Seven years on Niko Bellic arrives in Liberty City to continue the cult franchise
Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
After 7 long years the follow up to the critically acclaimed Grand Theft Auto III finally landed with a splash on Xbox 360, PS3 and eventually PC.
Revisiting Liberty City once again you filled the shoes of Niko Bellic, a veteran of war in Eastern Europe immigrating to Liberty City for a chance at a better life. Being Grand Theft Auto though there is no avoiding a life of crime for Niko, and it’s not long before you were up to the usual tricks; stealing, killing and cheating to climb your way to the top of the criminal ladder.
The Liberty City of Grand Theft Auto IV set an unprecedented level of realism, recreating New York City in a fine detail. The city is bustling with reactive pedestrians living out their lives and an attention to detail of every street that had not been seen previously in an open-world game of its nature.
Thanks to a new shiny engine, physics was been applied to elements throughout the world, particularly apparent on pedestrians. No longer did driving over an individual result in a dull drop, but now a roll up the bonnet, flip over the roof and given the over reactive nature of how it’s been implemented, probably five somersaults. The combat too was significantly reworked, now including a cover system and thanks to the physics system allowed for limb targeting.
A large focus of Grand Theft Auto IV revolved around communication, both with the contacts you made, your brother Roman, and to various hubs of information or features such as multiplayer modes. This was all handled by your mobile phone, as it would in real life, allowing you to receive calls that’ll prompt mini-games or side activities, or even send them out as for example dialling 911 to summon the emergency services.
One of the biggest leaps for the series came, finally, with the inclusion of dedicated multiplayer modes. For the first time ever there was not only the ability to jump online and play one of 15 available modes, from racing to deathmatch, but there was the ability to simply bring chaos to the city of Liberty City for up to 16 players (or 32 if you’re on the PC version).
There’s been a split of reactions to Grand Theft Auto IV, as with the new realism brought a lack of sandbox mayhem coupled with missing features that fans have gotten used to, particularly so in comparison to the featured packed Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Some loved the new realism, whacky physics and darker tone whilst others sorely missed the sense of fun, missing series features and grounded physics.
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned (2009)
Instead of a fully-fledged follow up to Grand Theft Auto IV, as was the case with III, this time around Rockstar opted for two large downloadable chapters. The first of these chapters was The Lost and Damned, which aimed to expose you to a different side of Liberty City, putting you in the boots of Johnny Klebitz, a member of The Lost motorcycle club. With an emphasis on motorcycles, races and street violence you were thrown into the midst of rival gang warfare, needing to establish respect and a name for not only the club you lead but yourself in the city.
One of the biggest changes The Lost and Damned brought was the addition of mid-mission checkpoints, an absolute blessing for anyone who has ever failed a mission only to have to tirelessly travel and start it anew. Alongside this is an emphasis on gang and group based warfare, a plethora of new weapons and vehicles and a handful of new multiplayer modes.
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony (2010)
With the final downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto IV Rockstar responded to the cries of fans tired of the new dark and drab realism, with the glitz, glimmer and rainbow colours of Ballad of Gay Tony.
Stepping into the shoes of Luis Fernado Lopez, personal bodyguard to the fabulous Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince, players ensured that the day to day operations of Tony’s two nightclubs, ensuring his safety as a socialite whilst at the same time aiming to reach out in the world of more prolific criminal activity.
Ballad of Gay Tony had a more arcade feel to the series, having each of the available missions scored and replayable. There was also far more bang for your buck, as a good portion of the missions available involved over the top explosions, lengthy gunfights and a more traditional Grand Theft Auto fanfare.
One particular favourite addition to the series involves the ability to BASE jump, skydive and all together mess around with a deployable parachute. There were also a handful of new side activities, such as being able to visit a driving range and perform in multiple dance club mini-games.
Grand Theft Auto IV certainly cemented the series into the current generation of consoles, and set the bar extremely high for all those that have joined the genre attempting to compete. However its follow up has been a long time coming (5 years!).
Grand Theft Auto V promises to raise the bar beyond the ceiling with the most feature packed attention dense instalment in the series that we’ve seen to date. Check back each day for an insight into what’s to come and as always give us your thoughts and opinions on what you love about the series, and are excited at getting your hands on.
As well as our countdown articles, we also have our usualscreenshotsandvideosfor Grand Theft Auto V, which you can view over on ourGrand Theft Auto V media hub pagefor the game.
View a full list ourCountdown to GTA V articles.