When Dan Houser and the team at Rockstar Games started work on the insanely hyped Grand Theft Auto IV a few years back now, you could've forgiven them for having difficulty working out where to take the series. After two sequels to the breakthrough PS2 hit, Grand Theft Auto 3, San Andreas was the biggest, baddest, most fun version of GTA you could really expect on previous generation systems. Rather than drastically overhauling the series by shifting to a first person perspective, aiming for hyper realistic graphics, or creating a MMORPG, they decided to keep the core game intact. At first glance, GTA IV seems very similar to its predecessors, and in many ways it is. Thankfully, Rockstar have made some important adjustments though, which have really improved the overall gameplay, and ensured the GTA IV experience is a memorable one.
Grand Theft Audio IV will feel instantly fimiliar to anyone who has played a GTA game in the past. The core narrative structure and gameplay elements remain the same. This time around, you control protagonist Niko Bellic, fresh off the boat from his Eastern European homeland, as he explores the worderfully realised world of Liberty City and its inhabitants. You'll make friends, play pool with them, get drunk with them, complete missions with them, just cruise around town stealing cars, looking for unique jumps and secret packages. It's also pretty likely you'll break the law, run from the cops, and yes, kill a LOT of innocent people. That hasn't changed, so I won't waste time detailing it.
What has changed is the city you'll do it in. Liberty City, based on New York, is much more compact than the world of San Andreas. There's no more aimless meandering about the countryside, no more truckie missions, and no more small towns (there's also no more ambulance missions or fire truck missions!). Instead of focusing on multiple cities, Rockstar have instead fashioned the most spectacular metropolis ever created in a videogame. Taking a helicopter tour and viewing it from above, I was amazed at the detail, the variety and the sheer beauty of it. The graphical capabilities of the 360 have allowed Rockstar to really improve the graphics from previous gen versions too. Sure, the visuals aren't Gears of War quality, but considering the size of the city and all the content within it, they are a sight to behold. There is quite a bit of pop-up, and the considerable draw distance is still marred by a blur effect, but its something you can easily forgive because there's just so much going on in the world at all times.