Now this isn't a formal review or anything like that, it's just my thoughts on the game so far. I'm probably about 10% through the story mode, with most of the city still blocked off (curse the LCPD and their instant 6 star wanted level for passing the blockade), but my experience so far has been generally positive.
So does it live up to the hype? Well yes, mostly. The combat mechanics are far better than any other GTA game, the story and voice acting are great, and the new cover system is a welcome addition (although I mostly forget it's there, as it's not as integral to game play as it is in, say, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune). But underneath all the hype, it's still a pretty standard GTA game. The driving mechanics are pretty bad, bad enough to where I opt to call a cab to go everywhere, simply because I don't want to have to drive. Maybe I just suck at driving in it, but it seems harder to stay on the road than in previous GTA games, with the exception of motorcycles, which are awesome to drive.
Niko Bellic is a sexy, sexy man... except not.
The missions so far have been standard GTA fare. drive somewhere, kill someone, bring back their car while being chased by their friends. that about sums it up.
So while this game is definitely a great game and not to be missed by anyone with a current gen console (except the wii, of course), I don't think it truly deserves it's near-perfect rating across the boards... at least I don't think that yet.
I'll check back in when (or if) I actually finish the game and give my final thoughts....