Welcome to Grand Theft Auto IV
The next-generation doesn't start until Rockstar says it does, it would seem, based on our first-hand introduction to GTA IV. Find out more in our series of stupidly detailed previews, complete with all-new screens!
As Niko walks up to an intersection, the user-controlled camera pans around to the front of his confidently marching body, and the morning light hits his rippling tracksuit and jacket. He passes over a grid cover in the street, and the sun casts his shadow onto it and as well as the drain down underneath it. Even on the ground, there's a visual depth to the world. But the surrounding newspaper dispensers, all manner of graffiti, street markings, and even sidewalk textures and patterns as varied as those you might observe in your everyday city stroll, make the street-level appearance feel real on any level. The HDR light bounces from the white markings of a curb at a sidewalk intersection, and a stroll down a small back alley shows homeless folk keeping warm over fiery trash cans before revealing a sneaky view of the Broker bridge and the river, emphasising the phenomenal draw distance.
"Even sidewalk textures and patterns are as varied as those you might observe in your everyday city stroll."
Although this is Liberty City, it's not the Liberty City players will remember from the previous games, which could really have been any other metropolis. Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto IV is Rockstar's definitive take on New York City and the surrounding areas and its highly commercialised backdrop that could become a character unto itself. "It captures not just the beauty, but also the oppressive, stifling and gritty urban environment of New York," reckons Brown. "But it's not idealised; unlike the real New York this place hasn't benefited from economic boom and it hasn't got Mayor Giuliani there. Without bringing a spaceship into the mix I don't know where else the fantastical perspective could have gone in the previous games - it had to be reborn, and I know you will understand, once we show you more, that we have accomplished what we set out to do."
Games like this have been getting bigger and bigger, but there's also demand to have more compact, more focused games - so where does GTA4 sit? How big is this rendition of New York? "It's roughly similar in scope to San Andreas, but it's much more dense, much more detailed - not only horizontally but vertically as well," we're told. "On the one hand you've got horizon views, on the other you've got many layers of a city built upwards towards the sky. It's definitely the biggest single city we've ever done. That city isn't going to be the size of San Andreas, because that would be absurd, but if you take into account the level of verticality of the city, the number of buildings you can go into, and the level of detail in those buildings, then you're talking about a game that is similar to San Andreas in terms of scope." Additionally, some argued that San Andreas, at anywhere near 100 hours of gameplay, was just too long. "We honestly don't actually know at the moment, how many missions and how long it's going to take to complete the game, but there's an awfully large number of things to do - probably more than ever before - we can safely say that."
"It had to be reborn, and I know you will understand, once we show you more, that we have accomplished what we set out to do."
When we left the taxi depot earlier, one thing was immediately noticeable: there are no load times when leaving or entering buildings. And there are no load times, period, according to Brown. "You can basically play the game from beginning to end without a single load screen," he explains. And it won't be affected by your choice of console between Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, either: "They will both be the same," says Brown - although he couldn't confirm at this point whether the PS3 uses caching on its hard disc. "We're still trying to solve all the riddles on both platforms; there is no target console... obviously it was in development a little bit longer on Xbox 360, just because people had access to the tools earlier, hence the PS3 [version currently] being slightly behind, but we'll probably be catching up in about a month on that. But in terms of actual development for both, to be honest I think they both have their own pleasures and pains. But the ultimate goal is for them both to be fantastic come October."
"We're still trying to solve all the riddles on both platforms; there is no 'target console'."
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