GTA IV: A New Look

Preview: Impressions of a "virtually complete" GTA IV

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Niko progresses up the floors of building site, the hulking cranes quickly becoming close-up scenery rather than just shapes in the sky. It's becoming more and more apparent that Liberty City isn't as limited in height and vertical space as we thought. In fact this scene, shooting baddies into small plummets and lobbing grenades, wouldn't look out of place in Crackdown (though the cover system makes it a bit more tactical).

On the rooftop Niko spots the union leader, a builder-looking bloke not unlike the other henchman Niko's been shooting for the last three minutes. Darting into cover Niko's spouts out one-liners during the shootout. "Do you want to die?!" Apparently he doesn't, because he isn't dispatched quite as easily as his employees, but eventually eats the floor and rewards us with the catchy 'mission complete' tune.

"As you can see, this place is going to need a clean up before the workers come in."

Army Of One
The next mission takes us to more familiar territory for Liberty City; Niko's in an office room with a pair of wonderfully voiced Italian Americans. The office is impressively detailed for a free-roamer, fully decked out with desk, cabinets, calendars, binders and coffee cups. Looking at this, it's hard to remember San Andreas' blurry textures.

After Niko's new friend, Ray, turned down the job, Italian mobster boss Bill's asked him to go and hijack a truck full of drugs that the triads are trying to offload. To do this, he's got to head to the rendezvous point marked out on his map.

GTA IV's waypoint system, which marks out the quickest route to the destination on radar, is already good enough. The lovely new motor however has a high-end system, and the familiar, eerie Sat Nav women is on hand to tell Niko to "turn left in 100 yards". A nice touch.

The talkative machine eventually leads Niko to the docks - and it's running visibly smoother here than the busy roads of Liberty City centre. There's lots going on in the streets here; we spot a cop chasing down a runaway crook and a stupid AI crashes his car into a wall. It looks more alive than any part of San Andreas.

The rendezvous point turned out to be a quiet corner next to a few garages. Lots of walls, cover and no pedestrians; it's the perfect set piece spot and Niko's locked and loaded. As the target truck rolls around the corner, followed by a small entourage of cars, Niko takes point behind a nearby wall, RPG in hand.

Still out of sight from the triad cronies, Niko takes aim at the following cars and igniting them (nearly sending Rockstar's Alsatian-sized subwoofer flying). The lead car's completely destroyed but a pocket of shooters are still alive. Gun fire lights up the dark street. Niko blind fires over the wall and manages to take out a charging gunman, delivering more one-liners: "I can stay here all day if I have to!"

Suddenly, the engine on the truck fires up and it slowly makes an escape. In a scripted sequence Niko makes a mad dash for the target vehicle and latches onto the rear door, swinging left and right as it speeds off down the road (you may remember this from the trailer) It's a moment unlike any other before in GTA: like some sort of trimed down God of War action scene. Niko clambers onto the roof of the truck, hanging with every corner using the analogue stick.

Once on top it's a slow crawl to the front of the vehicle, moving from left to right to compensate for the driver's dangerous swerves. Niko slips from the roof but tapping A makes a quick recovery. Eventually he makes it to the front, swings through the window and kicks the driver out the door like something from a Harrison Ford movie (back when he could do that). It's cinematic, new and very impressive for a game of this scale. More of this please, Rockstar.

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