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GTA 4: Wild, Wide Open World

Jun 24, 2008
In the popular imagination, the number one draw of virtual reality was the shock, the amazement, the sheercoolness of being able to plug into a make-believe world and experience it as if you were actually in it. From Pong to Galaga all the way up to the best first person shooters, gamers crave game space that functions like the holodeck on Star Trek. With the highly anticipated, audacious and award-wining release of Grand Theft Auto 4, or GTA 4, the wholly open virtual world is much closer than ever.

From its very first version on the Commodore Amiga and its move to the original PlayStation, the top-down, strictly 2D perspective wasn't much to look at. However, the wide-open nature of the game was the best kick. Even then, if you decided you wanted to follow the mission, fine. If you decided to set somebody on fire, that was also a pretty good plan. GTA 4 takes the open game play even further than its earlier versions, letting Niko-the main character-roam around, make connections, or run amok.

Set in Liberty City, which the designers patterned after New York City, players are free to roam where they want, do what they want, and even listen to what they want. In fact, the music is a excellent example of how wide open GTA 4 is. In former versions, each radio station was basically one loop, so you heard the same songs, commercials and announcements in the same order. GTA 4 separates all of the files so that everything is mixed by chance, and the stations even announce plot developments.

Since Liberty City has 18 radio stations that play over 200 files pieces of music by artists as diverse as Kanye West, Phillip Glass and Thin Lizzy, you may hear something you'd like to have for keeps. Fortuitously, the game's developer, Rockstar Games, has thought of it all. One of the coolest features of GTA 4 is players' ability to purchase real-world copies of the songs they hear in the game. If you hear a song you like, make use of Niko's mobile phone and "mark" a song. You'll acquire a text message with the song's title and artist. If you've registered on Rockstar's "Social Club" website, you'll get an email that links you to an Amazon.com playlist. This list contains all your marked songs, which can then be purchased.

This level of detail, flexibility and interaction is just one of the various reasons why GTA 4 is the most popular, highest rated game in history.
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