Grand Theft Auto 4, the first installment in the HD universe. Rockstar pushes the boundaries of realism and details that an open world game can achieve. It was undoubtedly one of the best open world games at the time. The story of Niko Bellic is just so interesting and full of twists and turns. It often leaves the player guessing what happens next in multiple crucial moments. The fresh off the boat moment when playing the first few GTA 4 missions makes the player feel a connection. The protagonist and his past slowly unravels itself and reality of the American Dream hits Niko.
The big millionaire lifestyle that was promised by cousin Roman turns out to be a farce and situations force Niko into the path of crime, murder, and war that he wanted to escape from so bad. The very personal details and the background of Niko are explained in a manner that engages players to his story. In comparison, most of the characters in GTA 5, apart from the three protagonists, lack engaging background stories. This is understandable as the developer’s focus was also on GTA Online, which is still one of the major revenue generators for Rockstar Games.
“There’s a lot of lingering on the injuries, blood splattering on the windshield, the detail of the car slowly moving ahead to collide with the parked one, the bullets. This sort of storytelling places emphasis not on frantic action but instead on the notion that this violence is having an emotional and physical effect on the world. GTA 4 has systems in place both in moment-by-moment gameplay as well as the narrative that embraces both of those.”– GameInformer
Poor optimization for PC and the new driving physics were the most criticized features of the game. Even now, gamers can run GTA 5 more smoothly than the 5 year older GTA 4. But still, a section of players also praise the driving for being realistic and tough as compared to GTA 5 where driving is way too easy. Some players also enjoy the ability to drift cars which needs a lot of skills.
The Mafia, Gangsters and the Corrupt Government Officials
“GTA IV’s somber take on finding yourself lost in the bleak tunnels of The American Dream as a poor person while the rich get stupider, crueler, and richer spoke to me”- GameInformer
From the Irish mob to the Italian crime families and the Russian mafia, liberty city has it all. In game newspapers describe it as a safe haven for illegal immigrants who run crime rings across the city. Cousin Roman’s debt to a local gangster named Vlad, soon has Niko doing small time jobs for the Russian gangsters.
After Niko finds out Vlad is going out with his cousin’s girlfriend Mallorie, he kills Vlad in a fit of rage. This leads to him and Roman being kidnapped by Vlad’s connection, who is a big time, rich Russian mobster. In a crucial moment, Niko’s life is spared and he is used by the russians for sometime.
Niko’s previous experience with shooting and violence makes him a very dangerous criminal. As the story progresses, the protagonist is soon introduced to more and more crime families operating in Liberty city, earning a reputation as a ruthless and cold-hearted killer. From the beginning to the end, Niko is involved with many different crime organizations in different periods, including the smaller ones which gives the player an experience of the criminal underbelly in different parts of Liberty city.
Apart from the crime rings, his dangerous reputation also gets big newspaper editors and corrupt cops to approach him to get their dirty work done. Life doesn’t come easy to Niko as he faces betrayal from a few mafia bosses, loses close ones and is forced to take tough decisions that impact his life in many ways.
The Attention to Detail in GTA 4
Although an incredible focus to little details was given in GTA 5, there are multiple places in which GTA 4 did way better. One major thing was how going to different parts of the city made you feel. Starting off at Hove beach, you could hear people speaking Russian in the streets as it was dominated by Russian immigrants. Then the areas dominated by Latinos or blacks gave off similar feels with specific types of NPC’s roaming around in them. With places like China-town and Little Italy, the authentic New York city immigrant experience is perfectly bundled into the game.
The advanced body movement dynamics which was implemented through Euphoria’s NaturalMotion technology, was one of the major changes that spearheaded Grand Theft Auto’s entry into the HD Universe. Rightfully stated by EuroGamer as “one thing about GTA 4 that has never been bettered”.
Denholm, the lead engineer working for the project stated-“By the end of GTA4 we had characters that could be shot, grab and react to the wounds, stagger about over uneven streets while still firing their weapons back at the player – with realistic gun shot recoils being fed back into physics – all entirely dynamically simulated.“
As the years have gone by, GTA 4 still has the highest MetaCritic rating among all the Grand Theft Auto titles. Despite facing a bit of flak from the players on the driving mechanics and a few minor glitches, the perfect story line and the lively feels more than covered up for them. Gamers will always remember the name of Niko Bellic as a legend and GTA 4, a masterpiece.