GTA IV first impressions

First off, while being an admirer of the series, and having played every game except for the PSP versions, I have yet to finish any of them. I tend to lose interest around the 20 hour mark, blaming it on the games being too open-worldly. I struggled early on the decision for buying this latest incarnation, knowing I might get bored again. But the growing hype surrounding it's impending release, the fact that it's going to look much better on the next-gen/current-gen systems (the graphics being a big problem for me in the earlier versions, they could never convince me I was in a realistic setting), the fact that the main character is going to be an older Eastern European war veteran, and that Liberty City is being modeled after New York, seemed much too intriguing to pass up.

So with that said, I'm only about an hour and a half into it. The only thing I've done is drive around town, go on a date, and beat up some dudes.

So far so good.

The gameplay remains practically unchanged from the previous iterations of the series, as you control Nico- fresh off the boat, through Liberty City, US of A. As Nico, you must familiarize yourself with the streets, neighborhoods and the wacky Americans who live in them. Luckily, he is somewhat thrown into being a taxi driver for his cousin early in the game, earning him money as well. The driving controls haven't changed much, if my memory serves me right. LT and RT are used to break/reverse and accelerate, respectively. Since I'm so early in the game still, I feel like I should obey all the traffic lights and try to avoid smashing into things as much as possible, prolonging my suspension of disbelief. It also helps to not frighten away Nico's prospective dates, as at least one of them has chastised my driving skills and walked away. Being chased by cops though, that's a different story.

Your fellow drivers on the other hand, do not always follow those rules. They will hit other cars and pedestrians, and squeeze their way into other lanes, making it look like my time on the roads of Manila, Philippines.

The controls, from what I remember from the other GTAs, is the same. Using the right stick to look around was a bit too touchy for me, so I had to adjust it lower in the control menu. Running is used by tapping the A button, once for a steady jog, twice for a sprint, which is still awkward for me. I wish they opted to map the right trigger as the run button, mimicking the driving controls. I noticed Nico tends to lean into corners when he's running, something that plagued the other heroes of the series, and something I still find kinda funny looking.

The cut scenes are well acted, and especially well voiced. RockStar has always been known to make their characters act, talk, and move convincingly, and since switching to the PS3 and Xbox 360, the whole game has benefited greatly with the graphical upgrade. The city looks great, sporting a slight hazy brown filter that still leaves a lot of color left to enjoy. The citizens look great too, and I haven't noticed too many repeated clothing textures on them either.

That's it for now. Gotta catch a flight back to Liberty City and finish this game for a change.

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