Grand Theft Auto 4" went on sale Tuesday, with fans lining up at midnight to grab the first copies of the criminal action game hailed as a brutal and satirical masterpiece equal to films like "The Godfather."
Retailers such as GameStop Corp and Best Buy Co Inc took advance orders for the game weeks earlier and many outlets threw open their doors at midnight to accommodate fans eager to be among the first to play.
The launch of "Grand Theft Auto 4" is expected to be the biggest entertainment event of the year, with first-week sales forecast to be up to $400 million, beating those of last year's "Halo 3" from Microsoft Corp .
At a GameStop store in midtown Manhattan, excited fans like John Alba and Enmanuel Lorenzo had been standing for hours in a line that nearly reached the end of the block to get their hands on the game.
"It gives you the opportunity to escape reality," Alba said. "This game has everything -- sex, drugs, cars, money ... anything you want."
"Grand Theft Auto 4" casts players as an Eastern European immigrant who runs drugs, shoots cops and beats up prostitutes after falling in with a crime syndicate -- stuff that has drawn fire from family groups and politicians.
Avid fans like Lorenzo seemed drawn to the excitement -- but only in game play. "Violence is like sex. It sells," Alba said outside the GameStop shop. "I like violence in games, it's cool. Not in real life."