GC 2008: Grand Theft Auto IV First Impressions

See how Liberty City is shaping up on the PC with our first look from Leipzig.

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Grand Theft Auto made its original debut on the PC and, although Grand Theft Auto IV made a huge buzz when it appeared earlier this year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it came as no surprise when Rockstar announced just a few weeks ago that a PC version was in the works. Since then the elusive publisher has remained tight-lipped on its most valuable franchise but opened the gates to the press for a first look of the game at Leipzig Games Convention 2008.

Niko's back, and he's taking over your PC whether you like it or not.
Niko's back, and he's taking over your PC whether you like it or not.

The question on our lips is, How do you make a near-flawless game even better? The folks at Rockstar think they know the answer to that. For a start, they've boosted the graphics in the PC version including increased draw distances, and a higher resolution (supporting up to 2560x1600 pixels). They've also added a replay editor, which allows you to view 30-second instant replays and then chop and edit them, add filters, and even combine them into a montage of clips to upload to a Web site of your choice, or to Rockstar's Social Club.

During the preview it was hinted that multiplayer, which supported 16 players on consoles, may include new modes and support for more players this time around. Our presenter was deliberately coy on the matter and didn't offer up any more information on this for now--other than confirming that players will be able to filter searches for online matches, allowing you to pick those that match your preferences.

We were shown one mission in our brief time with the game, Three Leaf Clover, which requires Niko to help his friend Packie with a bank robbery. We pick up at the beginning of the mission and after a brief cutscene, began a tour of Liberty City by car. Once Niko arrives at the bank with Packie and his Irish friends things derail in short time with a customer deciding to shoot one of the bank crew dead. After dispensing some shells in the customer's direction and taking off with the bank's money, Niko is forced to take care of the police waiting for him in the street. Gradually working his way through their ranks--almost like a scene from Heat--Niko and co. descend into a subway station and onto the tracks. After taking out wave after wave of Liberty City's finest, the crew fight their way out of the subway into an abandoned alley, where they regroup. Stealing a nearby SUV, the team hightails it back to Packie's Ma's house to divvy up the loot.

While the game is still a work in progress, Liberty City looked amazing as ever. Textures were sharp, animations looked clean, and environmental effects such as shadows, lighting, and water all looked top-notch. There were a few glitches when there was a lot of onscreen action, but by and large the engine looked pretty robust. The game was demoed on a giant plasma TV, and even at that size (60-plus inches) the game looked visually impressive. GTAIV will support Xbox 360 controllers in addition to keyboard and mouse, and the demonstration was done using a controller. Icons on the in-game menus reflected the button names and colours of a 360 controller, and if we hadn't seen a giant, glowing PC tower in the corner of the room, we might've suspected the demo was being run on an Xbox 360. We were told that at this late stage of development, Rockstar are spending the next three months tweaking and polishing the game for its PC launch.

Liberty City by twilight looks as beautiful as ever.
Liberty City by twilight looks as beautiful as ever.

While Grand Theft Auto IV surpassed the expectations of many when it launched on consoles, we'll have to wait and see if the PC version can eclipse its lounge-room brethren. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more on the epic crime saga before its November release.

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