All you wanted to know about upcoming massive video game Grand Theft Auto IV!

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The best-selling freestyle crime series is brought onto the new generation of consoles with Grand Theft Auto IV.

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Review:

The last time we got a look at Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar showed us a rather modest taste of what to expect from its highly awaited crime epic, one that gave us only a basic idea of the kind of urban playground the developer was creating. More recently, Rockstar took all that theoretical stuff we've been hearing about with regard to the game's new mechanics, and put it into impressive action with a new demonstration of the Xbox 360 version that started answering our questions about how the designers will change the gameplay in the fourth iteration of their seminal open-world action series. Can they tinker with the formula that sold 900 billion games across the cosmos without damaging its core appeal? Our answer right now? Yeah, they probably can.

After all, it was Rockstar who invented the open-world action model that has since influenced franchises from The Godfather to Crackdown to Jak & Daxter. Grand Theft Auto essentially defined that giddy sense of criminal freedom, by which you could wreak utter havoc on the hapless citizenry (and the citizenry's cars) with relative impunity and explosive aplomb. So it's ironic that it's Rockstar who is now restraining that freedom with GTA IV, which will place more immediate and noticeable limits on--and stricter consequences for--the sort of illicit behavior you can get away with as you go about your dirty business around Liberty City. The goal of this constrained design isn't to ruin your happy crime sprees, but rather to immerse you deeper into the world of Liberty City by making some of those explicitly gamelike elements of the GTA titles a little more realistic. We observed some of those limits and consequences in action during our demonstration.

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Rockstar has gone to great lengths to re-create as much of New York City as it can cram into the game.

The session began with the game's poster boy for troubled pasts, protagonist Niko Bellic, starting out his day in Star Junction, which is GTA IV's version of Times Square. Niko received a cell phone call from crooked cop Francis McReary, who was intent on blackmailing Niko into running some shady errands. Your cell phone will act as one of your primary means of interacting with the residents of Liberty City. In past games, you merely accepted calls--and their associated missions--when they came in, as dictated by the story. But in GTA IV the phone is a two-way device, as you can just pop it up at the bottom of the screen, scroll through your list of contacts, and make a call when you need to reach out and touch the right (or wrong) person. In Rockstar's words, the cell phone is one new example of the way GTA IV will have you actively "instigating, not just reacting to" the world around you.

As it turned out, McReary wanted us to ice a lawyer who had been compiling evidence against the dirty cop. But unlike in past GTA games, the player had to go through a more subtle and lengthy process than simply striding into the law office, weapons ablaze, and gunning down every sucker in the place. What better way to get face-to-face with the lawyer in question without raising any eyebrows than to score a job interview with the jerk? To do that, we saw the player head to one of GTA IV's new Internet cafes, affectionately known as "TW@," and log onto the law firm's Web site to submit his resume and request an interview in person. Like with the cell phone, you'll be able to access a graphical interface that lets you surf the Web, check e-mail, and other basic functions whose purpose is primarily to tell you where to go and what to do next. Again like the phone, the Internet will act as a familiar real-world method of disseminating information and instructions to you without jarringly taking you out of the gameworld.

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You can change your attire to some extent, but character customization will be more limited than in San Andreas.

But before Niko could perform the hit, McReary helpfully pointed out that he would need some firepower to complete his task (yes, there will still be guns in the game). Niko was able to whip out his cell phone and ring up a "friend," a Rastafarian named Little Jacob who could help him get what he needed. Alas, in keeping with GTA IV's more realistic tone, you'll have to say goodbye to your beloved chain of Ammu-Nation stores. Guns won't be available from any mom-and-pop corner shop; you'll have to deal with shady characters like Jacob, who we saw selling a lovely array of automatic and semiautomatic weapons right out of his car trunk.

Screens :

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Features:

Gameplay

  • Niko can use a mobile phone to receive calls and phone his contacts. He can also use it to call taxis and purchase weapons. The options presented on the phone's LCD are Phonebook, Messages, Organizer, and Camera.
  • Pedestrians smoke cigarettes, read books and newspapers, drop litter, talk on mobile phones, walk in and out of buildings, and generally act like any normal pedestrian would.

    www.gamesms.org
    Mobile phones are a big part of Grand Theft Auto IV's gameplay.

  • It is possible to climb and descend telephone poles, and exterior fire escapes.
  • There are many different animation sets for breaking into cars. One of these involves Niko smashing the side window with his elbow, climbing into the car, and then hotwiring it.
  • Niko is able to manage his funds at ATMs.
  • GTA IV features multiplayer, but it's "not a massively multiplayer game," according to Rockstar's creative vice president Dan Houser.
  • Cracks exist on a car's windscreen after being shot at. It no longer shatters unrealistically like in previous GTA games.
  • It is possible to surf the internet in GTA4 via internet cafés. It is available from any computer in the game, and provides a hub for all sorts of interactivity within Liberty City.
  • In GTA IV, you will gain a police wanted level for any crime that you commit, providing there are witnesses present. The police can only chase you if they know where you are, and they need to see you to know where you are, so if you escape the search area marked on the radar without being spotted, your wanted level will disappear.
  • Liberty City's taxicabs provide an easy (and legal) way of travelling around the city. Inside the taxi, the camera changes to first-person mode. For convenience, you can "trip-skip" to the destination you choose.

Story & Missions

  • The story and mission structure is different from previous GTA games, in that the story can be told in a number of different ways. Rockstar are trying to give people greater freedom and sense of control over their destiny. You now have a lot more choice in what you want to do.
  • It is possible to do more than one mission at a time. For example, some missions take place over several days and may involve waiting for phonecalls or attending interviews, and you are free to carry out other business during the waiting period.

Technology

  • Grand Theft Auto 4 runs on Rockstar's proprietary next generation game engine, R.A.G.E., allowing for an unprecedented level of realism and interactivity.

    Volumetric Lighting
    New volumetric lighting effects are evident in the first trailer.

    • New sunlight and weather effects which give the city a whole different appearance as the time of day progresses.
    • Volumetric lighting effects allow sunlight to stream realistically into dusty interiors. Police spotlights will likely benefit from this effect as well when helicopters kick up debris.
    • Normal (bump) maps will provide much more detail in models than the underlying polygons, as well as giving materials more texture and depth.
    • Road and building textures are more varied than in previous GTAs. On some roads you will find potholes, metal plates (etc) where the road has been dug up.
    • Modern pixel shedders give water, glass, cars, etc.. more realistic reflections and shininess than the earlier games.
    • In cars, you can see real reflections on the rear and side-view mirrors.
    • There are no load times in GTA4, not even during exterior-interior transitions (and vice versa.)
  • GTA4 uses euphoria, a fully procedural animation package created by NaturalMotion. Find out more about euphoria at the bottom of this page.
    • Variations in the terrain are met with realistic changes in the walking animation.
    • Characters will react realisticaly to being hit with gunfire, cars, and melee weapons or fists.
    • Players will be able to push people out of the way, rather than "floating" past them as in older games.
    • Falling/thrown characters will react as in real life- They won't simply be limp, lifeless ragdolls. Nor will they use a canned "super hero" animation like before.
    • Characters (and players?) will be able to hang on to helicopters and trucks, which will swing them around as the vehicle moves.

Miscellaneous

  • The camera angle behind the car is closer than it has been in previous GTAs. This allows you to see more detail on the cars, and more of the verticality of the city.
  • In terms of scale, GTA IV is about the same size as GTA: San Andreas, but the map size is considerably smaller, since there is no desert or countryside in Liberty City. Liberty City in GTA4 is the biggest city R* have ever created.
  • Every street in Liberty City has a street sign with a name on it.

euphoria - What is it, and what does it do?

DMS
NaturalMotion Video of
Dynamic Motion Synthesis

To begin, we would like to point out that NaturalMotion's euphoria engine is not a graphics engine. Several sources have claimed euphoria to be a graphics engine, which would power Grand Theft Auto IV. This is an incorrect statement. A graphics engine, commonly known as a game engine, is reponsible for creating real-time graphics for a game. NaturalMotion's euphoria engine is not so much concerned with rendering real-time graphics, as opposed to creating interactive animations for the game. The core technology is the Dynamic Motion Synthesis (DMS) system.

Provided enough processing power, such as in a next-generation console (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360), DMS is able to produce dynamic animations for in-game objects. One aspect of this, the DMS behaviors, simulates the responses of a human body to changes in its surroundings. This means that the animations you see taking place have not been pre-scripted or motion captured, as was the case in previous GTA games, but are generated on the fly. So for instance the same interaction with a pedestrian, repeated a dozen times, will produce a different outcome every time.

This technology is aimed to provide gamers with "unique game moments". Animations are created on the fly, so each player's experience will be unique. This brings Grand Theft Auto into a new world, since gamers are no longer subjected to pre-recorded animations; the game unfolds in a different way each time it is played.

GTA IV Trailer GTA IV Trailer GTA IV Trailer
The euphoria engine's capabilities are witnessed in the second Grand Theft Auto IV trailer.

Rockstar Games' and Natural Motion's partnership was announced at the end of February, 2007. By this point, "several months of close collaboration" had been taking place between the two companies. We can only assume, that this means work on integrating euphoria into Grand Theft Auto IV began sometime at the end of 2006. Natural Motion's website explains that the integration of the euphoria engine is a result of cooperation between the development team and NaturalMotion, indicating that the opportunities euphoria is creating for GTA IV will be fully utilized:

"NaturalMotion has close co-development relationships with publishers and development teams to integrate euphoria into their next-generation titles. This allows clients to hit the ground running and produce euphoria-enabled games within short time frames." (Source: NaturalMotion euphoria product description.)

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