The hugely anticipated trailer crashed the internet as fans the world over clamoured to see the next-gen GTA. It may have been a teaser but it was laced with clues that show what an incredible cocktail of gangstas, violence and saucy innuendo Rockstar have in store for us...
1. Who is Niko Bellic?
"Life is complicated, I killed people, smuggled people, sold people; perhaps here things will be different."
The GTA template has been hijacked by so many publishers now it would be hard to imagine there being anything new to see in GTA IV.. But look closer. Unlike past games in the series and all those cheap copies that have spawned since San Andreas, your on-screen alter ego, called Niko Bellic, may not be a criminal at all. What we know is that Niko has been lured to Liberty City by his brother Roman. He has been sent emails from Roman that claim he is a success and owns 15 sports cars, has two girlfriends and money falling out of his pockets.
It's all a lie of course, and soon Niko is hounding his brother's enemies with a shotgun and an attitude. As we say though, it doesn't seem as if Niko has come to Liberty to shoot the place up, but to try and succeed. At the start, Roman is your connection to the GTA IV world and the place to start your new Liberty life - those girls will be yours. This is the American Dream digitised after all, and that struggle for success is a central theme of all the GTA adventures.
2. Liberty City
This is Liberty City but not the Liberty City of PSone's GTA or the setting of PS2's GTA III - this is a new city for a new generation and is set in 2007 - six years on from GTA III. The previous Liberty Cities were an amalgamation of different American landmarks, throwing together areas of New York, Washington and even Los Angeles. This next-gen incarnation will be a chance to redefine the identity of the city, which is evident in the references to New York and a more realistic GTA world.
The trailer is studded with familiar Big Apple landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the MetLife Building (branded as "GetaLife" in Liberty). Likewise, four of the five real-life boroughs have been included in this new city. Broker is the GTA version of Brooklyn, Manhattan is Algonquin, Queens is Dukes and the Bronx is Bohan. Several areas of the State of New Jersey are also included, and are now called Alderney.
3. The Trailer
"It's not that we merely use technology to help us succeed in the world, we live technology. Technology has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe, so we are no longer conscious of its presence." Godfrey Reggio
The teaser says a lot about the direction of the new game, and about the series as a whole. The trailer is based on Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi, a dialogue-free documentary film from the early 1980s mixing landscape footage with a rolling soundtrack. Now you don't have to like early '80s arthouse cinema to get excited about where Rockstar is taking the GTA series. Reggio's film was about ripping out the foreground of a movie (the actors, plot and characterization) and presenting the background as the focus. This suggests that the sprawl of Liberty City and it's playground of skyscrapers will take centre stage. Developing our own stories as we play and with the onus of invention on us, no two games will be the same.
4. The Talent
So who's on board? Well, it's no surprise that regulars Dan Houser, James Worrall, Lazlow Jones and Navid Khonsari are all returning to script and voice the game. This group of writers have been banging out in-jokes and knob gags for a decade now, and have Manhunt, Max Payne 2 and The Warriors sitting on the CV alongside GTA. Given that the trailer shows ads for Liberty's favorite TV show America's Next Top Hooker and the drink Sprunk, we're confident the minds that gave us Sex Club 7 and Bitch 'n' Dog Food - "Make that bitch shut up!" - are back and on top form.
5. Wider World
Eagle-eyed fanboys have noticed billboard signs for Vice City scattered along the freeway of Liberty City reading: "Fly to Vice City for $300." Does this mean we'll be able to take a trip to Vice? Perhaps. It would certainly encourage a Carlito's Way journey south to strut our linen suits in its clubs and bars, and San Andreas proved GTA has enough scope to deal with large-scale vistas. But is this a step too far? More realistically, Rockstar is probably planning a revised next-gen Vice City for the next GTA, using the launch of PlayStation 3 to restart the GTA world with greater fidelity.