You'll need to keep friends happy, as they each have special abilities like Brucie's helicopter rides, Little Jacob's mobile gun store and Roman's free cab rides.
You can head to the bowling alley, play darts, visit the boozer (just try walking home after that), check out a strip joint or go for helicopter rides with the steroid monkey, Brucie, possibly the game's funniest character alongside the batshit crazy McCreary brothers - Packie, Gerry and Derek. With these guys you get to pull off the games best mission and possibly the most stunning shootout in GTA history.
I don't want to say too much at this stage in the review, but it's a bank robbery comprised of shootouts and an on-foot chases through Chinatown and the subway system. I defy you not to drop a sweat soaked pad once you've completed it.
Staying with shootouts, the new cover and targeting system works a treat both in and out of vehicles. Now, when you're high tailing it after crazy bikers down subway tracks on a hog, it's much easier to hit the bastards than in previous entries. Saying that, there is one thing that grated during some of the game's big chase setpieces.
No matter how much you try and shoot an enemy they will not die despite the blurb at the bottom of the screen saying 'Chase down and kill X'. What happens is the chase is scripted to finish at a particular point in either a shootout or head-on collision or whatever.
It's not a huge problem, but futile attempts to whack someone when you don't really need to, waste ammo and can be a bit of a long, drawn-out ballache.
One thing that should be noted is the addition of the decision-making process that sees Niko reach certain points in the storyline with particular characters and choose whether they live or die at your hands. These moments are yet another reason to revel at what Rockstar North has crafted here and can really offer up some tough choices that can split a man right down the middle. And the coup de grace is the sheer level of replay value derived from these decisions you end up making. It's genius.
Also, if you snag a car you like (the jazzed up Intruder, for example) you can now drive it to any of your safe houses and park it right outside in the reserved parking space - and it will be there for you every time you step out front.
When you save the game your health is fully replenished but, if you can't be bothered saving at all, then just head to a hotdog vendor or Cluck 'n' Bell or the nearest diner for a bite to eat and a dis from a pissed-off employee.
Along with the inclusion of the phone GTAIV's second greatest addition is the internet. It's not just a piece of furniture. In fact nothing is furniture in GTAIV, it all serves a purpose and becomes part of the story at one point or another.
With the internet you can check out cars, places to eat, news, shopping and even buy ringtones (I went for the lesbian orgy one. As did everyone else who played it. How predictable a bunch we are) and background themes (Sprunk etc) for your mobile phone. Go on, you know you want to.
During one mission you're required to whack a high-powered suit for corrupt cop Francis McCreary, estranged brother of Packie, Derek and Gerry. First you have to upload your CV, and then wait until you're called by his office assistant for an interview the next day at noon. A quick drop by Pegasus' swish suitwear and you're ready for your interview, during which you drill the guy and gun your way through the building and into a getaway car. Pretty much business as usual then.
Another mission requires you to pull off a kidnapping and the only way to get close to your mark is to contact her through an online car sales website that she's advertising her pink set of wheels on.
What's really groovy about this mission is that when she realises you're not really there to buy the car, she tries to grab the wheel from you, sending you careening into walls and oncoming traffic while desperately trying to get the attention of any cop cars that pass by.