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May 13, 2008

The Grand (Theft Auto) Tour


The Conde Nast Building?
Image: Rockstar Games

by Tom Loftus

Here's a vacation suggestion for all those worried about gas prices: Liberty City, an East Coast metropolis with all the perks of New York City--architecture, culture, diversity--plus a little more. Never heard of it? Liberty City is the setting for the recently released video game Grand Theft Auto IV

Since the title's release the other week, players and reviewers have identified the "touring" aspect of the digital experience--tooling around the virtual five boroughs listening to Karl Lagerfeld (!) deejay one of the dozen in-game radio stations, checking out the Empire State Building, etc.--as enjoyable as partaking in the usual mayhem that has defined the series and angered senators for the last decade.

In the spirit of travel reportage, the Daily Traveler decided that Liberty City was worth a visit and, taking solace that its editors have visited gangster redoubts in the past, the DT shelled out $60 for the game and found someone with an Xbox 360.  Surprisingly, the owner wasn't a subscriber!

The verdict? Anyone who recalls the last time game creator Rockstar Games made news knows that this particular experience is not G-rated. Still, the DT discovered that one can traipse through Liberty City without firing a shot--one does pass a number of strip clubs, however. The virtual world as presented in Grand Theft Auto IV is so detailed--and so cleverly a send-up of culture--that it's actually worth exploring, if only to discover how much of New York City it got right (hello, Domino Sugar Factory!) . . . and wrong. We really don't think that "borrowing" someone else's car in real life is so easy.

Is this virtual world worth spending all summer cooped up in Mommy's basement? No. But the DT is not going to judge. There are a number of very real locations that have a virtual-world quality to them.   

More Reading:
* A helicoper tour of Liberty City. Some of the audio comments are NSFW.
* Real-world inspiration for some of the restaurants found in Liberty City.

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