‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ Surprise Features: Saturday Appointments And Slow-Mo Driving [UPDATED]

Earlier today we posted my hands-on impressions of “Grand Theft Auto IV” at MTVNews.com.

While writing my story I ran out of room (read: forgot) to include two game details I hadn’t heard about before:

*Days Of The Week [UPDATE: Rockstar sent over a clarification on this one]

*Slow-Mo Driving

Sorry, sorry, folks. Let me make it up to you. I’ll explain both features:

Days Of The Week – “GTA IV” has days of the week. It doesn’t have seasons. It doesn’t have months. But this cutting-edge power-house of a game has days of the week. All seven? Unconfirmed. But I can report it has Thursdays and Saturdays. Let’s assume it has the other five as well.

I discovered this while pausing a two-week-old build of the Xbox 360 version of the game and spotting the word “Thursday” near the map. I asked the Rockstar PR rep who was overseeing my session to explain what exactly this could mean. He told me about a mission called “The Final Interview,” in which the game’s protagonist, Niko Bellic, will need to assassinate a lawyer. Niko will be able to apply for a job at the firm from the game’s Internet cafes, but will only be called in for an interview on a Saturday. That’s when Niko can show up and take care of business. On any other day of the week he won’t have access.

Now don’t you worry, “GTA” has not gone all “Animal Crossing” on you. You won’t need to wait until an actual Saturday or start tinkering with your console’s internal calendar. The days change in the game with the sunrises an sunsets that the series has had for years.

What more will be done with the days of the week? I don’t know. But I’m sure you can dream up plenty of possibilities: Niko going to a football game on Sunday, getting his laundry picked up on Wednesday, watching his favorite TV shows on a Tuesday. Actually, let’s hope for none of that.

UPDATE: A Rockstar representative e-mailed me Friday morning to say the the appointment with the lawyer in the “Final Interview” mission can be scheduled for different days of the week, depending on when Niko applies for the job. The appointment will still be set for a day, but just not necessarily Saturday. That’s good, because I don’t believe in weekend job interviews.

Slow-Mo Driving– You can drive slowly in “GTA,” even while driving fast. Yes, indeed, the laws of time and space need not apply as the game will borrow a little from “Max Payne” or “Burnout” and let you drive in slow-motion. I learned this near the end of my demo as I drove a Hummer-like truck through part of “GTA IV”’s Manhattan stand-in, Algonquin. The Rockstar rep suggested that I hold down the B button on my 360 controller. This changed the camera view to an elevated, cinematic perspective. I could still drive in this camera view.

While driving from a cinematic perspective I was then encouraged to click the 360 controller’s left thumbstick. This slowed things down. I was thinking of “Burnout”’s after-touch system and stopped directing my truck. But the Rockstar rep told me I could keep driving. It was a little awkward to steer with the left stick while keeping it clicked in, but it seemed manageable.

I’m not sure why this feature was added. It seems to go against the vibe that I reported in my piece today of Rockstar making “GTA IV” feel less like a game than the “GTA” predecessors. But it will allow the game to be viewed in a more stylish, cinematic context.

I did not have a chance to test the limits of the slow-mo driving, to see if it would help during a high-speed chase or make me more capable of landing a stunt jump. But those seem like safe bets.

After I saw those two features I played the PS3 version of the game and flew a helicopter. But you read about that already. Didn’t you?


What more do you want to know about “GTA IV”? I played it for two hours, but I certainly didn’t see it all.