GTA IV trailer dissected

If you're much of a Grand Theft Auto fan, by now you've probably watched the second trailer - titled "Looking for That Special Someone" - at least a dozen times (and if not, now's a good time to start). Unlike the teaser-y first trailer, which revealed little other than the setting (Liberty City, more New York-ified than ever) and main character (Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic), the second trailer actually gives us a decent look at the plot, characters and gameplay. But beyond the instant hit of intoxicating action and awesome music ("Arm in Arm (Shy Child Mix)" by NYC band The Boggs, if you were curious), how much practical information can we wring from every last one of its frames? Let's find out.

The biggest question here is, how much of the trailer is taken from actual gameplay, and how much is just a cutscene? We know that it's all happening in-game - Rockstar's confirmed as much - but some of these things will be interactive, and others won't. Niko's shown hanging onto a moving vehicle for dear life twice, for example, leads us to conclude that grabbing onto trucks and choppers might somehow factor into gameplay. It's not a completely ridiculous assumption; if Niko can scale telephone poles and automatically clamber over low obstacles, it's not too much of a stretch to think that he'd be able to leap onto passing cars and trucks, grab on and maybe even jack them while they're moving. We hope, anyway.

Above: Looks like Rockstar's been listening to us, after all

The same goes for the way Niko creeps along the side of a graffiti-covered wall, gun cradled in both hands, before peeking around the corner. Is this just part of the story, or will we be able to sneak our way through tense situations more realistically than in previous games? We're guessing the latter - sidling around behind cover is becoming a standard for action games, and GTA is long overdue to add it to its repertoire of moves. It'll probably come in handy, too, given that the cops and SWAT teams look to be using real-world group tactics (more real-world than in previous games, at least) to take Niko down.

Other gameplay elements are more obvious - the shot of Niko firing an AK-47 into a car is vintage GTA gunplay, although two things in that shot strike us as particularly interesting: the duffel bag and the open trunk. We already know car trunks will be usable as storage lockers in GTA IV, and although the extent of what they can carry hasn't yet been revealed, we're going to go ahead and guess that Niko was hiding his AK in it. We haven't heard much about bags, however, and - considering that one showed up in a teaser shot released yesterday  (which, by the way, had nothing to do with the trailer), and that the game's special edition comes packed with a duffel bag, it's looking like they'll serve an important purpose. Maybe they're good for concealing weapons (so cops don't become alarmed by the maniac wandering around with a rocket launcher), or maybe you can keep severed heads in them. At this point, it's all just speculation.

Given how often accidents can happen in GTA games, it's also interesting to see that Rockstar's finally making its protagonists wear motorcycle helmets, although seeing one just opens up more nit-picky questions. Will they be something that automatically comes with stolen bikes? Maybe the answer lies in last year's Bully, which gave players the choice of either buying a helmet or getting chased by the cops every time they tried to ride a dirt bike or go-kart. Maybe they'll serve the same function here. Maybe that's what the duffel bags are for.

About the Author
Mikel Reparaz

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.