How different is the game from the others?
It's certainly tighter, both in terms of the way Liberty city is structured and the way in which the narrative feels more movie-like than before. Otherwise, everything feels as if it's been given the next-gen treatment; in particular the driving and shooting are light years ahead of past GTAs. Overall, it's a stratospheric leap forward, beyond anything I'd imagined.
Was the game everything you expected? Or are there some surprises?
That's a tricky question. It certainly exceeded my expectations, while there are so many small, chucklesome Easter Egg-style surprises that you're constantly shaking your head at just how savvy a developer Rockstar really is – light years ahead of its contemporaries. Again though, it's hard to be specific without venturing into the spoiler region... sorry!
In terms of the time it takes to finish, how does it compare with others in the series?
That's a hard question to answer really. I finished the story mode in 24* [see below for update] hours, without skipping cut scenes, but I literally blitzed through and hardly took on any side missions. If I was to play it again (which I will be, right on launch day!) I'd say to wrap up the story will take at least 40 hours at a normal pace, plus another – say, 25? – to wrap up the remainder of the missions.[See update below]. In truth though, you could be paving the streets of Liberty City in a year's time and still not have discovered everything. Plus, if you're a 360 owner, there's the promise of downloadable content to come... My advice is: just kick back, take your time and breathe every fresh sight and sound in, don't simply rush through just to finish it before your mates. I wish I'd had that option!
How many "Woooaah, Jesus that's amazing!" moments did you have?
Without giving away any spoilers; lots! I think, overall though, it'll be three overall things that entrance GTA fans like never before. The City is one, with a lighting engine that has to be seen to be believed, plus the incredible dialogue and characterisation is genuinely Oscar-worthy and Niko Bellic is absolutely the most amazing protagonist in any game I've ever played. Finally, multiplayer of course!
Are the GTA fans going to happy with the new game, do you think?
Obviously, you can't make everyone happy all of the time but if any GTA fans aren't happy with IV, they need to take a good long look at themselves. Seriously though, this game is going to make a lot of people very happy.
Did you get a chance to play much multiplayer? Did you get your ass kicked by the Rockstar guys?
Yes, Xbox World 360 actually snagged a whole day playing against Rockstar PRs and devs in a exclusive feature a month or so back. Rather than simply go with the whole Deathmatch and Capture the Flag stuff, they've genuinely taken their time creating some amazing new modes that'll do the business online. Mafiya (a chaotic, mission based affair), Cops 'n' Crooks (one team try to capture the other) and Hangman's Noose (players team up to take an army of AI SWAT troops) were our personal faves...
If you had to pick a favourite out of all the games in the series now which one would it be?
GTA IV. By a country mile. It craps on all the others – even the mighty Vice City – from a height equivalent to the Statue of Happiness. Believe me, GTA IV is even better than the hype suggests!
*Update: This story received a load of interest over the weekend. Some of the feedback from the gaming community (on N4G, Digg and Kotaku for example) has focused on Rob's comments about the length of time it took him to run through the story mode of the game. A lot of people picked up on the possible ambiguity it presented; 25 hours? 40 hours? WTF? To clear up the issue we asked Rob to clarify his statement:
"Although I never skipped cut-scenes the first time round (obviously I didn't re-watch them if I was forced to retry a mission) I did start taking taxi rides to mission locations whenever possible. This significantly speeded up my travel around Liberty City and had a large impact on the time it took me to finish the story mode."
"Any gamer playing at a normal pace would – as I said before – likely take more than 40 hours to finish the story mode alone – and to obtain 100% completion, 100 hours of single player is certainly not out of the question."
What we'd like to add to this is that the bottom line (and sorry if it's unsatisfying) is that it's impossible to say how long it takes to complete GTA IV's story missions or get 100% (and that applies to all GTA games). Being entirely open-world, it depends on how you play the game, how good you are and how much time you have free to devote to it. Consider this: there's at least two of us on GamesRadar who took nearly a year to complete San Andreas 100%. And with GTA IV's multiplayer modes you'll never really 'finish' it anyway.