Tom Baker: Do you hear that? It's the sound of a million right wing voices all calling out at once in protest. As the release date for GTA4 grows ever closer and something unpleasant is about to hit the fan, gamers everywhere are patiently waiting for the next installment in the GTA franchise. The series has come a long way from its 2D beginnings, but the big sell has always been the freedom to do whatever suits you: steal any car, explore any area, talk to anyone, and do anything you want in a living, breathing city. As expected, GTA4 looks breathtaking, and it could push this generation of consoles to its very limits.
Mark Buckingham: GTA4 promises to be bigger, prettier, more interactive, and supposedly much deeper than any previous attempts. With Crackdown, Saint's Row, and even Assassin's Creed expanding and changing what a sandbox game can be, it's a tall order to make the next GTA superior not only to its own heritage, but the ever-expanding competition. With a new generation of hardware, I hope to be as impressed and engaged with it as I was with the transition between GTA on the PSOne to those on the PS2.
Alan Butterworth: It's been way too long since I took to the streets of an enormous urban playground to dispense senseless violence on helpless citizens and greedy gangsters, Grand Theft Auto-style. There's no way that this franchise is going to put out anything less than an all-guns-blazing masterpiece. For this round of career crime, we're dropped into a vast and detailed virtual New York City that, from screenshots so far, looks next-generationally glorious. The emphasis here appears to be on making the game more engaging through gritty realism so stealing vehicles will actually involve window-smashing and hot-wiring. Pay attention, kids, and you might actually learn something! Grand Theft Auto 4 promises me all the best parts of being a notorious criminal without any of the inconvenient jail time.
Anthony Chambers: I have not completed a Grand Theft Auto game since Vice City. San Andreas, while it was good, did not capture me like Vice City did, but from what I've seen from the screenshots, trailers, and news, GTA4 may be the game that brings me back to the series in a big way. It seems as if GTA4 will not only evolve in regards to combat, but the story and narrative may actually capture me. With Vice City being based on '80s classics such as "Scarface," and San Andreas being similar to '90s gangster flicks such as "Boyz n the Hood," I'm genuinely excited to drop money on this game as it prepares to show the gaming world who's the real king of sandbox gameplay.
Xav de Matos: It's ironic. When Rockstar North, formerly known as DMA Designs, came into the scene, they always looked hungry for the American dream: a small company aiming for the stars and striking gold — which they did with Grand Theft Auto 3 in 2001. Now, seven years later, the lead character in the fourth game in the timeline is looking to fulfill his own American dream. There is almost nothing I can say here to explain why Rockstar's latest opus is one of my anticipated titles of the year; chances are the mere thought of painting the next-gen Liberty City red has you salivating. The most exciting part of Grand Theft Auto IV is that the series seems to take its cues from an original source. While GTA3, Vice City and San Andreas were mostly homages to some of the best crime films of all time, IV is the first in the series that promises to deliver an uncompromising original vision of a world gone mad when it hits later this year.
Sanford May: Grand Theft Auto IV is expected to deliver a more compelling plot, completely overhaul its visual presentation to bring it in line with contemporary expectations in game graphics, and make other refinements across the board while still retaining the gameplay mechanism that made the first title a hit. Without much in the way of official comment, though, I've heard everything about the game's delay, from complaints that the PlayStation 3 is incomprehensible to the development team, to a lack of space on Xbox 360's DVD media, to frustration that Microsoft has declined an alleged request by Rockstar to require a hard drive for the game on 360 consoles. Hopefully, the studio and publisher have wisely elected to delay release of a juggernaut title in order to deliver a great game. I have faith, based merely on the fact of much nose-thumbing at social criticism of their games' plot content, you can't say these design teams aren't hard-driven, creative perfectionists.
Tim McDonald: Y'know, it might not look it, but the GTA series has had some serious changes over the years, and not just in terms of perspective. Honestly, the first two games were far more free-roaming, odd as it sounds — the cities were huge, and missions took a backseat to points. GTA 3 took things in a more plot-led, character-led, in-jokey direction, but that's no bad thing; it marked a bit of a transition from arcade game to "commercial" game. Not much is known about GTA4, but considering the amount of differences between GTA1, GTA2, GTA3, Vice City, and San Andreas, I think we can expect a lot more than we've been told. This is a big series, with a big company behind it, and these days, it's their trademark license. I don't see how this can fail.
Steven Mills: Grand Theft Auto IV looks to promise a well-developed recreation of Liberty City as well as an in-depth storyline. I'm actually looking forward to strolling the streets as the Russian, Niko, with an AK-47 slung over my back. After seeing a trailer showcasing the all-new physics and damage mechanics, I just can't wait for Grand Theft Auto IV.
Tony "OUberLord" Mitera: The GTA3 engine held up well over the years, but after San Andreas, it was apparent that the series was going to need a new engine if it wanted to stay modern. GTA4 answers that need, but not only is it slated to bring a slew of graphical enhancements to the series, but a bevy of gameplay ones as well. The ability to take cover behind walls and objects and trade fire with the police after a hit goes bad is like a GTA fan's dream come true, and the mission look to have been given much more development than any in the series' past. If that weren't enough, GTA4 will finally bring official and true multiplayer back to the series. Mods have added it to Vice City, and San Andreas had some barely there second-player action, but now gamers will finally be able to grab some friends, hop into a four-door vehicle, and shoot it out against like-minded individuals. Co-op doesn't seem likely, but at the very least, it will be interesting to see how Rockstar will handle the multiplayer environment.
Ramin Ostad: GTA has been my most beloved game franchise, but by San Andreas, I was beginning to get worn down by the scale of it all. Now Rockstar is starting from scratch, rebuilding not only Liberty City, but the game's engine. It's a nice feeling to say that a GTA game looks visually stunning as well as realistic. It's unlike Rockstar to really mess with a good thing, so it's safe to assume that the core gameplay — driving, shooting and general chaos — won't change too much. The characters and writing we've seen so far also seem much more interesting than they did the previous games.
Daniel Whitfield: The Grand Theft Auto series is the latest franchise to undergo the transition into the next generation of hardware. Core gameplay is expected to be more or less intact, but the addition of a deeper, more involved plotline and a sharper graphical and physics engine promise an almost guaranteed heavenly experience for GTA aficionados. Much-needed improvements of the combat engine, as well as the promised addition of up to 16-player multiplayer, make Grand Theft Auto IV a very difficult game not to get excited about. In essence, it's not a matter of whether Grand Theft Auto IV will be awesome — the question is, "How many sick days am I going to need?"
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