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Ian Hislop's GTA IV review: 'I wanted the police to turn up'

Two titans of British popular culture come to blows. Rockstar gets 2/10 score.

Have I Got News For You veteran Ian Hislop this week finally got his hands on Grand Theft Auto for the first time. His verdict? "Execrable" - but that's not to say the encounter won't raise a titter.


The proudly fusty comedian and journalist was exposed to GTA IV as part of BBC Radio 4's 'I've Never Seen Star Wars' programme - in which celebs try commonplace experiences for the very first time.

Recollecting his time with GTA, Hislop correctly noted - with trademark disdain - that is was: "A game where you have to pretend to be a recent Eastern European immigrant into New York... you have a dodgy war record - the hint being that there's some atrocity you've been involved in. So you don't start off as one of the good guys."

Host Marcus Brigstocke replied: "Wicked."

Private Eye editor Hislop added: "I wasn't sure what you did and my son said: 'Those are the punching and kicking buttons.'... You press the 'Y' button, and your character charmingly stops the traffic, grabs the driver, throws them into the road and you jump in.... You have to [drive away] pretty quick - or they do it back to you... I learnt."

Brigstocke then queried: 'Having stolen a car, you thought you'd just sit in it and just enjoy it for a while?'

Hislop said: "To be honest, Marcus, I thought: 'I'm ashamed of myself. I hope the police turn up and I'm brought to justice.'"

After admitting that he'd "played the game at least ten times, and every time I've ended up dead", Hislop then tackled GTA IV in front of the show's live audience.

This is how it played out: Ian Hislop steals a car and drives off, running over a pedestrian en route. He doesn't pull away fast enough, however - as his victim soon pulls him back out of the car. Hislop then hits the man, gets in a fight and the police turn up - before he's beaten to death.

Those three sentences, good people, sum up the wonder of interactive entertainment.

When questioned on whether he thought violent games could be damaging to society, Hislop said: "I would imagine it blunts your sensibility somewhat if you spend all day pretending this is the real world. I can't imagine they're a terribly good thing for children to do... I suppose I've always thought that real life is much more interesting."

Brickstocke countered: "In fairness, you didn't reach the later [stages] where you can steal a tank."

"No," said Hislop. "You're right."

His overall score? 2/10. That'll bring the Metacritic right down.

Listen to BBC Radio 4's I've Never Seen Star Wars through here. The GTA section begins around ten minutes in.