I gave the game a spin last night...my first impression was that I was a bit disappointed in the antialiasing (i.e. there's still a bit of choppiness at the edges of moving characters/cars, etc, but that may be because I've got 1080i rather than 1080p) and there was a hiccup in the rendering of the opening cutscene. I immediately switched my controls back to "classic" GTA ones (I'm not about to learn a different interface...interestingly, the tutorials and instructions adapt to the alternate control set) and turned on the subtitles and immediately rewatched the opening sequence (without the hiccup) to figure out what dialogue I missed (I noticed that the Serbian is translated when the subtitles are on, but, at least in the opening, they don't automatically subtitle the translations.) I really like the "fade car audio" feature while people are speaking, even if I miss a bit of the hilarious radio station banter.
I haven't decided whether or not I like the added grittiness of the game...one of the reasons this series has been so great is that the violence is fairly cartoonish (somehow I doubt El Burro will be showing up). The visuals are certainly gorgeous, and the buildings in the distance are done really well (I swam across the harbor to see how they looked as I got closer...then I got 6 stars and died...the dying sequences are really nice, too).
Interestingly, Rockstar has incorporated some of the changes to the game from their far-less-violent game, Bully. The new health and armor bars and the "police radar" are right out of it.
So far it looks pretty damned impressive, and they seem to have done a very good job building a decent story around all of the visual splendor. I'll probably have to play this game for 40-50 hours before I figure out the map, if I ever do (San Andreas took easily that long, but wide stretches of nothing were easy to map in my head).
I also want to try out the online multiplayer feature...for some reason it didn't seem to think I was online, but according to Wikipedia, there are still some online issues to work out.
And lastly, when reading the credits I saw that The Great PJ Sosko (UR '93) voices Gerry McReary. I think the last time I saw him was in an NPH-directed play somewhere in LA. He's a good man, deserving of such a plum role.
1.9 thumbs up, more to follow.