Disappointed? Ah well. You'll get over it. And to help Rockstar has included a plethora of mini-games to keep you busy while you battle sexual temptation. Details are thin on the ground, but expect bowling, pool and darts as well as illegal car races along airport strips. It's clear you won't be left bored by Liberty City. Oh no.
Speaking of distractions, before sorting out those dealers I put Liberty City to the test and went off on a tangent, in true GTA style. Running over pedestrians is as satisfying as ever. They fly off into the distance, almost comically. It's another example of GTA just being GTA. Sure it's violent, but it's a hyper real violence, the kind of ridiculous, over-the-top violence you see in films like Kill Bill. It's not violence that will make anyone cringe.
It only takes a few minutes of mayhem before a cop spots me. Good - a decent-sized trail of cop cars provides the perfect opportunity to test the new driving combat. Here you hold LB make Niko smash out the door window and fire automatically (RT is reserved for making the car go). That will cause your currently equipped weapon (tap X to cycle through your inventory) to shoot. You can then move the targeting reticule with the right stick to direct fire. It's quite fiddly at first, and even a tad frustrating. Accurate fire is difficult, but this will no doubt get easier with practice. I did manage to shoot a cop in the skull through his front windscreen, causing his head to slump onto the steering wheel, honk his horn and bring the car to a slow, inevitable stop - but it was a complete fluke.
It's great fun. Reassuringly great fun. As we've talked about in our first-look, when you cause trouble that's in view of a cop you'll trigger a flashing circle on your mini-map. This is the cop's search area. You need to get out of that area or break line of sight and switch vehicles to lose your tail. The more murder and destruction, the more stars fill on the attention meter at the top right of the screen, and, as you'd expect, the harder it is to escape. I died more than once in this way - don't expect Liberty City's police force to give Niko an easy ride, or cars to provide Niko with magical immunity to bullets - cops will lean out and shoot at you through your windows too.
All this frivolous frolicking can't last forever, so I turn my attention back onto the mission at hand. As I near the drug den Little Jacob tells me to provide support fire from outside while he storms the house. I sprint to the outside wall and tap RB, causing Niko to effortlessly slide into cover, (the guy likes to show off those skills he picked up while working for the army in Eastern Europe). Moving the thumb stick left I make Niko hug the wall and inch towards the main house window. Niko automatically ducks, giving me a perfect pop in and out of cover position to take out the goons going nuts inside. It's during this shoot out that I can see GTA 4's new destructible environments at their very best. With the pistol I take out the dealers one by one, going for as many head shots as my thumbs allow. One takes cover behind a plasterboard column. No problem. Locking on with the left trigger I fire the pistol anyway. The rounds chip away at the plasterboard, eventually punching their way through and into the flesh of my unlucky target. Sweet.
I'm told that plasterboard won't be the only type of destructible cover. Fences and all sorts will only provide protection to a point - and of course you'll need to factor in the weapon strength. But even from this brief mission I can tell that Rockstar North has had one eye on Gears of War and the other on Rainbow Six Vegas while revamping GTA 4's combat.
I die and respawn outside a hospital (die and you'll keep your guns, get arrested and you'll lose them). I take a trip inside - something my Rockstar guide tells me he's not tried before. It's disappointingly empty, with only a few cowering bystanders (I still have my pistol in hand) sitting on benches. I ask if you can talk to Liberty City's residents, randomly, just for a chat. Unfortunately not - this isn't an RPG.. I buy a soda from a vending machine, which replenishes my health slightly. Refreshing.
I try the mission again. On the way I fiddle about with the car radio - left and right on the d-pad change station. Although you can't import your own music into GTA 4 (I'm told it wouldn't be in keeping with the tone of the series and wouldn't allow funny advertisements and droll Djs to amuse players), you won't want to. There are loads of stations, divided up into genres from rock to my personal favourite, electronica.