Previews

GTA IV: A New Look

Preview: Impressions of a "virtually complete" GTA IV

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More stumbling and a comedy faceplant later, the cousins are in the car, completely cabbaged. Niko attempts to drive home but the handling is physically impaired and his vision spinning and blurred. Niko's swerving all over the road but eventually makes it back to Roman's place, safe and sound. The DVLA aren't going to like that.

There's a reward system in place for all this tom-foolery; the more you call out your mates the more friendly they'll get. And the more they call you the more perks you'll get from the friendship. Roman will eventually reward you with a free taxi service for example. Different friends offer different rewards; Little Jacob, the gun dealer, will come and bring you guns anywhere in town for instance.

Brucie, who we met earlier in the demo, offers a free helicopter service. It's a cool little role-playing feature and at the very least looks like it'll help flesh out the world and characters in Liberty City, while providing plenty of side quest material.

On The Y-Axis
The second mission of our demo takes Niko to meet Playboy X. Niko met Playboy through a paranoid drug dealing acquaintance, who was impressed with Niko's previous form before offering him more.

The drive across town to Playboy's pad gives us another chance to see Liberty City in all its glory. The scale of the city as we cross Broker Bridge is phenomenal. While the framerate has been well ironed since the last time we saw the game it still jumps from super smooth to slightly jittery when you cross into the busy city centre. Fog and smooth pop-up also lingers in the distance, but it's absolutely acceptable in a game of this scale.

Eventually Niko rolls up at Playboy's pad and it's a more expensive looking place than we expected.

Playboy, a gangster in a red jumper, is trying to impress a rich Arab man who has a large building project downtown. Unfortunately the mafia has taken objection to his plans and have stopped the union workers from finishing the job. Playboy wants Niko to take out all the mafia men preventing the job from completing, thus putting him in the good books.

Niko is lead to a parked SUV chock-full of guns and ammo. In his own words: "Sniper rifle, grenades; all that shit!" Across the street we can see the construction site where the mafia is causing trouble. It's a huge multi-level building surround by scaffold and cranes. It's an FPS playground and Niko's about to go in hot.

The building site has three mafia watchman keeping eyes out for would-be vigilantes, so Niko has to take them out first. Down the quiet sideroad where the gun-filled SUV is parked, Playboy leads Niko to a small window cleaning elevator on the side of a neighbouring building. From the top, Niko can take out the guards easily with his new-found sniping toy.

Niko rides the elevator to the top of the building, which slowly (in real time) carries him to the rooftop. Once at the top Niko sets up his sniper rifle and the screen switches to the classic scope view before he picks them off. Each shot rewards him with a cinematic view of the impact, and the baddy's subsequent tumble down to the ground. This section alone proves that even though there might not be any pilotable aircraft in the game, GTA IV certainly doesn't lack anything in terms of vertical gameplay.

Zoom

Back on the ground Niko busts through the gates and is immediately locked in a heavy shootout with the union workers. The cover system's in action again, letting Niko intuitively pop in and out of cover. It's more GRAW 2 than Gears though. Niko viscerally blind fires around corners and skids his way behind small walls. It's wonderfully animated and looks like it works great.

But no shootout is complete without a suitable soundtrack, and this is where Niko's mobile comes in handy yet again. Dashing through the menus on the bottom right hand corner of the screen Niko can activate his phone radio. Here he opts for some Jazz, civilised music for AKing mofos on scaffolding.

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