When it comes to car-stealing, granny-punching urban games, there can be no imitations. Grand Theft Auto has always been the gangster game everyone talks about, and the series is about to come into its prime. After way too much waiting and plenty of hype, Grand Theft Auto IV is almost here. So, what’s new? If you’re a fan of the series you’ll know the deal. You lead a life in an urban underworld, with the freedom to jack cars, do drive-bys, batter your enemies and generally cause all kinds of beef, either to fulfil a great mission or just to piss off the police for a laugh. As you do.

Liberty City is again where the chaos happens, loosely based on New York – a sort of grimier, more gang-filled version, we guess. It’s changed since GTA III, though. So has the lead character. You play as an Eastern European named Niko Bellic, who has come to Liberty City in search of a better life, as promised by his cousin, Roman.

Roman, it turns out, is full of shit, and is actually caught up in all kinds of trouble – masses of dept and some serious enemies cast a dark shadow over his life, and this is all lumped onto Niko’s shoulders when he arrives in Liberty City.

What’s the Story?
So the clichéd black man and typical ‘get rich quick’ plots are gone, which is cool. But to be honest, who has ever really given a damn about the story in GTA games anyway? We definitely haven’t. You complete missions, shoot some moody people, punch faces and dodge (or purposefully antagonise) police, having a damn good time while you do it. That’s what it’s all about – only now it’s on the newer consoles, PS3 and Xbox 360, it all looks a lot nicer.

The city is absolutely HUGE, and the whole thing is filled with highly detailed buildings and scenery, and there are hundreds of civilians walking about (just waiting to be run over, if that’s what gets you off).

Bikes and cars are back as well as helicopters that help you get around in the huge city. The controls are pretty similar to previous games, but aiming at enemies and fighting has been improved. It’s not as clumsy as the PS2 games. But one of the big new features of GTA IV is a huge multiplayer mode.

In fact, there are 15 online multiplayer modes in GTA IV, and we’re not talking about some cheap-ass two-player. Up to 16 players can play in one city, and each mode gives those players different missions and scenarios to complete.

Multiple Modes
We haven’t got space to tell you about them all, but you can expect the standard all-against-all deathmatch mode – you just kill each other. And there’s a self-explanatory race mode in there, too.

Our favourite, though, is a mode called ‘Hangman’s Noose’. It has you and four team mates fighting off SWAT soldiers to protect a Mafia man in a totally nuts chase across the city. You’ll have players in cars on the street, and in helicopters in the air, blazing bullets all over the place to stop SWAT from wiping out your man. It’s hot.

GTA IV will be out on both consoles on 29 April and if you haven’t already, you need to see the game in action. If you already have a PS3 or 360, stop messing about and download the trailers that are on Xbox Live (360) and the PlayStation Store (PS3). And if you can’t because your console isn’t hooked up to the internet, stop living in the past and sort it out.

Words by Daniel Alan