Grand Theft Auto IV
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Grand Theft Auto Iv Is Still A Mystery to many. Sure, everyone's seen the trailer, and a few of us have seen a demo of the game running. But hard info? Not so much. You still jack cars, pilot choppers, swim, and pack heat, but is that a surprise to anyone? All we know about multiplayer is that GTA4 (coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360 this October) won't be a massively multiplayer online game, nor a death-match showdown, but "will match single player," according to a Rockstar rep. OK...good. We know a little about the story: Protagonist Niko Bellic heads to Liberty City from Eastern Europe to turn his life around, only to find that the wonders his cousin promised were unfounded.
What we know the most about is the setting. As in previous GTAs, LC is Rockstar's version of the Big Apple. And while those earlier games made you feel like you were in a city, none of them made you feel like you were in the city. One of Rockstar's biggest goals is to change that and really nail the NYC feel.
Fact is, we've been impressed by what we've seen. Graphically, it's a beaut. And since this is Rockstar's most ambitious re-creation of the metropolis yet, we wanted to see how far the developers have come to mimicking NYC. So we sent a photographer to try to match screens shot for shot. Let's see how close he came...and in turn how close Rockstar did.
Make no mistake; GTA4 has impressed many doubters with its graphical splendor, delivering the series' first bona fide gawker. But a pretty world can only serve to draw you in. It's the people who fill that world that make you want to stay, and that's where GTA4 has us most intrigued. More specifically, we focus our attention on Times Square, the most recognizable intersection on the planet and a bustling slice of human idiocy, both in the real and virtual world. In the NYC pic, the corner and crosswalk teem with activity, with some people walking at a determined gait, others casually crossing the street. Most of all, their minds are on their own immediate destination. And you know what? While LC's square ain't as dense (we really didn't expect it to mimic Manhattan's nearly 1.6 million inhabitants), those peds give off the same "I couldn't give a s***" vibe. They're going about their own thing and, amazingly, aren't all copies of each other. And don't forget the signage and stock-market ticker: The GTA-style satire makes its mark again.
OK, we couldn't find an exact match for these NYC staples, but we have a good reason why (besides LC's fuller trees--wrong season!). See those elevated tracks in the background? We know of no such tracks that have brownstones next to them. Now, part of this may be due to the game only copying four of NYC's five boroughs, but what about this: Transportation between the boroughs and Jersey is easiest via the subway, but Rockstar hasn't put as much emphasis on the underground, instead focusing on aboveground tracks that go above the already modeled city? Could be. We do know that the developers have put a lot of emphasis on the interiors. One of our favorite parts of the demo was seeing Niko slip into one of these apartments--a detailed flat with lots of furniture--gun drawn, before escaping through the back door. The thought of a more compact but deep city, complete with details like people sitting on the stoops and birds chirping and Niko looking their way, only further gives Liberty City life.
This NYC/LC showdown features the biggest aesthetic differences simply because of the game's more streamlined city. The real city is much more developed (especially apparent to the right of the Empire State Building). But take note of all of LC's skyscrapers (as well as that beautiful sky). Rockstar is stressing vertical density, meaning when you're touring the financial district, the buildings towering above you will block out the sun and really give you a sense of being encapsulated in this city, just like in the real thing.
UNDER THE TRACKS
If you've been following our GTA4 coverage (both in EGM and on 1 UP.com), you know we love the little touches. Like when Niko breaks a car window with his elbow in order to unlock it. Or the way he takes a big step up and shifts his weight when he approaches a curb while walking. Or pedestrians taking a drag, chatting on a pay phone, or just leaning against a wall. In these particular shots, LC doesn't feature as many storefronts as this packed NYC strip, yet it has just as much going on: folks minding their own business, faded bills on the foreground pillar, trash on the sidewalk. You'd better believe we'd love to see more shops along the street...all the better to rob and escape out the back, something Rockstar tells us is indeed possible.
We've put a lot of focus on the hearts of the cities so far, and rightly so, but it's worth pointing out that GTA4 isn't all high-rises and wild cabbies. Places like Broker and Alderney (GTA4's versions of Brooklyn and New Jersey, respectively) offer some diversity in the environment (though nothing like San Andreas' boonies). The Coney Island riff here has the same run-down, dilapidated look of the real thing. And again, you'll notice a misplaced elevated-track pillar in LC, which in the real city is a block away.
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