IGN have absolutely tons of preview features about the new GTA game, 'Vice City' (which features Ray Liotta, amazingly). One of them lets slip this interesting snippet on the arrangement of narrative in the game (I'd briefly mentioned GTA Liberty City's approach previously):
"Designed similarly to Grand Theft Auto III, GTA: Vice City is actually more open in design than its brethren. With about 100 missions in the game, 80 of them being important to progress the game forward, players can move through its entirety with more freedom than last year's title. Instead of having to finish all of the missions on a particular island and then progress to the next one, via fixed bridges and such, players might finish like the 10th or 15th mission and receive a new mission briefing that takes place on another island, previously not open. So, the opening of islands is more subtle in this game than before, and it occcurs earlier as well. The result is you can actually see all of the islands (two large and a few small ones) earlier than before, creating a bigger landscape earlier, with the additional need to return to previous missions not completed."
From an IGN preview article on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. More gushing praise here, including some interesting stuff on in-game AI, and Rockstar North's approach to modelling the city ("We visited every neighborhood in Miami"), the role of music in the game ("you have to recognize the huge value that the concept of radio stations and the blank canvas they provide in forms of a vibrant environment for music, humor, and immersion in the city"), and the Leith-based developers attempts to empathise with the Miami climate.