GTA IV artworkGTA IV is out, I picked mine up on Tuesday, but didn’t get to play it right away. I’ve got a ton of stuff on the go this week, but I decided to make some time to play it anyway Wednesday night.

This is the first new GTA game for the current generation of consoles, and appropriately it’s named GTA IV rather than GTA subtitle here (for those not in the know, GTA 3 was the first GTA game for the revolutionary PS2 / Xbox generation last time).  It currently has the highest ratings for any game that I’ve ever seen with pretty much unanimous praise.

I played a couple of hours of it last night, after Char had gone to bed.  I got started at 10:45, and the game lived up to its hype as right from the opening credits I was blown away.

The first few minutes are all credits with some backstory.  You play the role of Nico Bellic, a fresh off the boat (literally) Russian immigrant.  You come over to America to make a new life for yourself and to escape some pleasantries in your motherland.  Coming off the boat you are met by your cousin Roman Bellic, who works for the local taxi company.

For the next hour I took part in the initial missions which are all designed to get you familiar with Liberty City and the GTA controls.  The missions are quick, and fairly uneventful.

I played until about 1:30am getting a girlfriend (Michelle), and taking her out a couple of times, making a couple of good friends including Roman and a great Jamaican character named JT, and doing some missions for the cab company owner Vlad.

After that I saved the game and just tried to screw with the cops.  The open world aspects of the game are always my favourite part and I love playing “what if” scenarios which invariably end up with Nico in jail or in the hospital.

The next generation graphics are incredible, and the entire city is infused with a earthy palette.  I’m also happier with the overall story of this one than the last GTA game.  I found the “Gangsta” style of GTA San Andreas to be too over the top even for me, while this one is peppered with colourful language, I already actually LIKE the character of Nico, which is really important if you’re going to invest 80 or so hours of your life into his story.

So far I’m incredibly impressed by GTA IV, but I know that there’s a lot of sleepless nights ahead for me.