There's no time for subtlety either. Niko storms in with a rocket launcher, blind firing at anything daring to move. Again, lots of carnage, lots of explosions. The ground is on fire and Niko caps a Triad in the leg, forcing him to the floor. The poor unfortunate soul catches fire, rolls around in agony and eventually dies. Ouch.
The truck starts to move and looks like it's getting away. Niko runs after it and grabs the rear bumper. Here you have to tap A (on the Xbox 360 pad, we assume it will be X on a PS3 pad) to climb to the roof of the truck as it swerves and speeds its way towards a getaway point. This sequence, we're told, was in the recent trailer, and was inaccurately described by forum posters as not in-game. It is.
Niko rolls around the top of the truck as the driver desperately tries to force him off. You need to control Niko in order to keep him there. Eventually you make your way to the passenger seat, jump in and kill the driver - you don't control Niko when he does this. You bring the truck under control, call Phil and let him know the heroin is in your hands. He tells Niko to drive it towards an old mansion, which you do of course. Niko, after all, needs the money.
Time is jumped forward again, this time to 9.45am (one real-life minute equals half-an-hour in-game) and a speed boat is spawned. Niko is going to take a boat trip in order to see Liberty City in all its glory. We take in the Statue of Happiness (the Statue of Liberty), speed under the Broker Bridge (Brooklyn Bridge) and generally get a sense of the scale of the city. The game will include four boroughs, Dukes (Queens), Algonquin (Manhattan), Bohan (Bronx) and Broker (Brooklyn). It will also include Alderney (New Jersey), which is more of a state. In all it takes us a good few minutes to get from one end of Liberty City to the other on the speed boat. We're told that if you're not in a rush players will easily spend 100 hours getting everything the game has to offer, and that it's about as long as San Andreas or Vice City. And that's not including the confirmed two batches of episodic content, which Microsoft has an exclusive deal to keep only on Xbox 360 (sorry PS3 owners). Nor does it include the multiplayer side of things, which Rockstar is keeping quiet on until March. But what we can say for certain is that GTAIV, like its predecessors, will be a game that will reward effort. If you want to put the time in and engage in exploring, side quests and other non-main storyline stuff, you'll get your money's worth.
This is a first look, and as such, firm opinion is difficult. From a distance GTAIV looks superb, and, now that Rockstar has implemented subtle tweaks to the combat, looks like a great deal of fun to boot. But it's still classic GTA. This is an evolution of the genre, not a revolution. While Rockstar has dismantled all the parts and examined them in great detail, you'll still spend loads of time stealing cars, escaping cops and engaging in bloody murder. It's the first true next-gen GTA game and as such is perhaps more of a refinement than an overhaul.
It's also GTA grown up. The graphics are certainly improved (we're not sure the character models are the best we've ever seen, or the face textures) and more realistic. Niko's mobile, his gateway to the world, means he's never far from a call and a new job (littered about the city will be an Internet cafe chain called Twat, a sort of Liberty City information gateway). We're told GTAIV is the most sophisticated and opportunistic GTA world ever created, and much of that is to do with the phone. It has a camera you can actually use, a diary, a memo system and, hush hush, it'll be the device through which you channel the multiplayer portion of the game. Interesting.