Every time i mention this game, or see it being mentioned on the internet, the obligatory comparison to Shenmue or GTA gets bought up. In all honesty, those two games are not really anything like this, although it has SOME similarities to the former game, nothing gameplay wise, more like the setting and i suppose the freedom aspect. This game is its own world and has set up an amazing series of games with deep involving storyline.
Never played this before? Me neither, although watching the 25 odd minute re-cap videos for the first two games make me wish i had. They looked pretty damn good. Anyway, even if you are a new comer all you need to do is watch those videos. Naturally they dont explain every single aspect to the first two games in great detail, but you get the jist of where the story is at and whats going on in the third one. Its pretty nice they did that really, otherwise you'd be scowering on YouTube for an hour or so trying to find informative videos about it, either that or sit there for a long time watching a walkthrough or something.
The graphics are pretty nice, although they look like they could do with a bit of Anti-aliasing, there are quite a lot of jaggies on the models and objects, kinda lowers the lush look of the world a bit (although this looks like its been corrected on the 4th game). On the other hand the cinematic graphics are outstanding (think of Metal Gear Solid 4).
If you enjoy beat em' ups with a bit of free roaming adventure and heavy narrative and story, this is definitely worth the price, the length of the game feels pretty long and there is so much to do in the world that has been created. Actually cant wait for the 4th one to come out over here (if it ever does). Definitely worth your time.