Grand Theft Auto IV: Updated

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After six months of silence since the last info on Grand Theft Auto IV hit the airwaves, much has happened. A very high profile release date came and went, Take-Two and Rockstar took a hit financially because of it, and a whole lot of people started to question the validity of one of the most popular, controversial, and groundbreaking franchises in the history of Video Games. As fewer and fewer details leaked out, the phrase “new coat of paint” was applied to the series in more than one fanboy forum. It seemed that the creators of the sandbox genre were given one simple challenge: reinvent the wheel, or go home.

Are they up to the task? With the coming of the new year comes a flood of new information, and news. Most importantly was the announcement of the first solid release date since October 26th passed us by with a whimper. The new date is April 29th, and Rockstar swears there will be no more delays, and that this is when gamers will get their hands on what is arguably the most highly anticipated game ever. Overstatement? Well, the NPD’s will tell that story. For now I’ll just stick to what we learned this week…

Full blow by blow after the jump!

Here’s 10 reasons why you should care about the Grandaddy of the sandbox……

TECHNOLOGY:

This time around we are in the modern day. This is not a period piece. Niko will have access to cell phones to call buddies and associates, internet cafe’s to gather intel, and GPS systems in some of the cars he steals to help him get around with ease–The higher end vehicle’s will have fancy speaking GPS’ to aide Niko in all his mayhem. And if that doesn’t excite you, how about access to the police database? When Niko steals a police car, he’ll have access to that too.

TAXI’S & SEDAN SERVICE:

Don’t feel like walking from Point A to Point B? Not in the mood to pull a helpless soccer Mom from her shiny new mini-van? That’s okay, now Niko can get around like many city dwellers, via Taxi. Jump in the yellow chariots, and the game switches to first-person perspective, where the driver will ask you where you wanna go. Pay a little extra and he’ll drive a little reckless, ignoring stop lights and speed limits. Sit back and enjoy the ride in the new and improved cinematic camera view as Liberty City passes by, or pay a little more and skip the ride altogether. If cab isn’t your thing, how about calling a private Sedan Service to escort you to your next job?

AIM CONTROL:

Maybe people’s largest complaint about the GTA series is that in a game that requires you to shoot so much, the aiming mechanism in GTA games is largely crummy. Well, Rockstar has heard your complaints and has worked very hard to rectify the situation. Gone are the days of frantically switching between enemies until you land on the right one. Now you can expect things like object cover shooting, blind fire, soft targeting with limb specific zooms, and an overall improved scheme designed to give the player more control of the action then ever before, with an over the shoulder mode, a’ la Gears of War and a free-aim mode when driving included.

RELATIONSHIPS:

Although relationships have always been a key component to GTA, you’ve never really been able to effect the way the game was played based off of the decisions you made in regards to those relationships. That’s all about to change. Now if you want to procure some firepower, you’d better make nice with the local arms dealer. Doing so, will make getting your guns a little easier. Or call up a buddy and go out for a night on the town. Getting drunk will lead to some vertigo-inducing, stomach-turning, nausea-producing moments, as the screen shakes violently during a bender. So tie one on if you dare, but be warned–it’s never safe to drink and drive.

WANTED RATINGS:

The reactions to the crime wave sweeping Liberty City have evolved as well. Now if you shoot your weapons in broad daylight, you’ll still be wanted, but only if a cop see’s you do it. And you won’t have an easy out either. You can’t just hide until the fuzz forgets that you were just terrorizing a city block. And a new paint job is just as unlikely to shake the Police. Now you’ve gotta keep it moving. Just like in real life, the cops don’t show up right away. But when they do the stars will appear, as will a small circle to indicate where Niko is wanted. Commit more crimes, and the circle looms ever larger. Making it harder to escape from the long arm of the law.

NO CHARACTER CUSTOMIZATION:

One of the things people said was that GTA:SA had grown cartoonish, with it’s costume changes, hairstyles, and over-all ability to change the appearance of you character. Rockstar said players will have some modest clothing options, but Niko won’t become obese or look silly “You can’t have cowboy hats and pink Mohawks,” they said. “That’s not the mood of this game.”

GOING VERTICAL:

Although not as large as San Andreas in land mass, the world of Liberty City is one filled with skyscrapers, and tons of building interiors. Expect to be able to see things inside and out, high and low. With sniping missions, stolen helicopters, and maybe a bad guy or two thrown from the rooftops.With a denser more detailed environment than ever before.

ROMANCE:

There will be no “Hot Coffee” mod this time around, but there will be elements of romance. Niko will go on dates as many adults are known to do, and you can expect some sparks to fly. I wouldn’t expect anything to push this into the dreaded AO rating territory, but I would expect them to push the boundaries a little bit. It is Rockstar after all.

MULTI-PATH MISSIONS:

Although the levels demoed to the press recently were pretty straightforward fare, it was hinted at that some missions could have up to a half-dozen ways of being solved. With some requiring you to grab onto the bumper of fleeing vehicles, climb on top of the moving vehicle, and keep balance while trying to climb through an open window, before taking out your enemies.

EMPHASIS ON REALISM:

Enemies playing dead, bums and crackheads laying in the street, and wanted ratings generated by skipping toll booths all adds up to a pretty realistic world being crafted. Along with cutscene dialogue that shifts and changes when you’re required to replay a level, dynamic lighting and a special physics system that makes characters run, leap, fall, and walk in often unique and natural ways, expect Liberty City to be an amazing recreation of the “Big Apple” and it’s citizens. Complete with a Statue of Liberty, and Times Square.

Is it too early to call this a contender for GOTY 2008? Probably, but this week went a long way in assuaging the fears of many. Now we just have to wait.

[See also: Grand Theft Auto IV gallery]

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