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Grand Theft Auto IV impressions: A fistful of firsts (Xbox 360)


After enduring quite a few long lines in preparation for the midnight launch, we finally got home to check out Grand Theft Auto IV in its final retail form. Here's our impressions of the first 90 minutes of playtime:

First carjacking:
I enter through the passenger door and punch the male passenger in the forehead, and then toss him out. I slide into the car and immediately punch the male driver, and push him out. I pull a u-turn into the parallel lane as the passenger pursues me on foot, yelling -- oops! I broadside a cop car, but the cop only readjusts his car back onto the road and pulls ahead, stopping at a red light. I'm concerned -- my first doubts clashing against the anticipation. I pull in behind, as the light turns green. I turn right and drive on. I check the rear view. Dude's stopped chasing me. (Playtime: 00:14:00)

Firefly Island: I visit the beach. The rendered surf is disappointing. I try to be with the character: Niko, the haunted immigrant, dipping his feet into American water for the first time. But it doesn't seem wet, or right. There's no reaction for me to react to (I want to take my shoes off). I swim a bit, fully clothed, and then climb up onto some rocks, and up further atop a sand dune. I find a woman there doing her Tai Chi. She says something friendly when I stand right up in her face. I want to join her. But I can only jump up and down. What else? I decide not to punch her. (Playtime: 00:26:59)

First fight:
I'm sprinting around the beach. I bump into a man, he's with someone (a woman, I think -- it's hard to tell). He curses at me so I stop and sock him in the face. The woman steps in the middle and I shove her to the ground (I'm button mashing). She's back up grabbing her belly. She runs off screaming. I'm a bit lost with the controls and getting my ass kicked -- but I get a handle quickly! I beat him to the ground and take some money he drops. Our footwork has left a scrambled dance in the sand. (Playtime: 00:31:22)

First chase:
I carjack a sedan in front of a cop and the new wanted system kicks in. I'm driving frantically, trying to escape the police bubble, tips are popping up in the upper-left corner. Something like: Hold "Y" to dive out of a moving car. I press the button -- THUD! My body slams into a concrete column supporting the trainway above. My health is really low. I'm motionless. Am I dead? Dying? No! I'm up and running. There's a cop on foot with his gun drawn. He's chasing me up the street, into an alley. I'm climbing up a dumpster, and onto a concrete plateau. Dead end! I turn around -- two cops now. I jump off the plateau, a cop fires. He hits me in midair (that was cool!). I'm done. "Dead." Revived at the hospital. (I reload last save.) (Playtime: 00:35:30)

First trip to Manhattan Algonquin:
Unsuccessful. Cops have barricaded Broker Bridge (stupid "invisible wall!"). I run past them on foot, they draw their guns and the wanted level spikes to maximum. I hear helicopters and sirens as I sprint across the bridge. An armored vehicle appears, barreling toward me. I'm being sprayed by machine gun fire as I run by, but most bullets are missing me. I'm a few hundred yards from Algonquin now. Almost there! The armored vehicle has turned around, pursuing me. My health is running low. I'm not gonna make it. I take two last steps toward the island and the camera goes all cinematic on me. It's black and white, and my body is collapsing into a dead mass in the foreground. There are pools of dark blood as the screen pans back to the cops displayed around the armored vehicle, guns drawn. (Playtime: 00:35:54)

"Republican Space Rangers":
Best thing I've done so far: took a minute to chill and watch some TV in Roman's pad. This is my first glimpse of GTA IV's genius. There is a true, precious work tucked into a corner of the gameworld here. I won't spoil it. (Playtime: 00:52:08)

First date:
I've had plenty firsts now. My first hot dog and (bargain) shopping spree, and my first "official" kill (with a knife and a kick ... through a window). I'm really jonesing for a gun now. I'm getting bored of playing from this "I have absolutely nothing" start point (I've done this before, many times). I go to pick up my first date. I met her in a previous mission (drive from A to B -- make small talk). She's from the Midwest and seems too straight to be hanging out with my crowd (cities like Liberty are diverse, but also segregated). We go bowling. I'm miserable (and so is the minigame). No bumpty-bumpty backseat action, just the promise of a second date. An on-screen tip promises me there'll be other women. (Playtime: 01:11:30)

First deathmatch:
I pull out my cell and dial up some multiplayer: team deathmatch (player match). Finally! Some guns. It's chaotic. "Not what I expected," someone says. There's a playground feel to this. "This is not Call of Duty." But the loose controls and even looser boundaries form a tension, a bubbling over of excitement. No one's sure how we're supposed to be doing this -- where we're supposed to be doing this. A gang war has erupted in a random intersection. We're running and shooting. Dying and respawning. Hooting and hollering. This is pretty fun ... My final stats: 11 kills, 12 deaths, $1183 (we lost). (Playtime: N/A)

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