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Grand Theft Auto IV hands-on report

GamesMaster scoops exclusive first play session with Rockstar's big sequel - new info inside

As that April release date creeps ever closer the latest issue of GamesMaster has got a hands-on report of Grand Theft Auto IV - and it's still sounding fantastic.

"It's during a cab ride that we realise just how good the new GTA is," the mag says. "There's as much traffic as you'd expect. But you can see people actually driving their cars and hear what they're playing on their stereo as you drive past.

"Major changes have been made to the [vehicle] handling," GM continues. "So it's much more difficult to chuck a top-of-the-range motor around a right-angle by jamming on the handbrakes.

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"It's much more realistic, making the faster cars and bikes more difficult to control and the difference between models more noticeable. It still felt fun but don't rely on that handbrake when cornering."

Car combat sounds like a much more enjoyable experience behind the pad, as well: "If you get a wheel shot out you'll be able to tell from your car's handling, but also by the thumpa-thump of the rubber flapping around the rim.

"Niko can lose health when your car takes a pounding but unlike in previous games, they won't always explode after being flipped onto their roof. Another nice touch is that Niko can now lob grenades out of the window if he's got a tail and you can lock onto targets, making shooting while driving and absolute pleasure."

Xbox 360 controls (the PS3 version is running "a week behind" according the mag preview) seem to be made up of the following:

A = Run
B = Push pedestrians/Car Camera
X = Jump/Grab ledge

RB = Cover
LB = Call Taxi
LT = Lock-on
RT = Shoot

Later on in the mag's 8-page blow out it reveals new and tantalising details on the ground combat as well, which sounds top-notch.

"In GTA IV, it's strongly implied that Niko's got some kind of military training, and the shooting's been rejigged to reflect this," GamesMaster says.

"Holding LT (left trigger) locks onto enemies - then you can push up or down on the right analogue stick to go for the head, hand, knee or groin shot. The reticule shows how much health your target's got left, too.

"Press RB and Nico will snap to any cover he's near," the preview continues. "Point the camera at another bit of cover and Nico will either run and slide or forwards-roll into it. Parked cars are one of the best places to do this, although of course there's always the chance they'll drive away and leave you without cover".

The GM boys also reveal juicy info on GTA IV's expanded melee combat: "While you're holding down RT with fists selected, A, Y and B do different attacks - including a devastating kick to the chutneys. Use X for blocking."

Apparently Niko can push pedestrians out of the way with B, Assassin's Creed style too - and it won't piss off the police either.

It's easy to bow to the hype, but GTA IV really does sound better and better the more we see of it - especially the little details. According to GM you can see the lights of planes as they fly overhead and some pedestrians will even take a wee up the wall.

Impressively, there are "two or three" sets of intro dialogue for every mission too, so if you mess up you don't have to watch the exact same cut-scene over again.

For the full 8-page hands-on you'll have to pick up GamesMaster, which goes on sale Wednesday February 13.

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