This time I keep myself and Little Jacob alive. As the dust settles I enter the building and survey the result of my handiwork. Corpses lie strewn about - glowing cash aching to be nabbed. There's a first aid kit too, which I notice replenishes my green health meter - wrapped around one half of the mini-map, the other half is for armour. All that remains now is to drive Little Jacob home and watch the cash count on the top right of the screen.
I skip to about a third of the way through the game, to a mission called Final Destination that begins in Broker and ends in Bohan. I'm watching a cut scene in a seedy club in Hove Beach, GTA 4's version of New York's Brighton Beach, and named after the UK's very own Brighton and Hove. Hove Beach is where all the Russians hang out in Liberty City. Niko is with a man called Dimitri. They've come to the club to speak to an imposing Russian gangster called Mikhael, a man who looks extremely upset at having to send two scantily-clad women from his side to listen to you. Dimitri is in quite a state - he suspects the Feds are onto whatever it is Mikhael's operation has been getting up to. Mikhael suggests a rat - Dimitri says it's simply a case of drawing too much attention to the group because they've been getting adventurous. Mikhael suspects Niko and orders him to kill one of Dimitri's friends, Lenny, as a show of loyalty. Dimitri is up in arms at the suggestion, but you have no choice - Niko needs the money after all.
This being a preview build of the game, my Rockstar guide unlocks all the game's weapons for me to play with. I jack a car and start causing chaos, just to try everything out. While driving you can drop grenades and Molotov cocktails like land mines. You can't target, just chuck them out of the window, with the hope that they'll blow up any pursuers. It's an imprecise science - you need to be careful you don't hang on to grenades too long or they'll blow up in your face - but it does prove effective if you fancy causing crazy amounts of damage.
I decide to get back on track and take out Lenny. Here I get a feel for the mini-map and how you'll navigate Liberty City. On the map, yellow dots point out where you need to go, blue dots indicate you need to get something from that spot and a red dot tells you where you need to kill someone. You can set your own way points on the mini-map - but missions will automatically sort themselves out. We've talked about the sat-nav before, but we've discovered some new details. Get in a European-style car and the sat-nav voice will be that of a posh, sexy English rose. Get in a US-style car and it will be that of a posh, sexy, American woman. You can change the settings so that all cars have sat-nav, or only those good enough. And while Rockstar is keeping very quiet on the player versus player side of GTA 4, I'm told that players should turn their sat nav off after a while so that they better learn the nooks and crannies of Liberty City for the multiplayer. Interesting.
My English rose directs me, in sultry tones, to cross the Three Boroughs Bridge. Here my Rockstar guide takes the pad and switches the weather settings from sunny, clear sky to night, so that I might see Liberty City in all its glory as I cross the water. It is a truly impressive sight indeed - artificial light from skyscraper windows gleams in the distance, the moon casts an ominous glow on the road, car headlights fly past me like dance club lasers and I catch an eyeful of Liberty City's many advertising billboards - all fake and in keeping with the "taking the piss out of real life" GTA attitude. I get a real sense of the sheer size, scale and density of Liberty City as I cruise across the bridge, moving the camera about to get a better view with the right stick. I mess about with the controls, clicking in the left stick to honk my horn and toggling my headlights by holding down X. It's an effortless, almost therapeutic journey. I imagine I'll spend hours just cruising the city when the game's finally released this April.
Something puzzles me though. Buildings, landmarks and objects in the distance have an odd haze to them. This looks like a deliberate graphical effect, perhaps intended to simulate peripheral vision or an aeroplane engine-style heat haze. Perhaps it's a developer trick - a way of pumping out more immediate detail in such an open world. Either way, the "distance" is never in complete, high-resolution focus and at times during my hands-on this felt odd. While we're on the subject, I ask about GTA 4's weather effects. There's sunny day, clear night, morning fog and even heavy thunderstorm, but no snow. Ah well.
While in GTA 4's pause menu I spy some interesting options. You've got your standard mission objectives in the Brief, a massive amount of stats, including game progress, mission completion, times died, addiction level (how long you've played the game), Michelle fondness and details on how many times you've been shopping, bought clothes and got drunk. Buying clothes is important - you won't be able to customise Niko in any way apart from the clothes he's wearing. Some people will complain if you never change your clothes and some missions require certain outfits - you need a suit for a mission involving an interview with a lawyer (more on that later).
There are more general stats available, including how many crimes you've committed, how many vehicles you've driven and how much money you've made. You've got head shots and mini-game scores, too. One statistic that did catch my eye was for driving races. GTA IV will have an airport run - a sort of illegal car racing club. And you can expect online leaderboards on which you'll be able to compare your scores with everyone else in the world.