First solid GTA IV details emerge

Advanced copies of the May issue of <i>Game Informer</i> confirm Liberty City is now a warped version of New York, has a Eastern European protagonist--and will have a multiplayer component.


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When the Grand Theft Auto IV trailer first unspooled last month, there was much debate on whether or not it was set in New York City. The preview clearly showed New York landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. However, frame-by-frame analysis showed a ship registered to Liberty City, the setting of Grand Theft Auto III, as well as the Liberty Tree newspaper featured in that game.

Now, it appears that both theories are right. Leaked scans of the Game Informer's May issue indicate it will feature a major story on Grand Theft Auto IV that reveals many details of the game. One such nugget of information was that yes, the game will be set in Liberty City--but it won't be the same metropolis as GTA III.

In news that will not please Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the new Liberty City is directly modeled on four of New York's five boroughs and part of suburban New Jersey. Each section has been renamed--Brooklyn is now Broker, for example--as have the iconic city's various landmarks. As shown in the trailer, the MetLife Building is now the GetaLife Building, and the Statue of Liberty is now called the Statue of Happiness. The city will also have a smaller land mass than San Andreas, but apparently hardly a speck of open land, with each inch being an imitation of New York City's jam-packed environs.

The article also confirms the game's protagonist is an immigrant from an unnamed Eastern European country. Named Niko Belic, he apparently arrives in the US after an extensive correspondence with his cousin Roman, who claims to have amassed wealth, cars, and girlfriends. When Niko arrives, though, he discovers Roman is a poor taxi-stand manager who has apparently become mixed up in Liberty City's multiethnic underworld.

As expected, GTA IV will have much-improved physics over prior installments in the series. Its use of the new RAGE engine, previously used in Rockstar Presents Table Tennis, will allow for much more fluid character animation, which will affect the environments when appropriate.

In GTA IV, non-player characters will also reportedly be superior to prior installments. In February, Rockstar licensed NaturalMotion's Euphoria technology--also being seen in the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed--which allows for complex NPC behavior and realistic NPC movement. Officially, Rockstar is using the engine only in "next-generation titles." However, NPCs in GTA IV sound like a complex bunch indeed, with such things as drinking and speech varying according to ethnic and economic types, according to GI.

Other tidbits in the May Game Informer include confirmation that GTA IV is set in the present day, and will have a corresponding soundtrack. It will also allow characters to enter and exit buildings with out San Andreas-style load times. Last but certainly not least, the game will feature some sort of multiplayer component, but not be massively multiplayer, as some had rumored.

The news was not all good, however. As rumored, the game will not feature any planes, presumably to avoid the publicity trainwreck of having Niko fly one into a replica of a New York landmark, 9/11-style. The game will have motorcycles, however.

Grand Theft Auto IV will arrive on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in the US and Europe in mid-October. The May issue of Game Informer should arrive on newsstands in around two weeks, and features screenshots of the game.

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