NEWS - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Feature: 9 Reasons We are Excited for GTA IV

9. It’s a fresh start. No returning characters. No GTA3-era Liberty City. And none of San Andreas’s clunky exercise and weight gain. Grand Theft Auto IV is clearly its own game, and Rockstar North is forging its own path without being confined to the universe of the older games. It’s still the same world...but it’s been re-invented. 8. Liberty City is the best virtual city we’ve seen yet. This ain’t your grandpappy’s Liberty City, which looked like a generic East Coast city in Grand Theft Auto 3. Instead, the new Liberty City is practically a carbon-copy of the real New York City, from the soaring skyscrapers to the bridges to the grit on the sidewalk. One caveat: in GTA IV’s universe, the Twin Towers never existed at all. 7. The rocket launcher is back! It’s true - the rocket launcher will return. Rockstar reps were hesitant to confirm its existence until we spotted the distinct tube-shaped weapon strapped to the underside of Little Jacob’s trunk hatch. Now if we can just confirm that the Weapons Code will return... 6. The production values are top-notch. Rather than simply slap a generic hi-def look on GTA IV, Rockstar North went back to the drawing board and blessed the game with vibrant story arcs, top-tier voice talent, and an enhanced version of the award-winning Rage engine, used to create the aesthetically pleasing Table Tennis, to achieve maximum visual and physics quality. Blowing up a line of cars has never been more realistic. 5. The new shooting mechanic is superior. One flaw has dogged the GTA series for years, and it’s hard to refute: the aiming system sucked. Luckily, Rockstar North has listen to our complaints and redesigned GTA IV’s aim-and-fire mechanic. Rather than relying on clumsy lock-on buttons, you can now fire with pinpoint precision from a Resident Evil 4-style over-the-shoulder camera. Blind-fire options are also available if you want to dish out some punishment from behind cover. 4. It’s got a killer soundtrack. We have to stay quiet on any specifics here, as back-stage wheeling and dealing is still in full effect. Nonetheless we heard several radio songs that will put a gigantic grin on the faces of GTA fans...if they make it into the final version. 3. The silly, cartoony vibe is gone for good. From our perspective, ditching the over-the-top vibe from Vice City and San Andreas was a crucial design decision. That cartoony flavor worked well on the more technologically limited PlayStation 2, but now that GTA IV is starting from scratch with high-end Xbox 360 and PS3 hardware, a change was warranted. Fans of past GTA games won’t feel left out - it’s still the same game with the same designers - but the realistic visual style is an excellent match for GTA IV’s ambitious storytelling goals. 2. Online multiplayer is a go. Need any more be said? Unfortunately, we know nothing of GTA IV’s online multiplayer modes (we suspect Rockstar North is cranking hard on this feature right now), aside from the fact that you access it through your in-game cell phone. Though details are scarce, it’s encouraging to see Rockstar North putting their weight behind online multiplayer for GTA IV. Even a limited two-player co-op mode or a simple deathmatch game type would work wonders for this series. 1. It’s Rockstar North. There’s no mistaking the style of Rockstar North’s talented team, and their handiwork is all over GTA IV. Though the graphics, sound, and physics have all been radically enhanced for the new-gen consoles, GTA IV still has that magic feel of the earlier games. It’s something you can’t quite put your finger on until you see the game running in real-time; but when you do, it gives you the same feeling you got when you first saw GTA 3 on the PS2. There’s no one quality that makes GTA IV so distinctively GTA - the pedestrians, the subversive advertisements, and the grit and grime all contribute to the game’s unmistakable look. The real reason why GTA IV looks so, well, GTA-ish is because the original Rockstar North team from GTA 3 and Vice City is largely intact: The tech has changed, but the people have not. And it shows in GTA IV’s vivid, weird, immensely detailed world. October 16th can’t come soon enough.

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