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!

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A great piece of funky jazz music (Fela Kuti - Sorrow Tears & Blood) plays on the bassy car stereo too and really adds to the vibe. We guess it's a placeholder track, though. If our ears don't deceive us, the sound of in-car music sounds filtered like it's 'in a car' rather than just a straight unfiltered music stream - similar to what MotorStorm developer Evolution did to their music to make it sound outdoorsy. Of course, it could just be the overwhelming realism of the whole scene that made it seem that way.

Talking of music: "We can't confirm the balance between licensed and unlicensed music yet, but everything in the game is evolving, and is going to be changing slightly, and that will include the radio stations I think. But we'll have confirmed details of how that's going to work later on. But I think it'll be a huge and broad spectrum of music that will cover decades; just because it's set now, doesn't mean that the music has to be in 2006 and 2007; I'm sure it will be far-reaching in terms of decades, and genres."

"The morning view of the Algonquin (Manhattan) skyline is a dazzling sight that leaves the sheer power of the RAGE engine in no doubt."

We're driving through a run-down area of Broker. Just across the river we can see the skyscrapers of Algonquin, Rockstar's version of Manhattan. We've got to get a closer look at this, so we leave the car for a second, briefly checking out the docks where the workers go about their business. The subtle humming of industrial machinery is peppered with the tranquil cry of seagulls - it's a calming sound that fits the stunning moment when we finally look up at the Algonquin skyline across the river. This is a dazzling sight that leaves the sheer power of the RAGE engine in no doubt. The dynamic late-morning light shines from atop the skyline and lights up the misty haze, while the entire scene reflects onto the gorgeous rippling water. It's a pretty remarkable scene in a next-gen game and even my sometimes-jaded colleague Alex can't help but utter the word, "Awesome". While Niko admires the view, his foot fidgets on the shattered brickwork beside the river - even the 'standing still' animations seem to be contextually varied, in this early build.

And we're looking at Algonquin from just one small corner of Broker - there's a lot more of the game to see in the different boroughs. On a borough-by-borough basis, Brown explains, things will pretty much mirror the real New York: "So in Algonquin, we'll have Harlem at one end with some pretty shady areas, we'll have Downtown and the industrial district, and Midtown that's fairly affluent with the Soho type of areas. And then Brooklyn, so fairly sort of Bohemian. We have part of New Jersey, called Alderney. The only thing we're not doing is Staten Island, just because it was too similar to some of the other areas, so it didn't really bring anything to the mix that was new and fresh. And it's not going to be mirrored to the point where the exact number of blocks represents a neighbourhood, because that would be utterly tedious."

Whenever we're in New York, we're fascinated at how the real city changes into something new every few blocks - a completely new place around every corner - and it looks like this could well be captured in the essence of 2007 Liberty City. Here in Broker, the view across to Algonquin is just one awesome view, the likes of which we can imagine ourselves staring at for hours during gameplay with a warm feeling of next gen wow inside us.

"The great graphics are just a great foundation for the guys to build upon," says Brown. "The ultimate goal here is to create the defining next-generation action adventure and to try and set the standard for gameplay, player immersion, and the size and scale that shows what a next-generation game can actually be."

Niko needs to contemplate his next move, and at this moment of the demo seems like he could be wondering what life as an immigrant is going to be like in Liberty City as he stares across at the skyline from the grimy edge of Broker. It's not going to be about extreme wealth and real estate - more like survival and existence. And he's sure to encounter some personal struggles and battles along the way. He pulls out a cellphone (subsequently appearing in the bottom right of the screen) to find out what his next move should be - but we'll have to wait a month or so to find out what happens next.

"The ultimate goal here is to create the defining next-generation action adventure."

Some three years into development now, is it looking like GTA will make its release date in October? Basically, yes. "We've been pretty much on the money," Brown assures us. "We've never been off longer than a week or two I think." But, when Rockstar first showed San Andreas back at E3 2004, half of Los Santos was still wire-frame, just a few months from release - so how pressing is the schedule now? "So much of the development gets done in the last few months. I think people would be quite shocked... how most of the time is spent mapping everything and getting everything done... fleshing it out and putting textures in is actually one of the last things!"

We can't wait to see more of Liberty City, so join us for the next preview as we take a closer look at GTA IV's gameplay...

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GTA4.kikizo.com

Video Coverage
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DescriptionDur.SizeDetails
Grand Theft Auto IV
Trailer 1 HD 720p
(High quality version - Download WMV)
1:02 42MB HD, 16:9
1280x720/30p
8Mbps
Grand Theft Auto IV
Trailer 1 SD (Stream)
1:02 8MB SD, 16:9
640x360/30p
2Mbps
Sam Houser on GTA IV
Developer comments on PS3 including Rockstar president Sam Houser, who is clearly discussing GTA IV.
4.22m 72MB DF, SD, 30
640x480
2.5Mbps

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