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Grand Theft Auto IV • Page 2

Freedom.

But in tune with the extra visual depth to the world outside and the man in the driving seat, the vehicle models themselves range from gleaming, muscular examples of Detroit penis-envy to the shabby everyday of the inner cities. Bonnets still fly away over the roof when they're unhooked and flapping, but otherwise cars and trucks wear their dents in the right places, bullets perforate doors and boots and an accurate shot from behind, heading out through the windscreen, leaves a bloody hole in the glass. Car doors have a physical presence, too, so you can jump in a truck and reverse quickly to take out the cop chasing you through the streets to the door.

Your Rambo-like battles with the law are more elaborate, too. In-car, you can switch between pistol and Uzi, using the left bumper to elbow the driver-side glass outward and spray bullets by aiming with the right analogue stick, or you can switch to grenades, cook them with the left bumper and drop them through the shattered window, clicking the right analogue stick or using it to swivel the camera so that you can observe the impact they have on the underside of a NOOSE (SWAT) riot van. Caution is occasionally worthwhile, though, not least when you're passing giant articulated lorries, which swerve violently if you puncture their tyres with a stray round, spilling their cargo into your path before overturning and creating an immovable obstacle.

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You can climb over fences and other obstacles, rather than having to go round them.

On the street, fist-fighting benefits from the ability to block punches with timed button presses, but it's inevitably the gunfighting that gets most attention; a new cover system allows you to throw yourself against a wall, the backside of a car or anything else you might naturally use to protect yourself, moving between adjacent cover points with simple motions. Holding the left trigger locks onto a target and exposes you to make the shot; if you hold the trigger down halfway, you can aim manually, or while locked on you can flick the right stick up or down to adjust for headshots and bullets to the knees. You can blindfire - grenades as well - and a hot-swap system gives you easy access to key weapons: caught in a firefight, you can hold LB and press up on the d-pad to switch to an Uzi or AK, left to opt for a pistol, right for grenades and Molotov cocktails or down for the shotgun.

Rockstar has upgraded police intelligence levels, claiming that you won't be able to stand in a street, bring the law down on your head and survive their concerted attention, and we certainly couldn't. Even armed with assault and sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and a full health and body-armour quota, the desaturated colours of a slow-motion stumble into death were never far away. Fortunately, going out in a blaze of glory sends you to hospital, where you emerge with your weapon arsenal intact.

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You replenish your health with food - not just from Burger Shot and its ilk, but from hot dog vendors too.

To offset that, the new "wanted" system is less intensive; when the police are onto you, they establish a search radius around your last known location, indicated on your mini-map, and if you can escape that bubble without catching their attention, you're free, no matter their interest in you. As the swirling cross-shaped rotors of police choppers and the flashing cruiser and NOOSE icons crawl through the mini-map streets, your eyes flick between them and the street outside the car as you try to chart a path to presumed innocence. Switching cars also helps, but the pay-and-spray is no longer the panacea of past GTAs. And the more badly you behave, the larger the search area.

The police aren't so effective that you can't mess with them, then, and the best example of this is pulling up your mobile phone with the d-pad and dialing 911. In effect, you can use the emergency services number to request vehicular toys: a dispatcher sends a cruiser to your location, and once the cops are out of the car you can distract them and take control of it. The police computer within allows you to search for individuals whose names you've been given, whether it's mission-specific or not.

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