Activist groups, police, politicians and surviving victims of violence have queued up to criticise Grand Theft Auto IV, while a man has been stabbed as he tried to buy the game.

Before launching the game, developer Rockstar said it fully expected the mainstream backlash, saying that video games will continue to bear the blame of societal challenges, including crime, acts of violence and degenerate youth.

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In just four days, Grand Theft Auto IV has quickly become one of the highest-rated games of all time, fuelling its commercial success to rival that of Halo 3, which currently holds the highest single-day sales of any video game.

According to a report published on Monday, Rockstar spent an unprecedented US$100 million to develop GTA IV, enough to surpass Shenmue's $70 million as the most expensive game ever made.

But here in the UK, a hooded man queuing to buy Grand Theft Auto IV in Croydon, south London, was stabbed a passer-by in the head and neck. Up to 100 people witnessed the attack.

And in the US, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) protested against the game, saying: "drunk driving is a choice, a violent crime... [it] is not a game, and it is not a joke."

Grand Theft Auto IV gives players the option to drive drunk after consuming digital alcohol, but the game suggests taking a cab after drinking with in-game buddies.

Nevertheless, MADD has called upon the US Entertainment Software Ratings Board to reclassify Grand Theft Auto IV as an Adults Only game, banning the game from sale in the US because neither Sony nor Microsoft allow the sale of AO games on their respective consoles in America.

Nearly 13,500 US people die in drunk driving crashes each year, with another half million injured in alcohol-related crashes, asserts MADD.

Regarding the game's violence, the NYPD association president Pat Lynch told the New York Daily News that, "being involved in a shootout in a video game has no consequences and that is the wrong message to send to young people."

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and the mother of a killed NYPD officer echoed similar sentiments in the same report, saying GTA IV "doesn't exactly teach the kind of things that you'd want to teach your kids", or more descriptively put, "teaches children to kill."

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