Grand Theft Auto IV
Rockstar have unveiled a whole smorgasbord of new GTA IV information this week, during a series of demonstration sessions with the great and good of the games industry. With April looming, then, allow us to fill you in on the new details the publisher have finally let out of the bag.
First and foremost, the improvements Rockstar have made to the graphical side of their fourth GTA outing are apparently more than a little bit good. Liberty City is vast and incredibly detailed. Advanced lighting heightens the atmosphere markedly, and the physics system makes people move and, inevitably, fall realistically.
The draw distance is vast, the engine rendering up to ten blocks ahead making for some amazing line-of-sight moments. Despite this, the load times are also said to be surprisingly quick.
Rockstar have apparently broken the bank, 'reinventing' GTA taking in criticisms and feedback from fans and commentators. With this in mind you'll have a mobile phone and access to the internet for communications and research, and you can also take a taxi anywhere in the city, should you wish to, and all in all there's the impression that the city will go about its business regardless of Niko's actions.
Missions are varied and may be typical of the GTA series, American-dream chasing immigrant Niko in the employment of various Liberty City shady types. In something of a departure, you'll have the option of taking a taxi or hiring a car - as well as stealing a vehicle old school style. Taking a taxi will allow players to determine their route to their mission by paying the driver. Pay more and he'll drive faster, pay lots more and you can avoid the car journey entirely. In the car you'll assume a first-person view, conversing with the driver, and taking in the sights of the city as you race to your mission's commencement.
Should our hero Niko prefer to steal a car, he'll find it fully equipped with a GPS system. which will aid journeys across the city and between relevant locations. The policing in the game has changed, too, with the Liberty City PD only hunting you out if someone witnesses your crimes. Crowds will also react more realistically to violence and unusual events, but now the police won't be on-hand within seconds. Again, Rockstar are working hard to create a more realistic experience.
One of the biggest fundimental changes appears to be with the combat. During fire-fights, you can pull the camera in on the action, positioning Niko on the left of the screen offering more accurate targeting. The experience is similar to Gears of War and is surely an improvement over past GTA titles, in which shooting was occasionally a weak point.
A new cover system is also being implemented, another fault fixed, while we can look forward to scripted events during free-form play, dynamic car chases and all manner of impressive diversions to the game's sandbox action the developers are plotting. Apparently, the fun will see us stumbling across other police chases, dodging falling barrels from lorries and witnessing the fall-out as a gas tanker hits a petrol station.
Repeated missions will be spruced up with alternate dialogue, and if you pinch a police car you'll be able to search the police database for known felons. Handy in certain missions. Multiplayer remains a well-kept secret - but if Rockstar have devoted it the same attention they have the rest of the title we're in for a real treat.
All in all, GTA IV is looking marvelous, and we'd be very surprised if fans aren't pleased with the direction Rockstar have taken, barring a few controversial decisions the outcomes of which are uncertain (the taxis over stolen cars, perhaps?). Oh, and we learn that Niko can get drunk too, which will impair his abilities in-game. Bring on April, when we can all enjoy a well-deserved tipple.