Grand Theft Auto IV – 11 Days Before Launch

The excitement is mounting. It’s now less than two weeks (11 days, in fact) until Grand Theft Auto V is released on the world. With new details revealed every day and nothing but positive reaction web-wide, you might be forgiven for thinking this could be one of the biggest games of all time. Any way you look at it, it’s kind of a big deal, right?

Go back to 2008 – 18th April 2008, to be precise – and you’ll see a very similar situation. The 18th was 11 days before Grand Theft Auto IV hit stores. What did we think? What were we talking about? What information were Rockstar trickling out?

I wanted to find out.

GTA V 

Grand Theft Auto IV Goes Gold

Take Two announced, 11 days before launch, that Grand Theft Auto IV had gone gold. This was marked by an interview on the Opie and Anthony show with writer Lazlow Jones, better known for his appearances on a variety of GTA radio stations. He spoke about the GTA IV’s 100 adverts, about the depth of the in-game internet and about how being shot in specific areas will affect Niko in different ways. His example was being shot in the leg causing Niko to limp…

Recording dialogue took a huge amount of time for Grand Theft Auto IV. Ten hours a day, five days a week for many weeks. It shows. The radio stuff in GTA IV is excellent, and, with a boost in focus on audio design for GTA V, I can only imagine things have been as busy again in the last few months.

The day before saw the launch of the Rockstar Social Club, a feature that had a few bugs to begin with but which, in the report linked above, seems to have been positively received. Skip forward a few years and it seems people groan a little about having to use it. 

It Doesn’t Have Split-Screen

Stephen Tolito, still writing for MTV at the time, needed to stress that you wouldn’t be able to play Grand Theft Auto IV with a friend via split-screen.

Sorry, but the option is just not there. Players can go anywhere in “GTA IV”‘s massive city while in any of the multiplayer modes. I just can’t see how a single Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 could have been expected to render two different parts of Liberty City at once even in a half-screen size. That’s what many game makers tell me, too, when this topic comes up.

For all horsepower of this new generation of hardware, split-screen is just something that doesn’t work. Not when the alternative — online one-system-per-TV gaming — is so easily achievable.

Considering some of the things we’ve seen since GTA IV launched, perhaps it wasn’t entirely true that Liberty City, as it exists in the multiplayer mode, couldn’t have had two players playing it together. It’s also funny, considering the state of GTA IV’s multiplayer at times, that anybody would have ever called it an easier alternative.

You Don’t Have a Copy of GTA IV

Everybody on the internet was claiming to have a copy of GTA IV. EVERYBODY. If you were on a message board that at all had anything to do with GTA IV, you’d have come into one of the many fakes that ended up on YouTube.

The phenomenon became so widespread that GamesRadar’s Chris Antista ran a story about a particular case on their forums. He probably wishes he hasn’t.

Within five pages of the post above, you see a harmless joke explode into something else entirely. Ah, the internet of 2008. Completely different to that of today.

Microsoft Were Confident with their “Episodes”

March 2008 saw the Xbox 360 outsell the PS3, and part of the reason for that, Microsoft claimed, was because Xbox 360 was the place to play Grand Theft Auto IV.

From a post on GamesIndustry.biz:

“Whether it’s the results of online polls or data from pre-sells, consumers have made it clear that the benefits of Xbox Live and exclusive access to GTA IV episodic content are making Xbox 360 the chosen place to play GTA IV,” said the company.

Microsoft sold 262,000 Xbox 360 consoles in March, compared to Sony’s 257,000 units.

Despite the monthly spat between the two companies, Nintendo once again proved its home console dominance with over 720,000 units sold during the same period.

Yesterday, Microsoft boasted that its marketing spend for the release of Grand Theft Auto IV wouldequal that of last year’s Halo 3.

The Episodes would eventually come to PS3, almost two years to the day of GTA IV’s release. The DLC version of The Lost of the Damned would be delayed into 2009, meaning even fans that bought the 360 version of the game needed to wait 10 months for the DLC. Hardly a wait worthy of a console purchase, eh?

Still, it seems to have worked.

Grand Theft Auto IV: Downloadable Cities

This is just a rumour, but did you know Rockstar are adding an entirely new city to Grand Theft Auto IV?

From CVG’s Grand Theft Auto IV Collectors Magazine (via Softpedia):

“Of course, to call games as vastly ambitious as Vice City or San Andreas mere ‘expansion packs’ seems childish, but nevertheless, the downloadable content (DLC) coming for the Xbox 360 version of IV has repositioned those games in just this way. DLC so far has meant the odd new car, jumper of bit of horse armour, but GTA IV is set to completely redefine the idea with expansions that are to GTA IV what Vice City or San Andreas were GTA III. Yes, Rockstar is clearly hinting at new downloadable cities; and the chances of them being London, Vice City or SA again are slim to none. So that’s new as in brand new. GTA IV’s Liberty City is the beginning. Think about that and be excited.”

The expansion packs did end up redefining Liberty City in many ways, but those changes were firmly set within the confines of the city. Where this one came from, well… we may never know.

Can We Catch STDs in GTA IV?

Some people wanted to see working petrol stations, others wanted to be able to spend actual time in jail. One person at GamesFAQs was desperate to catch herpes. Apparently there are things you really can’t do on your own.

Ricky Gervais To Make an Appearance

Back when Ricky Gervais was described as a “British comedian” and Karl Pilkington needed a wikipedia link so that people knew exactly who he was, Gervais let slip that he was involved in the new GTA game. Ars Technica covered the story on the 18th.

“It’s a first—which always interests me…” said Gervais, “Games have outsold Hollywood for the past few years so it’s nice to be a small part of that.” 

Give it up for ZiT

What a small world it is. Back on April 18th 2008, our very own Steven Van Eekeren found something he liked the sound of. ZiT Music is such an odd service out of context as you’re playing, although it makes a little more sense when you learn its connection to MP3s.

With ZiT Music Service, simply dial ZIT-555-0100 from anywhere in Liberty City whenever you hear a song you’re into and that song will be tagged for purchase later via the Rockstar Social Club and Amazon MP3.

Things You Could Do Instead of Install

Microsoft weren’t only confident about the Episodes in 2008. There had been some negativity surrounding the PS3 install time for GTA IV and Microsoft PR decided to take advantage of the situation.

They sent out the following email, made public by VG24/7. For an extra interesting read, check out the comments. 2008 was a time when Xbox 360 was winning

With the OXM review hitting streets today, and your own preview impressions which are looking great, hopefully you’ll all be a bit wiser as to the ins and outs of GTA IV now.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the chatter from the 1up GTA IV Preview on the PS3 install time….just a few thoughts on what you could do in this time if you were actually playing the 360 version from the moment you insert the disc….

· Steal your first dozen or so cars and test out the improved vehicle handling?

· Check out the cool features on your mobile phone?

· Rack up a 5 Star Wanted Rating?

· Have a blast of your first MP game on Xbox LIVE?

· Ditch the tracksuit chic and buy some new clothes?

· Unlock your first GTA IV Achievement and boost your Gamerscore?

….Or just start downloading a film from Xbox LIVE Video Store to watch later – check out the latest batch of arrivals this weekend!

The OXM Review Hit Streets

There was a lot of news, 11 days before the official release of Grand Theft Auto IV, but there was also a pretty long-awaited review. OXM gave Grand Theft Auto a 10/10 (“naturally,” one of the few original write-ups says). Utterly stunning in every respect might be fair, but I’m thinking the comparison between GTA IV’s choices and Bioshock’s might go a little far…

Conclusion

I’ve been playing Grand Theft Auto IV again in recent weeks, and it’s amazing to play it knowing how close we were to the cusp of a digital revolution. Jokes about phones that can take pictures and how agonizingly slow text messaging is… They still remain funny, but only because you can place them into the context of 2008. The world has changed so much in five years, but the denizens of the internet have not. They still get excited about every new piece of information, they still discuss and debate over every little thing and Microsoft and Sony fans will never just be able to get on.

Reading through all of this is also quite worrying. To see the feverish defence of any little complaint in comment sections. Knocking Grand Theft Auto IV is pretty widely accepted now, and I wonder how much of this excitement will remain when the flaws in Grand Theft Auto V inevitably come out. Will the excitement remain long enough to make GTA V another best seller or will, like Bioshock, Tomb Raider and The Last of Us before it, that same excitement give way to honest critique and even slight disappointment.

With only 11 days to go, it won’t take long for us to find out.

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Article By

Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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