GTA 4 is still a masterpiece in the eyes of some fans.
GTA 4 was the first GTA title of the HD Universe, and it was an upgrade in more ways than just mere graphics. When it comes to story or gameplay physics, it's hard to find a GTA game that comes close to GTA 4's legacy. It was an innovative game for its time, and its Metacritic score of 98/100 is a testament to its impact. Of course, there are subjective reasons for fans to still find the game enjoyable, even in 2021.
Considering GTA 4 is one of the more recent games in the series (although it came out over a decade ago), it's not as outdated as many other classics within the GTA franchise. It's not even uncommon for players to favor GTA 4 over GTA 5, as GTA 4 does legitimately have some good traits worth praising.
Five reasons why GTA 4 still remains one of the most popular games in the series in 2021
#5 - Expansion packs
GTA 4 might not have been the first game within the series to have expansion packs, but it is arguably the most well-known one. The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are radically different from one another, yet they still feel like a perfect addition to GTA 4. These two expansions represent the different lifestyles of Liberty City, with Johnny Klebitz representing bikers and Luis Fernando Lopez representing the more luxurious nightclub life.
Players can also compare these two expansion packs to the base game to truly appreciate how much effort Rockstar put into these games. Considering the two expansions were later bundled with the base game, it's quite easy for most players to experience three great games that all include the upcoming reasons.
#4 - Improved AI
Pedestrians from the past GTA games were a joke as far as AI goes. Whereas those pedestrians were primitive in their functionality, the pedestrians of GTA 4 are more life-like thanks to significant improvements in their AI. Back then, players would only get Wanted Levels randomly if cops weren't around. In GTA 4, pedestrians have the ability to call law enforcement on players doing something illegal.
Aside from that, there are also some improvements made in GTA 4 that are lacking in GTA 5. A prime example is how aggressive pedestrians are in the latter game, which makes them attack the player solely for standing too close to them. In GTA 4, they won't care about that and will more than likely just walk away from a creeping Niko.
#3 - Reactive combat
Combat is often one of the biggest weaknesses in a GTA game. Comparing it to any UFC game for hand-to-hand combat or Call of Duty for shooting is laughable, despite the fact that GTA games have so much money put into them. As far as GTA games go, GTA 4 has arguably the best combat system of them all, primarily thanks to new features introduced in the game.
As far as hand-to-hand combat goes, GTA 4's system is the most in-depth out of any GTA title. It's similar to GTA 5's system, except Niko has more moves at his disposal, so fans of that game may appreciate GTA 4's take on combat. As far as gunfights go, GTA 4 introduced the ability to take cover and shoot blindly. It's a simple feature, but the effects it has on gameplay are profound.
#2 - Ragdoll physics
One of the most noticeable changes from the 3D Universe of GTA games to the HD one is the introduction of ragdoll physics. Even compared to other games within the HD Universe, GTA 4's ragdoll physics are the most pronounced. This, in turn, makes it more fun to mess around with, especially when the player is roaming the streets of Liberty City aimlessly.
This simple reason also makes GTA 4 feel the most unique within the series. Games like GTA III and GTA San Andreas have nearly identical physics, so they can feel largely the same. Even GTA 5, the game closest to GTA 4's physics engine, feels different enough that players can enjoy GTA 4 for how unique it feels.
#1 - The story
It's not an uncommon concern that GTA 4's story overshadows its gameplay. While GTA 4 isn't a virtual novel by any means, it's easy to see why some people play the game solely for the story. The characterization and storytelling elements utilized in GTA 4 place an emphasis on realism, making it a noticeable departure from past GTA titles like GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas.
Liberty City is a dark place to live in, and Niko Bellic's story is reflective of that. He witnessed war crimes and was involved in human trafficking at one point in his life, which is noticeably darker than what other protagonists go through. Even the events of his story throughout the game are fascinating for first-time players to experience, so this article won't spoil too much on that front.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s personal views.