SPOnG has seen the future of videogames and its name is Grand Theft Auto IV
. I shit you not. Just as the post-Christmas rot was beginning to set in and the post-Mario
comedown was starting to hurt, Rockstar kisses it all better, by inviting me over to their nice comfy demo room, plying me with sweets and coke (the diet drink variety, not the nose candy variety) and showing me the future of gaming on a massive 65-inch telly.
How can I possibly inform you about what I've just seen in less than a couple of thousand words? The short answer is, I can?t. What I can at least aim to do is to give you are some of the key details that you crave: some information on the new game mechanics, the hilarious and gorgeously scripted new characters and the other stuff you will be spending a lot of time with on your 360 or PS3 for the best part of this year. For the record, I saw the latest preview build on a 360, but Rockstar assures me that the PS3 version is just as complete and lovely looking.
The last time I saw GTA IV
at Rockstar?s London offices it was back in July of last year
and the game has come on in leaps and bounds since then. Back then there were quite a few graphical glitches in the build I was shown, so I wasn?t majorly surprised when Rockstar announced in August that the game would not be out for Christmas 2007 after all. A wise move, because the game they showed me this week is pretty much flawless. A couple more months of bug-testing and final tweaking and there is no doubt that GTA IV
is going to blow you away when you finally get hold of it on April 29th (confirmed today!). It?s immense, beautiful and hilarious. Thank gods.
So, it ticks the boxes marked ?seamless gameplay? and ?sublime aesthetics? but it?s really that
humour that sets GTA IV
apart from pretty much every other game on the shelf. There really aren?t enough games that make you laugh as loud and hard as this. And most of those laughs are at the expense of the new characters in the game.
First up, we become acquainted with our character, Niko who meets up with garage owner and serious steroid-addict, Brucie who?s like a cutesy version of Joe Pesci on bad speed (?ice cold man! ICE COLD!?). Brucie wants someone whacked. Niko wants money. The deal is done.
"Man, you're cold! You didn't even blink! Love that! Fucking love that!" screams the lunatic Brucie, as he dances around Niko. He then informs us that we need to hijack a police car, so we can find the snitch we?re looking for on the police database. Hmm, how to attract the police? Easy! Shoot pedestrians in the legs and in no time there?s a friendly neighbourhood officer on the scene. It?s a nifty little addition to the gameplay and I suspect you will find yourself stealing quite a few cop cars when playing GTA IV
. If you can?t find one nearby, you simply call ?911?. Easy!
Once we?ve despatched Officer Dibble, dragged him out of his car and into the road, Niko has to drive away from the scene as fast as he can until he is out of the ?wanted? zone. Then it?s time to check the police database, track down the filthy informant, and get immediately involved in a rip-roaring, high speed shoot-out on the highways of Liberty City. Thankfully, the in-vehicle combat has been massively improved since GTA III
, and you can now aim with the right stick on the 360 controller, as opposed to merely shooting right or left.