Where does the time go? Grand Theft Auto IV was released 10 years ago today, April 29th 2008. And no, I still don’t want to go bowling….cousin.
Grand Theft Auto IV for the PS3 and Xbox 360 sold over 6 million copies in its first week and 3.6 million on day one. This equates to a worldwide sales value of $500 million after one week and $310 million on release day, which was a new all-time sales record for any form of entertainment, including the movie industry at the time. The last reported sales figure I can find on GTA IV is 25 million copies as of 2012, figures are hard to come by or are not reported in multiple places after that. GTA V came out in 2013 so it’s not hard to see why.
GTA IV tells the story of Nikko Belic who came from Eastern Europe to Liberty City to chase the American Dream. Nikko reunites with his cousin, Roman, who had lied about the lavish lifestyle he had been leading in Rockstars version of New York City. Roman is in deep with Loan Sharks, lives in a shitty apartment and runs a Taxi firm.
In traditional GTA style everything goes a little south and we help Nikko cause utter mayhem for 30-40 hours. I would argue that at least one or two of those hours were spent ignoring Romans constant calls and texts. I don’t want to go bowling, I don’t want to go to the bar, can’t you see I have a lot on my plate? There’s a ramp over there and I’m in a sports car!
GTA IV evolved the combat system from previous games. We now had a cover system and all new targeting mechanic. Most surfaces in Liberty City could be used as cover and Nikko would snap behind it satisfyingly. Here, we could pop out and shoot or if the odds were too much for Nikko we could blindfire to stay protected. If I could take a page from Grandpa Simpsons book for a moment…it was the style at the time! 2007, 2008, 2009 was filled with third person cover based shooters. Gears of War is credited as being the game to popularise the craze but none quite replicated it. Many felt a little off, GTA IV was as close as any game came but didn’t quite tie an onion to it’s belt. (Grandpa Simpson gags stop here, I promise)
It’s hard to put into words how much fun I had playing GTA IV online with friends. Most of the guys I worked with at the time had a PS3 while I played on Xbox 360. I went and bought a PS3 copy just to play online with them. I couldn’t see myself doing that now!
Team Deathmatch in GTA IV had a twist. Rather than just rack up kills and win based on the team total it was about collecting cash. If you took an enemy down you needed to go pick up the cash he dropped. It discouraged camping, the team with the most cash at the end of the round won.
Free Mode was the dream scenario for an online GTA game. 16 players spawned on the map in close proximity and chaos ensues. The host can set the rules of the round. Cops, traffic, weapons etc could all be toggled on or off and the entire Liberty City landmass was your sandbox. Do anything, go anywhere, there are no constraints. Something like that can get lost in today’s loot-boxie money grab world where the developers find ways to suck every penny and ounce of fun out of things.
Cops n’ Crooks was the jewel in the crown for us. A team spawns as cops in a squad car and a team spawns on foot as the crooks. The Crooks had to escape to a getaway vehicle like a plane or boat that is marked on their maps. The Cops could tell where the Crooks were at all times but didn’t know where the getaway point was. It starts a deadly game of cat and mouse and is probably the best mode in GTA IV Online.
GTA IV is a landmark release for the games industry. Few other than Rockstar can send a game as polished as this out and have the entire world want a piece of it. It’s filled with satire and never takes itself too seriously, the focus is on player enjoyment rather than invisible walls and additional monetization.
Those of us on Xbox One can revisit Liberty City via Backwards Compatibility but don’t rule out a 10 year anniversary edition. E3 is around the corner after all. Even though their music rights have just expired I expect that to be rectified for a new edition.
No Roman, one last time for the cheap seats, I don’t want to go bowling you insufferable bastard.