With GTA IV due out on April 29 a few of our esteemed magazine friends in the GamesRadar network have been granted access to review the game already. That's right - one of the perks of being permanently slagged off on forums and two-bit blogs is that games writers get the opportunity to play games before they're in the shops.
The first of our colleagues to actually finish the game is Rob Taylor, deputy editor of Xbox World 360 magazine, and below he tells us (as best he can) what it feels like to be the first person to finish GTA in the world. Lucky bastard.
You're the first games writer to have finished GTA IV, how does that feel?
Pretty darn sweet to be honest, I allowed myself a quick smug grin when the Rockstar guys told me! It's funny; I didn't actually really get to play as much as – say – the Benelux journos we met while up in Chelsea (we were based in Rockstar's actual offices and I think I racked up 25 hours at the final count, while they were ensconced in their hotel rooms playing up to 11 hours a day!) and I also had to write down some fairly comprehensive tips for the first batch of missions so actually I got off to a slow start.
On day two though, I flew through a major batch of the story missions without messing up once and then on the final day a Rockstar PR sidled up to me pretty late on while I was swearing my head off at getting stuck during a mission called 'A D*** B*** S**** C***' (edited to avoid spoiler) and said "Keep pushing on, you're actually nearly there. The missions are meant to be tough near the end!". It's true; the final couple of missions are rock, but after a couple of retries I finally made the breakthrough. And boy did I feel relieved; to have missed out that late on after all that, ahem... 'hard work' would have been hard to take.
How hard has it been to keep it all a secret?
Well, I've been threatened with physical violence more than a few times by mag colleagues after my constant stream of GTA enthusiasm threatened to get a bit too spoiler-intensive! Generally though, it'd be a shame to ruin the surprises for anyone else; GTA IV single player simply has to be played on your lonesome to be fully appreciate it for what it is: a true milestone in videogames. Likewise, my review in Xbox World 360 (out Wednesday 23rd April) talks more in general terms rather than getting into specifics... I can tell people why they have to buy this game, but I'd rather not tell them everything that transpires while doing so.
How did it all pan out then? Where did you play it?
So we got the call from Rockstar to come up on the March 26 and play for three straight days in a row – including a Saturday! We'd usually kick off at 9 or 10ish in the moring, play until 8 or 9 at night, then go eat, then crash before getting up the next morning and do it all over again. Sat in front of a 60" LCD screen in a dark room for nigh on 30 hours – now that's hardcore! Every GTA fan's dream though, huh?
How hard did you find it, playing it under so much pressure? Did you die a lot?
Definitely. It's funny, I actually had another colleague in the room with me, who also got real close to finishing. We were always comparing stats though, and I think I'd died 40-odd more times than he had by the end of the game. And failed, like, 50 missions! So I think in my rush to get through the game my skills let me down once or twice(!) The pressure to plough through as much as humanly possible did get irritating at times – especially when you get stuck on a certain mission – but you want to soak in as much atmosphere for your readers, cover as much ground as possible... all while taking over 4000 words worth of notes on a nearby laptop! It was the ultimate mix of fun and high pressure.