GTA 4 changed the whole landscape of the series when it first arrived. 2008 was a major turning point for the GTA franchise. Rockstar transitioned into the next generation of consoles, which was the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and it was time to leave the Renderware engine.
GTA 4 was a groundbreaking title, since it introduced several new concepts to the series. Both the gameplay and the graphics received a major overhaul. This would carry over to the next few games, such as the DLC episodes and GTA 5. It's safe to say that the series was never the same after the release of GTA 4.
Five reasons why the entire series changed with GTA 4
5) Random strangers made the world feel alive
For the first time in the series, players can interact with random characters on the streets. These optional encounters give players small bonuses. More importantly, Liberty City feels more alive with these random characters. For example, Niko Bellic can help a drug addict overcome his demons.
GTA 5 would later include this as part of their Strangers and Freaks side missions. Players never knew who was around the corner as they explored the city.
4) Players could make impactful choices in the story
This feature originated from GTA Advance, but the vast majority of players are unaware of it. As a result, player choices are largely associated with GTA 4.
One prominent example is The Holland Play. Niko has to choose between taking out Dwayne Forge or Playboy X. Either choice will result in major consequences, at least from a gameplay standpoint.
GTA 5 would also offer player choices, but mainly for the final ending.
3) The narrative was more important than ever
Many GTA 4 players consider this game to have the strongest story. Niko Bellic is a tragic figure who completely redefines what it means to be a criminal. This also carries over to DLC characters such as Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez.
GTA 5 needed to up the ante with the narrative, so they introduced three playable characters. While the story isn't as dramatic, it does have its share of deep moments.
2) Ragdoll physics became the norm
GTA 4 got rid of the old Renderware engine and opted for the new Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (R.A.G.E.) instead. The development team finally included ragdoll physics into the game, which has remained ever since.
Ragdoll physics changed the way the game was played, and made every action more dynamic and impactful. Niko can fly through his windshield if he crashes his car. Meanwhile, his animations will show he is bracing for impact. It's a more realistic take which players can appreciate.
1) It was the start of the HD Era
GTA 4 was the end of an era and the beginning of new horizons. The 3D Universe started with GTA 3, but the HD Universe began with GTA 4. These games had completely different continuities, as Rockstar wanted a fresh start. The series remains in the HD Universe to this very day.
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Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.