I've had it a week, I suppose I should write down something about GTA IV. The capsule review is that I've played it quite a bit and enjoyed almost all of it. The car physics are improved but still feel good for driving about - not realistic but enjoyable. The new aiming and combat controls make gun battles fun now. They've lost the goofy RPG elements of San Andreas. It's still recognizably GTA, it's still awesome. We've been waiting a long time for more GTA (the last "real" installment was San Andreas in 2004, and there were two PSP titles but the last of those came out in 2006), and the magic is still there.

Having said all that there is of course a "But". While combat has vastly improved and lots of little things have been improved (you can now retry a failed mission almost immediately for example), oddly it's lost some of the GTA-ness. There are more radio stations (too many really), but the distinctive DJ's are gone. Fiddling with the radio isn't as fun as all three of the PS2-era titles were.

The city is prettier and bigger, but it also seems emptier. I've got three islands unlocked now and the population seems very homogeneous. I miss having the gang-controlled sections and the almost cartoonlike "this is the Mafia section of town, over there are the triads" and so forth. Everything is more realistic, but the draw of GTA wasn't realism, it was a particularly stylized world. You don't hop in a cab to run cab missions, or grab in a cop car to run vigilante missions. You can call somebody on the phone and do a cab mission, but the Crazy Taxi mode where you tried to deliver more and more passengers against a timer is gone. You can steal a cop car, then hack the in-car computer and get a vigilante mission, but it's just another mission, not a unique little mini-game.

Similarly, there's no strange garage with a big list of vehicles requested. There's a character that wants cars and he'll send you email telling you to get him a particular vehicle, but again it's just a normal mission. Go get this particular car at this street and bring it here. The spontaneity of being on a mission, seeing a car you needed and jacking it and then trying to hang onto it while doing something else is now gone. Perhaps more realistic, but it is definitely less charming and idiosyncratic. There are no ringing pay-phones with crazy little side missions. I haven't found any vehicles that have secret hidden missions where you drive explosive toy trucks around. Everything is now get text message/phone call/email, set waypoint, drive there, grab whatever you need and rinse/repeat.

The new multiplayer is fantastic. We played a few deathmatches, a couple of races, and spent most of an evening playing the "Cops and Crooks" mode. In one of the races I got my car flipped almost immediately and ended up in a fire truck. Ridiculous but then it was pretty easy to just crunch a sports car of another racer. There were a lot of "Wow that was super-cool" moments in the multiplayer. In Cops and Crooks I (as a cop) stumbled across the crooks' getaway boat and stole it. We had a great time fooling around with it until I accidentally flipped it on a sweet jump. And that counted as a win since I destroyed the getaway vehicle!

All of my complaints are still pretty nit-picky overall. It's a great game so far. I hope they bring the series back to more of the exaggerated gang action of GTA III or Vice City, but I imagine I'll spend a happy amount of time in Liberty City yet.