Grand Theft Radar: Could GTA IV disappoint?

You've heard the hype. Grand Theft Auto IV is going to be amazing... monumental... revolutionary... life changing... world altering... universe shifting... the best game of the year, if not the best thing in the history of EVER.

Or is it...?!

Well, yes, probably. GTA IV, however, won't be perfect. Even now, more than two weeks ahead of release, we can predict a dozen reasons the sequel might bug you, bother you or just plain disappoint you. Some are legitimate and some are stupidly nitpicky, but for fans accustomed to the absolute best, all merit and deserve discussion. Recalibrate your expectations accordingly...

#1 - The sandbox has shrunk

With each entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, the world gets a little bigger. Okay, a LOT bigger. Part of the feverish excitement in waiting for a new installment has always been the question "How friggin' ginormous can they make it this time?" We got a city. We got a state. Now, nothing less than an entire country, continent or planet will do!

GTA IV, however, is actually smaller than San Andreas and includes only one measly metropolis. One! Call us spoiled, but size matters.

Why it doesn't matter

Just because the world is tinier doesn’t mean it will feel that way. What GTA IV lacks in pure scale, the game makes up for with sheer, overwhelming detail. Take a look at any screenshot and count how many unique signs, stores, landmarks and landscapes you notice. The dead space of San Andreas is nonexistent. When every single street is a new adventure, who needs a whole country?

#2 - Liberty City... again?

News flash, Rockstar: America contains more than five cities. Why, from what we hear, they even have cities outside the US now! Some of them are apparently even pretty famous. Chicago? New Orleans? Paris? Tokyo? Any of these ring a bell? Could we at least go to Carcer City finally?

Don't be silly. Let's head back to Liberty City, the fictional fetishization of New York City, for the SIXTH time. Maybe we'll get to drive a taxi!

Why it doesn't matter

Forget the Liberty City you thought you knew. This isn't the same place explored in five previous incarnations. This isn't a generically gritty burg or a barely recognizable amalgamation of three totally separate locations. This is the real deal. For the first time, Liberty City looks like New York. It feels like New York. If the 360 and PS3 had some kind of olfactory sensors, Liberty City would smell like New York. While the name isn't fresh, the experience promises to be.

#3 - You won't recognize the music

Vice City had Michael Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne, Luther Vandross and Run-D.M.C. San Andreas had 2Pac, Willie Nelson, Depeche Mode, Guns N' Roses and The Who. Turn to any radio station at any time... you're bound to hear something you know and pretty likely to hear something you love.

From what's been announced officially, what's featured in trailers and what we've caught during our demos, the songs in GTA IV are more... eclectic. In other words, we don't recognize a damn one of them. Eastern European pop, Jamaican dancehall and Afrobeat? We already miss V-Rock.

Why it doesn't matter

Grand Theft Auto has grown beyond the predictable playlist of a college '80s or '90s party. The soundtrack in GTA IV won't be another collection of past hits because it has the potential to showcase a collection of future hits. Stuff that is unrecognizable due to originality, not quality. And if you discover a new track you really dig, you can even download it immediately via Amazon. How neat is that?

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