Grand Theft Auto IV

Rockstar/Playstation

Since midnight, gamers have been snatching and powering up the year's latest—and possibly biggest—videogame blockbuster, Grand Theft Auto IV. Heck, one guy's even been stabbed.

If you haven't been paying attention, blasting aliens in Halo 3 is so last year. It's all about getting back to basics now, and stepping into a life of crime in pursuit of guns, gals and huge explosions. Per Variety, this newest GTA may bring in $400 million in its first week alone. (That's a record-smashing grenade toss away to the $404 million made by Jack Sparrow's last Pirate romp.)

But is it any good?

Yes, and in a big way. Reviews have been raving, and with good read. Grand Theft Auto games have always been about huge open cities filled with options, danger, opportunity and, most of all, fun. You begin as a thug and work your way up to a crime boss, enjoying the freedom to steal, kill, rampage and speed all you want—or not at all.

For this first installment made for Xbox 360 and PS3, everything is beefier: The game play is improved (finally, shooting is fun) and the graphics actually look and feel like a real place...namely, New York. The game's Liberty City feels amazingly lived-in. There's also a first-ever online mode, which should keep players logged on for hours.

The series is no stranger to controversy—no need to get into all that now, right?—but this one's far less about killing cops and scoring with hookers than telling a story. You play as Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant hoping to escape his past and embrace the American dream—of guns, gals and giant explosions. But Niko soon learns about that great divide between the have and the have-nots, and turns to unconventional means of "making it big."

As a straightforward pulp, it's riveting. As a videogame story, it's a revelation.

There's just so much to do and see, and it looks so good that gamers could be staying indoors all summer. OK, maybe we were gonna do that anyway...

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