After a long day killing mobsters and generally lowering property values, Niko finally answers his phone. It's Roman. To pacify him, Niko suggests getting a few drinks - or at least, drinking together "like they used to", which involves getting absolutely rat-faced. Niko locates Roman, and picks him up from the pavement en-route to a bar we've seen before on the Rockstar website - the Steinway Beer Garden. There is no internal shot of the pub, as it cuts straight to the result of several hours drinking - both Niko and Roman are so drunk they can't stand up, and end up falling over each other and various other objects such as lamp posts in a hilarious double-act Laurel & Hardy would be proud of. Rockstar insist there is a real challenge in simply remaining vertical, let alone driving a car in this condition.
Time now for Rockstar to show off a bit more of the variable environment they're so rightly proud of. The next mission involves meeting some shady characters in the suburb of Aldeney (New Jersey) who look and sound like the lead actors in The Sopranos. Apparently, the local Triads have a stash of drugs they believe to be cursed, which must be stolen at all costs. In order to get to the location (the rear of a laundromat in an area that looks suspiciously like Chinatown)
we take a car provided to us by Ray, one of the aforementioned shady characters. This car, a "Karin Intruder", looked suspiciously like a late model Mercedes, but the thing that struck me was the engine noise. Instead of the one-dimensional one-track wail you might be expecting, this gave out a sweet V8 burble as you accelerated away from lights. It actually looked, drove, and sounded exactly as you would expect it to. But that's not all - when we reached our destination, Niko jumped out of the car, and the radio volume became slightly muted as he slammed the door. As he walked away from the car, you could still hear the radio - it got progressively quieter as he walked further away from the car, then cut out completely as he rounded the corner of a building. Rockstar claims this is a living environment - there is simply no better way to experience it than by listening to the ambient sound around Liberty City.
Once we'd reached the Triad gang defending a large van with the stash inside, Rockstar again showed us the targeting system - flicking from bad guy to bad guy whilst unleashing a hail of grenades and rockets (yes, the rocket launcher is back!) we quickly eliminated the gang, however couldn't reach the van before it took off. Not to worry - we ran after the van, and grabbed the rear bumper - only to be dragged along the road before we were able to get a grip on the rear of the vehicle and climb on to the roof. From here, the skeletal physics of GTA IV were obvious – Niko is flung around like a puppet on a string. Utilising various button combinations, we had to roll left or right depending on which way the van turned, and slowly work our way to the front. Once we’d reached the cab, a cut-scene took over as we wrestled with the driver, threw him out, and drove the van to our contacts.
To wrap up the session, Rockstar gave us a tour of the bay on an inflatable rescue boat. Skipping along the waves with water spray obscuring the camera lens, we were treated to Liberty City's famous landmark - The Statue of Happiness. No prizes for guessing what real life statue it's supposed to represent. Unfortunately our little excursion was cut short when we ploughed into the side of a yacht and capsized, but from what little time we spent on the water we can report the texture quality is through the roof.