GTA IV: PC Version Hands-On

We get a lengthy hands-on with the ultimate version of GTA IV to date, and check out its superb video editing mode.

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The editor features an interface that anyone who's ever used video editing software will feel instantly at home with, and anyone who hasn't can also pick up right away. There's a timeline where you can drag your catalogue of recorded and edited clips onto, you can add text, add music from the game's vast soundtrack, and so on, simply by dragging stuff on to the timeline.

You can also cross fade - and add other transition effects - to join clips, although when previewing the sequence you've cut, transitions don't display seamlessly until you render them out to a video file (in much the same way that many video editing suites don't usually render effects and transitions when you play back your cut in realtime, but then display them properly once the video is rendered out to a result video file). In the case of GTA IV PC, you can render your videos out to WMV only, but can choose between 'Web' resolution as well as 720p and even 1080p - although this functionality was not working in the build we tested, so we'll get back to you on how well the video output works in reality - we're quite keen to see how well the game renders out WMV HD videos.

There aren't many limitations to the system - you can't go back into a saved clip and change the way the action played out by resuming the controllable action, for example - nor can you change any of the weather and stuff that was happening during the clip. That might seem strange since everything else about the clip can still be manipulated in real time back inside the game engine, but certain things are grounded in the moment of the clip, and the weather is all part of the physical game world as it existed during the recording. You don't want to go upsetting the space-time continuum, now.

The new mode again really shows off the versatility of the RAGE engine and I seriously don't think this mode would have been possible on console (even with a mouse and keyboard hooked up) - at least not working as impressively as it does here. You are the master of the game engine in this mode and it allows you to start getting really creative, making the most out of Liberty City and the insane possibilities that we already know are possible within it.

The mode will offer Social Club integration, with Rockstar telling us they are "probably" going to arrange prizes for the best rated videos. We're looking forward to seeing what sort of videos the community will come up with. LittleBigPlanet has shown that even before a game ships, a million bits of user created content can be online and shared with other users, and we think the GTA community will be similarly feverish about the new mode in this game. Particularly in multiplayer, you'll no longer be merely claiming to be the best headshot player in the land - you can just show it. And inevitably, there are also likely to be moments of brilliance coming out of completely unintended, plain old pissing about.

Elsewhere, content and story wise the game is otherwise identical, although we're pretty sure we noticed some subtle gameplay tweaks. For example, when coming out of a cover position to go straight into aiming, the reticule now stays still, rather than 'bouncing' up slightly, which was a minor irritation in the console version (at least until we got used to it). Other fine changes we noticed included the artwork montages that load at the start of the game (more characters are featured now, and it all looks rather slick). Is this too much detail? Come on, what did you expect?

The game's out on December 2.

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