But not everything in GTAIV is in your face impressive. There are loads of little touches (Rockstar claims it has made thousands of changes for GTAIV) that help add to a sense that you are a part of a living, breathing world. For example, while you're driving and listening to the radio (all the music is place holder while Rockstar sorts out licensing issues) interference will scratch the radio signal just before your mobile rings. It's a simple yet brilliant touch, and just one example of why GTAIV looks so impressive.
While you're driving, PlayboyX explains the background to the mission. He wants to impress a powerful Arab who has embarked on a building project in Liberty City. The Mafia, however, isn't happy, and has taken control of the building site in order to prevent construction. To curry favour with the Arab, PlayboyX wants you to storm in and kill everyone. Simple.
Back to the rooftop (you following?). Sniping the lookouts from a rooftop building is, we're told, just one way of approaching the mission. If we had wanted we could have taken Niko on a Commando-style blast-em-up and shot our way in, or taken out the spotters from the ground. But we're not interested in that. We're interested in doing a clean, professional job, Leon style.
Niko steadies himself and zooms in on the spotters. Our handy Rockstar demo guy swiftly and precisely takes all three out, sparsely positioned on cranes overlooking the building site. One of them tumbles from a crane onto the roof of a car below. Cue delirious praise from PlayboyX through a radio headset. It's time for Niko to cock his shotgun, make his way down the building and aim squarely for the Mafia.
It's here that we're given the clearest indication of how combat will work in GTAIV. As we predicted in our GSI on the Move Up, Ladies trailer, GTA IV indeed features a cover system, which, we're happy to report, looks stunning, and is the change to the core GTA gameplay mechanic we're most excited about.
As in previous games, you have a targeting reticule and can switch targets at will, allowing for strafing and locking on. When targeting, clicking up on the right analogue stick moves the targeting reticule to your enemy's head, and clicking down lowers it. To get into cover you press the right bumper. It's context sensitive, so depending on your distance from and the type of cover, Niko will do a different move. For example, if you're a couple of metres from cover and press the right bumper, Niko will do a Thierry Henry-style knee slide and seamlessly slam his back into whatever is keeping the bullets from penetrating his skin. If you're right next to the cover, however, he'll simply crouch down. Put that in your chainsaw and smoke it Marcus Fenix.
As in Gears of War and what seems like a million games since, GTAIV also features blind firing. Here, Niko swings his arms up and over or around to the side, depending on the cover, and fires off rounds from whatever gun he has equipped. I'm told the blind fire is quite useful - indeed it looks like the enemy AI isn't quite up to coping with it. Here the targeting reticule is merely a guide - the bullets will spray wildly and inaccurately.