The Five: Grand Theft Auto IV (PC)
The Skinny: Rockstar Games is releasing Grand Theft Auto IV on the franchise's original platform, with a host of improvements -- but do you really need to buy it again?
1. The perfect version? If you have a high-end PC, you're in for a real treat. With upgraded everything and no concessions made, with the right machine, it could be tempting to bypass the icky mouse/keyboard combo for the USB-enabled Xbox 360 pad (or an old PlayStation 2 controller with the Super Joy Box) and gloat at your console buddies. However, those special Xbox 360 episodes will be staying on the Xbox 360.
2. Multiplayer will be beefier. Although Rockstar isn't commenting on all the additions, it could include new modes and support more players. There is also a new filter for match searches, which will help simplify things. C'mon, Rockstar, why sit on the nitty-gritty multiplayer details when single-player is where the game truly shines?
3. Warm up your video cards. GTA IV PC will have a pile of graphical upgrades, such as increased draw distances. If you have the video card and monitor to support it, you can scale the resolution all the way up to a whopping 2560x1600. But in the "Three Leaf Clover" mission that we saw, Miko, Packie and his Irish cronies actually looked pretty similar, in terms of facial features, at the highest resolution. The fact that we were viewing the demonstration on a 70" screen may also have been important, but could running the game at bleeding-edge resolutions also highlight its graphical shortcomings?
4. This movie is about you! When playing GTA IV on your PC, the game will constantly be recording 30-second clips that you can edit later. Cut, splice, and add filters to your favorite replays, and then upload them to sites like the Rockstar Games Social Club.
5. Who cares! We want the mods! The GTA franchise has a healthy modding community that won't wait around for Rockstar to deliver new content. With a heap of total-conversion mods designed for GTA: San Andreas, for example, players could change the game into GTA: Vice City, Resident Evil or even a Rally game. With the new GTA engine, modders are going to be quite busy, to say the least.
The Big Question: Doesn't everyone already own it? With 10 million units sold, does the PC version add enough to get GTA fans to double-dip? While the video editing sounds cool, all the sexy visual upgrades will only be seen with the hefty video hardware capable of delivering them. Since Rockstar is keeping silent on multiplayer, we don't have a clue what's going on there. Unless you still haven't played the game, own a big rig that can handle everything already, and want to get your hands dirty with mods -- we say hit the couch with Mr. Bellic and stick with the console version.
This preview is based on a publisher-driven demo of the game at Leipzig Games Convention.