Grand Theft Auto 4 was developed and released by Rockstar in 2008 for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC gaming systems. Set in Liberty City, inspired by the real life New York City, Grand Theft Auto 4 explores the story of veteran Niko Bellic coming to Liberty City in an attempt to put his life behind him and move on, however the criminal underworld prevents him from doing so. Grand Theft Auto 4 was a gamble for Rockstar, the studio seeing the game as a chance to start new. Marking it as a reboot for the series, Grand Theft Auto 4 had a more realistic and gritty story compared to previous iterations. Not only that, even though Liberty City made its return, Rockstar implemented that any other appearances of Liberty City aside from Grand Theft Auto 4 were considered non canon. Despite the risky gamble, the game proved to be a massive success for Rockstar, quickly blowing several all time sales records at the time. Estimated to have brought in five hundred million dollars in the first week alone, there was no denying the game was a smash hit.
Gameplay wise you found yourself exploring Liberty City divided into three different islands. There were plenty of vehicles to use, weapons to collect and missions to play through. Grand Theft Auto 4 even had slightly branching narratives: the choices a platter made as Niko could lead to ramifications to the point where different endings could be achieved. Niko had a phone which could be used for starting activities, finding a date for Niko, and even playing online. Quickplay was also available through Niko’s cousin and his taxi service, though players would hear Roman asking to go bowling with them quite often.
While Grand Theft Auto 4 had an online capability, it was mostly just being able to explore the map with friends, whether that be doing missions or racing. While it may not have had the scale of GTA Online, it provided the groundwork for Rockstar to build upon.
Two expansion packs were released for the game: The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. Each pack contained a different protagonist, which was slightly disappointing for players who wanted to see Niko’s story continue.
Of course as with any Grand Theft Auto game, GTA 4 had some controversies. Aside from the normal claims of violence, critics were sharp to point out that the game allowed players to drive under the influence. Some actions from the game were censored, but over time Rockstar has removed those censors entirely.