Remembering 2008: The Biggest Games Turning 10 This Year
Created by Alessandro Fillari on
Grand Theft Auto IV (April 29, 2008)
Playing the Grand Theft Auto series felt something like a rite of passage back in my day. When GTA III first came out in 2001, I was a freshman in high school, and this game captured the interest of my fellow students. It was the game that every kid played, even when their parents told them not to. I'd eventually plow through GTA III, savor the '80s bliss of Vice City, and stew in the expansiveness of San Andreas--just enjoying the many ways to explore and cause chaos. When Grand Theft Auto IV came around, it was not only the first game on new hardware--showing off new visuals and more convincing storytelling--it was also the first GTA game I played as an adult.
While the previous three games and PSP spin-offs featured a connected story, IV started from scratch. Set in a newly designed Liberty City, it ended up feeling like a reboot for the series. Taking on the role of an eastern-European immigrant named Niko Bellic, the game told a surprisingly subdued and somewhat understated story about an outsider trying to fit in. One of the great strengths of the series is its strong focus on satire, more specifically its critique of American consumerism, greed, and lust for violence. While I caught some of the references and humor in the previous games when I was younger, I'm not ashamed to admit that many of the other critiques flew over my head. While the satire can sometimes have the subtlety of a sledgehammer, many of its jabs at American culture were successful at hitting its mark.
Over the course of the game, GTA IV would grow a bit crazier with its escalating story, but it never quite reached the full-blown absurdity of its predecessors. And you know what? That's OK. If anything, the new approach to storytelling made for far more convincing and impactful sequences, which include the infamous bank heist mission, Three Leaf Clover. While GTA IV didn't have as much to do as its predecessors, it did possess a number of ideas forward looking ideas, such as additional playable characters in the following DLC campaigns, a fairly developed online mode, and a mobile phone that yielded opportunities for side-events. All of which would set the stage for what would be core mechanics in GTA V. Still, I have some fond memories of exploring Liberty City. And I wonder to this day if Niko Bellic is still alive and well in the GTA's world. -- Alessandro Fillari