form its own opinion.
Ushered into a dark room with comfy black leather couches and a massive HD telly, Rockstar tag team Hamish Brown (head of UK PR) and Hugh Michaels (senior product manager) sat us down and introduced us to the game they say the company's been "dreaming of for years". They're quick to point out that this is not a sequel to San Andreas, if anything it's more of a continuation of GTA III.
"IV is more evolved in detail," we're told, "this is not more of the same. We're creating an experience that just couldn't be done before because of hardware limitations of the last generation. We're focusing on the tactility of how the player controls the game and interacts with the world around him. We're going for precision and fidelity. This is what we've dreamt about."
As we already know, GTA IV tells the story of an immigrant arriving in a very real-world take on New York City now confirmed as Liberty City. It will also be a much more realistic take on NYC than what we saw in the previous vision of Liberty City. Previous games were based around mobsters, this one isn't.
To recap, the plot tells the story of Niko Bellic, an Eastern European lured to Liberty City by tales of grandeur from his cousin Roman. Thinking that Liberty will be the answer to his prayers, Niko heads for Liberty City. As soon as he gets there it becomes clear that Roman has been telling pork pies. He's up to his eyes in debts and surrounded by bad people. Niko has to dig him out. "It's about how Niko discovers and interacts with his new world," says Rockstar. "It's not a rags to riches story, it's more of a rags to prettier rags story."
So after a bit of background it was finally time to see what Rockstar has been working on since they finished San Andreas.
We first see Niko standing in the reception of a taxi rank, with a few NPCs going about their daily business. It's immediately clear that the game's been given a much darker, grittier graphical treatment and has stepped away from the cartoon-like presentation of previous GTAs. Sunlight seeps in through the half-open blinds casting shadows across the protagonist and the room.
Bellic then steps outside and strolls down the road (the pavement is also washed with shadows of buildings and railings) towards Broker Bridge, brushing past pedestrians and gently shoving them out of the way who in turn react accordingly with raised arms and a bit of verbal. The animation is impressive and instantly reminded us of what Ubisoft is doing with Assassin's Creed as far moving through and interacting with crowds is concerned.
"The environment is our take on NYC and the surrounding areas, Rockstar tells us. "This has become a character in itself. It's similar in scope to San Andreas, both horizontally and vertically. We've caught the oppressing feeling of Liberty City, which hasn't benefited from the financial boom of real-world NYC. Interaction is a true next-gen experience and we're setting the benchmark. IV will be one seamless experience, with no loading times from beginning to end."