The video game “Grand Theft Auto IV” has arrived in stores, and even if you don’t care about games, pay attention to this one. Gamers who have played early versions say “GTA IV” could reach a new milestone in video gaming’s ascent toward acceptance as interactive art.
Yeah, they say, it’s that good.
Based on the number of preorders for the game, analysts predict the $60 title (there’s also a $90 special edition) will surpass last fall’s record $300 million opening-week haul for “Halo 3.” That’s lofty stuff for a game that inherits an array of controversies from older “GTA” installments.
Lawsuits, allegations of bigotry and a “playing-‘GTA’-inspired-me-to-kill” defense made at a murder trial are part of the outcry over a game rated M (mature, for gamers 17 and older) for intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
So, “Grand Theft Auto IV” has a lot going against it and a lot going for it.
Its creator, Rockstar Games, has a reputation for exhilarating, outside-the-box play, and gamers are licking their chops because this is the first “Grand Theft Auto” title made for the powerful Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 video game systems. That means the game’s ultra-urban setting, Liberty City (home to the game’s main character, Niko) will look more realistic. Tiny details such as street litter combine with large details such as car traffic that ebbs and flows with rush hour, all under a sky that changes as time passes to create a living, breathing New York knockoff that once would have been impossible. Realistic and immersive, playing the game is like living in a gangster movie, gamers say.
Liberty City is the star, writes Rob Smith, editor of PlayStation: The Official Magazine, in his five-star review in the June issue. The brooding city, with its explorable nooks and crannies, “permeates so much of the overall experience that its impact simply has to be played to be fully appreciated.”