Even if it was called 'Free-roaming Mafia shooter IV' Rockstar's new GTA would still be the biggest game of the year. That's because even without the brand, the hype and the moaning lawyers, it's shaping up to be a bloody impressive game.
Ushered in to a dark room by half of Rockstar's PR department (they're protective of their baby), we're greeted by a giant leather sofa, a giant HD telly and a bowl of sweets big enough to give Ronaldinho serious toothache.
This is our second look at the game and we were promised a lot more action than what we saw (or didn't) in the first demo. This isn't the first mission in the game, rather the first mission Rockstar has shown anyone.
The theme of the second look is 'small fish in a big pond', and there's no better representation than when Rockstar boots up Star Junction - GTA's equivalent of Times Square - and little old Niko is blanketed by the bright lights of Liberty City's busiest corner. The code we're seeing is a couple of weeks old; the licensed soundtrack is still work in progress, voiceovers aren't all in and the lighting system has the occasional hiccup, but the scale and detail is already mighty impressive.
The night sky allows the bright lights of Star Junction's building-tall signs to illuminate pedestrians - who all move very naturally thanks to a new centre of gravity. Without even moving we can see newspaper stands, bus stops, hot dog vendors (where the Left Bumper apparently buys you a hot dog - we're on a 360 pad) and a giant news ticker listing the weather for every corner of the city.
Out Rockstar PR aides promise that Star Junction is representative of all the detail lavished across the full game, which sports New York boroughs renamed to Broker (Brooklyn), Dukes (Queens), Bohan (Bronx), Algonquin (Manhattan) and Alderney (New Jersey). "All the streets are named as well," he notes.
But we're tired of staring at the buildings and admiring walking animations; we demand action. Ahead of our threats to walk out the door without putting our Drum Stick wrappers in the bin, Niko hops on a nearby motorcycle and speeds up the street, to visit Rotterdam Hill and Little Jacob, who's a bit like the Del Boy of firearms.
Finding that special someone
This morning in Liberty City Niko has a bit of a problem. A local police officer by the name of Francis McCrery has some dirt on Niko, and he's asking for a few favours to keep him quiet. The first of these favours is to take out a lawyer who's causing him trouble but the task is going to take Niko the whole day to complete.
Little Jacob, a man with the guns in his car boot, is GTA IV's answer to Ammunation. The game is set in October 2007 and it's quite tricky walking into a gun store and buying an Uzi. It's not realistic and not possible. Instead, you'll find your shooters in Alleyways and the boots of cars, and our mate Little Jacob is sorting us out. There's a healthy selection of Uzis, rifles and grenades in the back of his motor, but the demoing Rockstar chap opts for a pistol and wracks up as many ammo clips as he can carry.
"Niko's still trying to build a life for himself and he's getting to know the circle of friends that his cousin Roman knows," we're told. "As he evolves, he starts taking care of business and proving himself, he then starts to be trusted by a lot of these guys who he'll later come to rely."