Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 09:53 UK

GTA game 'to break sales records'

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Gamers buying Grand Theft Auto IV.

Highly anticipated video game Grand Theft Auto (GTA) IV has gone on sale worldwide with analysts expecting it to smash sales records.

Many shops in the UK and the United States opened their doors at midnight.

The game is tipped to break the opening week sales figures of Microsoft's Halo 3, and pull in up to $400m (201m).

Early reviews of the game have hailed it a "masterpiece" and it is on course to be the most critically acclaimed title of all time.

The game currently has an average review score of 99.1%, according to Gamerankings.com, which amalgamates reviews from all publications.

The critical response and strong sales could bolster developer Rockstar's publisher Take Two, which is the subject of a takeover bid by games giant Electronic Arts (EA).

Take Two chairman Strauss Zelnick rejected EA's original offer, saying it was too low and insisted on waiting until after GTA IV's launch before entering discussions.

Throughout its history, GTA in its various manifestations has attracted controversy like no other game series - and that has probably done the franchise no harm at all.
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

"These ratings are quite extraordinary. It's something special and helps us understand why Take Two was so confident and adamant that they wanted to wait," UBS analyst Ben Schachter told Reuters news agency.

The game has been tipped to sell up to six million copies in a single week and Take Two is confident the final tally could be higher still.

"Our expectations are very high, higher than analysts give the game credit for," Take-Two chief executive Ben Feder told Reuters.

"All the analysts had a (sales) number, give or take, and I think we will be on the upside of that."

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In May 1996, Rory Cellan-Jones took a tour of the office where the first version of Grand Theft Auto was being developed.

In the UK, 41 shops are understood to have put the game on sale at midnight, including outlets in Stevenage, Hertfordshire; Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire; Hammersmith, in west London; and Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent.

Reviews for Grand Theft Auto IV have been unanimous in their praise.

UK-based games website Eurogamer called it "game of the year" and handed it a 10 out of 10 review score, while the New York Times said it delivered a "new level of depth for an interactive entertainment experience".

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