Grand Theft Auto IV demo dissected

It was a hotel room in San Francisco, very much like thousands of others, but with one big difference: This hotel room contained three GamesRadar editors, two representatives from Rockstar, and one Xbox 360 debug unit running a demo version of Grand Theft Auto IV. Which made it the best hotel room in all of San Francisco. There will be zillions of words written about the game in the coming months, but we thought we'd start by letting you listen in to our post-rapture brain dump.

Eric Bratcher, Executive Editor: Right. So, I was wondering what you guys thought of the very beginning, when it starts out with the main character Niko's head and bright light around it, then you slowly realize that he's standing indoors, but in front of a window, and you can see the sun streaming in and the cars and pedestrians going by outside. He was just standing there, but the simple fact that all of that was going on was really exciting to me. There's a whole list of new things going on right there: realistic sunlight shadows, windows - think of the gameplay possibilities windows alone can add...

Mikel Reparaz, Sony Editor: Yeah, and realistic dinginess in the office he was standing in. They did an excellent job making it look run-down and gritty.

Charlie Barratt, Xbox 360 Editor: Before the camera pulled back, we were staring at Niko's face - and only Niko's face - for what felt like 10 minutes. And yet I was fascinated that entire time, watching him shift in place slightly, glance casually around and move his facial muscles. Quite a departure from the melted polygon of a head we've seen in other GTA protagonists.

Eric: Wow, I didn't even notice the facial muscles. What I did notice joyously waswhen the camera pulled all the way back and Niko just walked out the door straight into the world, with no loading or anything. It just felt fantastic. It opens up so manynew options for what you can do now. But Mikel's point is absolutely correct, as well. This new GTA world is super-grungey. The crumbling look of the buildings, the cracks in the pavement... if this location is really Niko's brother's place of business, he can't be doing well. This is a dump.

Mikel: Well, it's in the heart of Brooklyn, or rather its stand-in, Broker. It's not the borough with the nicest reputation, although Rockstar clearly put a lot of effort into showing us why.

Charlie: Yeah, this entry really deserves its title - "IV." The look and feel is a huge departure from previous GTA s. We're no longer in a cartoon world. It's not just that the world looks real and life like... it's that it looks lived in. You believe that real people could inhabit this world.