10/101 Votes Alchetron
Publisher(s) Rockstar Games
Producer(s) Leslie Benzies
Initial release date 29 April 2008
Distributor(s) Take-Two Interactive
Artist(s) Aaron Garbut
Series Grand Theft Auto
|Programmer(s) Adam Fowler
Writer(s) Dan Houser Rupert Humphries
Awards VGX Award for Game of the Year
Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Nominations BAFTA Games Award for Best Game
Developers Rockstar North, Rockstar Toronto, Rockstar New England
Similar Grand Theft Auto games, Rockstar games, Open world games
Grand Theft Auto IV is an open world action-adventure third-person shooter video game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 29 April 2008 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, and on 2 December 2008 on Microsoft Windows. It is the eleventh title in the Grand Theft Auto series, and the first main entry since 2004's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Set within the fictional Liberty City (based on New York City), the single-player story follows a war veteran, Niko Bellic and his attempts to escape his past while under pressure from loan sharks and mob bosses. The open world design lets players freely roam Liberty City, consisting of three main islands.
- Episodic content
- Initial release
- Microsoft Windows version
The game is played from a third-person perspective and its world is navigated on-foot or by vehicle. Throughout the single-player mode, players play as Niko Bellic. An online multiplayer mode is included with the game, allowing up to 32 players to engage in both co-operative and competitive gameplay in a recreation of the single-player setting. Two expansion packs were later released for the game, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, which both feature new plots that are interconnected with the main Grand Theft Auto IV storyline, and follow new protagonists.
Development began soon after the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and was shared between many of Rockstar's studios worldwide. The game introduced a shift to a more realistic and detailed style and tone for the series. Unlike previous entries, Grand Theft Auto IV had no strong cinematic influence, as the team attempted an original approach to the story. As part of their research for the open world, the developers conducted field research around New York throughout development and captured footage for the design team.
Following its announcement in May 2006, Grand Theft Auto IV was widely anticipated. Upon release, the game received universal critical acclaim, with praise particularly directed at the game's narrative and open world design. However, the game also generated controversy, with criticism directed at the game's depiction of violence and ability to drive under the influence of alcohol. Grand Theft Auto IV broke industry sales records and became the fastest-selling entertainment product in history at the time, earning US $310 million in its first day and US $500 million in its first week. Considered one of the most significant titles of the seventh generation of video games, and by many critics as one of the greatest video games of all time, it won year-end accolades, including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications. A sequel, Grand Theft Auto V, was released in September 2013.
Grand Theft Auto IV is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. It is possible to have several active missions running at one time, as some missions require players to wait for further instructions or events. Outside of missions, players can freely roam the game's open world, and have the ability to complete optional side missions. Composed of the fictional city of Liberty City, the world of Grand Theft Auto IV is larger in area than most earlier entries in the series. At the beginning of the game, players can only explore the first island–composed of Dukes and Broker–with all other islands unlocking as the story progresses.
Players use melee attacks, firearms and explosives to fight enemies, and may run, jump, swim or use vehicles to navigate the game's world. There is a first-person perspective option when using vehicles. In combat, auto-aim and a cover system can be used as assistance against enemies. Should players take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated using multiple techniques, such as eating, using medical kits, or calling for paramedics. If players commit crimes while playing, the game's law enforcement agencies may respond as indicated by a "wanted" meter in the head-up display (HUD). On the meter, the displayed stars indicate the current wanted level (for example, at the maximum six-star level, efforts by law enforcement to incapacitate players become very aggressive). Law enforcement officers will search for players who leave the wanted vicinity. The wanted meter enters a cooldown mode and eventually recedes when players are hidden from the officers' line of sight.
The game's cover system allows players to move between cover, to fire blindly, aim freely, and target a specific enemy. Individual body parts can also be targeted. Melee attacks include additional moves, such as dodging, blocking, disarming an opponent and counter-attacking. Body armour can be used to absorb gunshots and explosive damage, but is used up in the process. When health is entirely depleted, gameplay stops, and players respawn at the nearest hospital.
The game's single-player mode lets players control a war veteran, Eastern European Niko Bellic. During the story, Niko meets various new characters, many of whom he befriends. These characters can then perform favours for Niko whenever he asks; for example, his cousin Roman, who owns a taxi service, can send one of his cabs to Niko and take him to any destination around the city. Cabs are always available during gameplay, allowing players to quickly travel to a destination. Throughout the course of the game, players are also faced with morality choices, which alter the storyline appropriately depending on the player's choice. While free roaming the game world, players may engage in context-specific activities such as bowling or darts. Other available activities include a vigilante minigame, and in-game television programming. Niko has a smartphone for contacting friends and starting activities. The smartphone is also used to access the game's online multiplayer mode, and to enter cheat codes. To access the in-game Internet, which allows Niko to send and receive emails and set up prospective dates with potential girlfriends, Niko can use Internet cafés located around the city. The game also features a subway system, allowing players to quickly traverse through the game world.
The online multiplayer mode for Grand Theft Auto IV allows up to 32 players to freely roam across a recreation of the single-player world. Players decide which game mode that they wish to play, including deathmatches and street races. Both cooperative and competitive game modes are available. These game modes are split into ranked and unranked matches. For players to level up through ranks, in-game money must be earned. The game also features a Free Mode, in which players have the entire map open to explore, with no end goal or mission to complete. Hosts of the game can control many variables, such as police presence, traffic, and weapons. LAN support is available in the Windows version of the game.
Grand Theft Auto IV takes place in 2008, in a redesigned version of Liberty City consisting of four boroughs, based on four of the boroughs of New York City: Broker (based on Brooklyn), Dukes (Queens), Bohan (The Bronx), and Algonquin (Manhattan). Adjacent to the city is the independent state of Alderney (Northern New Jersey). There are three minor islands present in the game: Charge Island (Randall's Island), Colony Island (Roosevelt Island), and Happiness Island (Liberty Island). Initially, bridges are locked down due to a terrorist threat, and players are constantly pursued by police if the bridges are crossed, but the blockades are lifted as the story progresses, allowing the player to traverse between islands. Grand Theft Auto IV takes place in a different storyline and timeline from the previous games in the series. However, the game takes place in the same canon as its expansion packs, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, and its successor, Grand Theft Auto V.
Niko Bellic, an Eastern European, arrives in Liberty City to meet his cousin Roman, pursue the American Dream, and to search for the man who betrayed his unit in a war fifteen years prior. Upon arrival, however, Niko discovers that Roman's tales of riches and luxury were lies concealing struggles with gambling debts and loan sharks, and that Roman lives in a dirty apartment rather than a mansion.
Niko defends Roman from his loan sharks several times, but is forced to work for Vlad Glebov, Roman's Russian loan shark. Niko kills Vlad after finding out he slept with Roman's girlfriend, Mallorie. After Vlad's murder, Niko and Roman are kidnapped by members of the Liberty City Bratva on order of Mikhail Faustin and his associate, Dimitri Rascalov. Faustin, not bothered by the murder of Vlad, hires Niko. Niko quickly learns that Faustin is a psychopath after being ordered to kill the son of Kenny Petrović, the most powerful man in the Bratva. After the Petrović family threatens retaliation, Dimitri convinces Niko to assassinate Faustin in order to prevent a gang war. When Niko meets with Dimitri to collect on the assassination, Dimitri brings Niko's former employer Ray Bulgarin instead, who accuses Niko of stealing from him a few years earlier. When Niko truthfully denies the allegation, a firefight ensues, allowing Dimitri and Bulgarin to escape.
Niko and Roman are immediately forced to flee to Bohan after their apartment and taxi company are destroyed by Dimitri's men in arson attacks. However, things go poorly as well in Bohan: Dimitri's men kidnap Roman in a failed bid to lure out Niko, who rescues Roman. Furthermore, Niko's girlfriend Michelle reveals she is a government agent and entraps Niko into working for her company, known only by its cover: United Liberty Paper. Niko kills several known or suspected terrorists for the agency in exchange for the file of the numerous crimes the police have on him and the promise of assistance in finding the traitor of his unit.
The Paper tracks down the man responsible for Niko's unit's betrayal, Darko Brevic, and brings him into Liberty City for Niko to decide his fate. Having dealt with his past, Niko is summoned by one of his employers, Jimmy Pegorino, who demands one final favour: to help with an extremely lucrative deal on heroin in collusion with Dimitri. Niko must either strike a deal with Dimitri, or exact revenge on him.
Should Niko go through with the deal, Dimitri again betrays him and takes the heroin for himself. At Roman's wedding, an assassin sent by Dimitri kills Roman with a stray bullet. After Dimitri kills Pegorino, he is in turn killed by a devastated and vengeful Niko. Should Niko choose to exact revenge, he ambushes and executes Dimitri. At Roman's wedding, Pegorino, furious after Niko's betrayal, targets Niko in a drive-by shooting, but ends up killing Niko's new girlfriend, Kate. With Pegorino targeted by the entire Liberty City underworld, Niko tracks him down and executes him.
Work on Grand Theft Auto IV began in November 2004, almost immediately after the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004). Around 150 game developers worked on Grand Theft Auto IV, led by core members of the team that previously worked on Grand Theft Auto III (2001). For the game, Rockstar used their proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), which was previously used in Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis (2006), in combination with the Euphoria game animation engine. Instead of pre-written animations, Euphoria uses procedural animation to control the way the player moves, enabling character movements to be more realistic. The Euphoria engine also enables NPCs to react in a realistic way to the player's actions. In one preview, a player knocked an NPC out of a window and the character grabbed onto a ledge to stop himself from falling. The game also uses middleware from Image Metrics to facilitate intricate facial expressions and ease the process of incorporating lip-synching. Foliage in the game is produced through SpeedTree.
Grand Theft Auto IV sees a shift in the series to a more realistic and detailed style and tone, partly a result of the transition to consoles which offered high-definition graphics and the new and improved capabilities of such consoles. Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser said "what we're taking as our watchword on [Grand Theft Auto IV] is the idea of what high definition actually means. Not just in terms of graphics, which obviously we are achieving, but in terms of all aspects of the design. [...] You know, trying to make something more realistic, more held together, but still retaining the overall coherence that the other games had." Art director Aaron Garbut said one of the reasons they decided to set the game in New York because "we all knew what an amazing, diverse, vibrant, cinematic city it is," and since they were hoping the push the "detail, variety and life" to a high level, it seemed that "basing the game in a city so synonymous with these things was a great fit." Dan Houser added "because we were working in high definition and we knew we'd need a shitload of research, we wanted to be somewhere where we had a foothold." The developers consciously avoided creating a block for block recreation of New York City; Dan Houser said "what we've always tried to do is make a thing that looks real and has the qualities of a real environment, but is also fun from a game design perspective." The Grand Theft Auto IV rendition of Liberty City is far more detailed and larger in size than most earlier entries in the series. Although smaller than San Andreas, the main setting for Grand Theft Auto IV's predecessor Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Liberty City is comparable to it in terms of scope when "the level of verticality of the city, the number of buildings you can go into, and the level of detail in those buildings" are taken into account. The goal for Liberty City was to have no dead spots or irrelevant spaces, such as the wide open deserts in San Andreas. To achieve a realistic environment, the Rockstar North team, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, made two trips to New York for research, one at the start of the project (which was done with every previous Grand Theft Auto game) and another smaller one further into development. A full-time research team, based in New York, handled further requests for information ranging from the ethnic minority of a neighbourhood to videos of traffic patterns.
The story of Grand Theft Auto IV was written by Dan Houser and Rupert Humphries. Unlike previous Grand Theft Auto games which have a strong cultural or cinematic influence, "[Grand Theft Auto IV doesn't] really have any cinematic influences", as explained by Houser. "We were consciously trying to go, well, if video games are going to develop into the next stage, then the thing isn't to try and do a loving tribute or reference other stuff. It's to reference the actual place itself". Houser also said, "In terms of the character, we wanted something that felt fresh and new and not something that was obviously derived from [a] movie. [...] Maybe [we] could do something ourselves that would live alongside that stuff".
Music supervisor Ivan Pavlovich said "[we had] to pick the songs that make New York today what it is, but make sure they won't feel dated by the time the game comes out." The developers contacted over 2,000 people in order to obtain recording and publishing rights. They even hired a private investigator to locate the relatives of late Skatt Bros. member Sean Delaney to license the band's song "Walk the Night". Citing sources close to the deals, Billboard reported that Rockstar paid as much as $5,000 per composition and another $5,000 per master recording per track. Developers originally considered letting players purchase music by going to an in-game record shop and for Niko to have an MP3 player, but both ideas were cut. DJ Green Lantern produced tracks exclusively for the game's hip-hop radio station The Beat 102.7. Record label owner and record producer Bobby Konders, who hosts the in-game radio station Massive B Soundsystem 96.9, went through the extra effort of flying to Jamaica to get dancehall artists to re-record tracks to make references to the boroughs of Liberty City.
The Corporate Vice-President of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business division, Peter Moore, announced at E3 2006 that the game would appear on Xbox 360, by rolling up his sleeve to reveal a Grand Theft Auto IV temporary tattoo. Rockstar Games initially appeared to be committed to the original 16 October 2007 release date; however, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter suggested that Take-Two may choose to delay the release of the game in order to boost its financial results for 2008 and to avoid competing with the release of other highly anticipated titles, such as Halo 3. Rockstar responded by saying that Grand Theft Auto IV was still on track for release in "late October". On 2 August 2007, Take-Two announced that Grand Theft Auto IV would miss its original release date of 16 October 2007 contrary to their previous statements, and would be delayed to their second fiscal quarter (February–April) of 2008. In a later conference call with investors, Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick attributed the delay to "almost strictly technological problems ... not problems, but challenges." It was later revealed that technical difficulties with the PlayStation 3 version of the game contributed to the delay, along with storage problems on the Xbox 360. On 24 January 2008, Take-Two announced that Grand Theft Auto IV would be released on 29 April 2008. As the release date approached, Rockstar Games and Take-Two marketed the game heavily through various forms, including television ads, Internet video, billboards, viral marketing, and a redesigned website. A special edition of the game was also released for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. At a Take-Two shareholder meeting on 18 April 2008, Take-Two CEO Ben Feder announced that Grand Theft Auto IV had already "gone gold" and was "in production and in trucks en route to retailers". The game was eventually released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles in Europe, North America, and Oceania on 29 April 2008, and in Japan on 30 October 2008. Overall, Grand Theft Auto IV took over 1000 people and more than three and a half years to complete, with a total cost estimated at approximately $100 million, making it, at the time, the most expensive video game ever developed.
On 6 August 2008, Rockstar announced that a Microsoft Windows version of Grand Theft Auto IV was in development by Rockstar North and Rockstar Toronto. The game was originally announced for release in North America on 18 November 2008 and in Europe on 21 November 2008 but was later pushed back to 2 and 3 December 2008, respectively. It contains expanded features, including traffic density control, draw distance configurations and a replay editor. The replay editor allows players to record and edit game clips, videos can then be uploaded to Rockstar's Social Club website. It utilised Games for Windows - Live for online play and supports 32 players for multiplayer. SecuROM protection is utilised and a one time online activation is required in order to play the game. The game was made available on Steam on 4 January 2009. On 9 February 2017, the Xbox 360 version of Grand Theft Auto IV was made available for backwards compatibility with the Xbox One.
Two episodic packs for Grand Theft Auto IV have been released. These two episodes were first released separately, exclusively on Xbox Live, as downloadable content (DLC), requiring the original game to play. They were later released together as part of a standalone game, titled Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, which does not require the original game to play. Dan Houser stated the episodes shows "a different side of Liberty City".
The first expansion, titled Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned, was originally released on 17 February 2009. The protagonist of The Lost and Damned is Johnny Klebitz, a member of Liberty City's biker gang The Lost. The second expansion, titled Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony, was released on 29 October 2009. The protagonist of The Ballad of Gay Tony is Luis Fernando Lopez, an assistant to nightclub owner Tony "Gay Tony" Prince, and follows him as he resolves the conflicts of his friends, family, and boss.
Jeronimo Barrera, Vice President of Product Development for Rockstar Games, said that the episodes were experiments because the team were not sure that there was enough users with access to online content on the Xbox 360. Take-Two Interactive's Chief Financial Officer, Lainie Goldstein revealed that Microsoft was paying a total of $50 million for the first two episodes. In January 2010, Rockstar announced that the DLC as well as Episodes From Liberty City would be made available for the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows on 13 April 2010 in North America and 16 April 2010 in Europe.
Both episodes were released for PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows on 13 April 2010 in North America and on 16 April 2010 in Europe. Grand Theft Auto IV: The Complete Edition, including the original Grand Theft Auto IV and its two episodic expansions, was listed on online stores, before being confirmed by Rockstar. The compilation was released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows on 26 October 2010 in North America, and 29 October in Europe. The Xbox 360 versions of both episodes were made backwards compatible with the Xbox One on 9 February 2017.
Like previous games in the Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto IV features a soundtrack that can be heard through radio stations while the player is in a vehicle. Liberty City is serviced by 19 radio stations, three of which are talk radio stations. The other stations feature music from a large range of genres, including tracks from Genesis, David Bowie, Bob Marley, The Who, Queen, Kanye West and Elton John.
Grand Theft Auto IV uses a similar music system to that of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004). In other games in the series, each radio station was essentially a single looped sound file, playing the same songs, announcements and advertisements in the same order each time. With the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto IV, each sound file is held separately, and sequenced randomly, allowing songs to be played in different orders, announcements to songs to be different each time, and plot events to be mentioned on the stations. Certain songs are also edited to incorporate references to the fictional Liberty City.
A variety of real celebrities provide voices for the radio DJs in the game, including fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, musicians Iggy Pop, Femi Kuti, Jimmy Gestapo and Ruslana, and real-life radio talk show host Lazlow Jones. Saturday Night Live actors Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis appear on the liberal and conservative radio talk shows respectively, with Fred Armisen playing several guests on Lazlow's "Integrity 2.0". Numerous other comedians, including Jim Norton, Patrice O'Neal, Rick Shapiro, and Robert Kelly, as well as radio hosts Opie & Anthony appeared on the radio and/or as characters in-game.
The Music of Grand Theft Auto IV is a 2008 soundtrack packaged with the special edition of Grand Theft Auto IV. The disc contains several soundtrack selections. The soundtrack features several genres, from hip hop to rock and reggae. Several artists re-recorded their songs to make references to in-game locations. Two songs, "Liberty City: The Invasion" and "No Sex for Ben", were composed specifically for the game and the soundtrack. The theme song of Grand Theft Auto IV, "Soviet Connection", was composed by Michael Hunter, who previously composed the theme for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Grand Theft Auto IV was released to critical acclaim. Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating in the 0–100 range, calculated an average score of 98 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim", based on 64 reviews for the PlayStation 3 version and 86 reviews for the Xbox 360 version. It is the second-highest rated game on Metacritic, tied with a number of other games. It is also one of the highest-rated games on GameRankings. Reviewers liked the game's narrative, open world design and combat system. Hilary Goldstein of IGN felt that the game "sets a new benchmark for open-world games", and Andrew Reiner of Game Informer wrote that the game "completely changes the landscape of gaming".
Reviewers lauded the open world design, some further complimenting the freedom that it allows the player. Seth Schiesel of The New York Times named the city the "real star" of the game. Official Xbox Magazine's Hicks was impressed by the city, attributing this to the game's AI. Robinson of Computer and Video Games considered the environment believable, and felt that the world was "utterly unmatched". Goldstein of IGN felt that, although Liberty City is inspired by New York, it is not beholden to it. He wrote that the city "exists in its own universe and rightfully so". Crispin Boyer of 1UP.com directed praise at the city's "breathtaking vistas, incredibly varied scenery, and lived-in look." Conversely, Jesse Costantino of Game Revolution felt that the game lacked important features common in other open world games.
Reviewers praised the game's narrative. IGN's Goldstein accepted that the darker tones to the story, a break from series tradition. Jon Hicks of Official Xbox Magazine felt surprised by the amount of depth to the story. Reiner of Game Informer wrote that the level of freedom in the game contributed to his enjoyment of the story. The morality choices faced by players throughout the narrative were also welcomed. 1UP.com's Boyer felt that they gave the game an element of "replayability". Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell considered the morality choices a fair substitute over "bosses with large health bars".
The game's characters—particularly Niko—received positive reactions from critics. Hicks of Official Xbox Magazine and Andy Robinson of Computer and Video Games both called Niko "charismatic" and "likeable", stating that they prefer him over previous protagonists of the series. George Walter of GamesRadar praised the depth of the character, and IGN's Goldstein felt that the character of Niko feels relatable when faced with difficult decisions. Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb felt that Niko was a "the only thing that mattered to [him]" as he progressed through the story, with the character becoming one of his favourite features of the game. Schiesel of The New York Times named Niko one of the most realised video game characters attributing this to the game's script, while 1UP.com's Boyer commended the use of character bonding during the game's missions.
Many reviewers found the combat system was more responsive than in previous games, particularly praising the addition of the cover system. Justin Calvert of GameSpot wrote that the cover system makes the game's combat a "huge improvement" over previous games. Reiner of Game Informer agreed, writing that the targeting system makes players feel responsible for all deaths. IGN's Goldstein praised the fluidity of the cover system, and felt that the auto aim mechanic is a "great help in larger battles". GamesRadar's Walter wrote that the cover system has "paved the way to a new style of mission". David McComb of Empire called the combat "sharp and instinctive", and Hicks of Official Xbox Magazine felt that the cover system allows players to execute an attack plan. In addition to the combat system, most reviewers noted the vehicle handling was more realistic than in previous games. Robinson of Computer and Video Games felt that the vehicle handling echoed realism, while Hicks of Official Xbox Magazine called the vehicle selection "excellent". Costantino of Game Revolution praised the improvement of the game's mechanics, particularly the physics engine's advanced vehicle and character animations.
Reviewers praised the sound design. Goldstein of IGN praised the actors' performances and the use of licensed music. GameSpot's Calvert and GamesRadar's Walter also commended the licensed music, the latter admiring the humour of the radio's talk stations. Michael Pinson of The Pro Audio Files praised the separate features of the game's sound design—including the city's ambiance, licensed music, character dialogue, and vehicle and weapon sound effects—applauding the developer's use of uniting the features together. Carolyn Gudmundson of GamesRadar also retroactively praised the game's soundtrack, commending its suitability to the game's setting.
The game's online multiplayer mode received positive reactions from critics. Reiner of Game Informer praised the character customisation available in the multiplayer mode, and noted that it runs "just as smoothly" as the single-player game. 1UP.com's Boyer called the multiplayer modes "excellent", and IGN's Goldstein named it one of the best. Official Xbox Magazine's Hicks dubbed the multiplayer as "hugely entertaining", while Walter of GamesRadar praised the "seamless" process of entering a multiplayer match. Giant Bomb's Gerstmann and Game Revolution's Costantino felt divided about the multiplayer, the latter naming it a "fantastic idea", but feeling as though connectivity problems resulted in a "broken" experience.
Microsoft Windows version
When Grand Theft Auto IV was released to Microsoft Windows in December 2008, it received generally positive reviews. Metacritic calculated an average score of 90 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim", based on 40 reviews. Reviewers liked the enhanced visuals and the additional features, but criticised the port for its inferiority over the console versions.
The in-game features added in the port were well received. The addition of the Video Editor was met with positive reactions; GameSpot's Calvert called it "a great way to get creative", while Kieron Gillen of Eurogamer criticised the unpredictability in its timing. Critics also praised the addition of the customisable radio station, which allows players to listen to their own choice of music; Tom Chick of 1UP.com named it the best feature of the port, and Steven Hopper of GameZone called it a "great touch". The port's upgrade to 32 concurrent players in the online multiplayer mode, as opposed to the console version's 16 players, was also met with positive feedback; Eurogamer's Gillen said that the "possibility for mayhem... increases", while Will Tuttle of GameSpy felt that the player increase "changes the action significantly".
The port's enhanced visuals were commended by many reviewers. GameZone's Hopper considered the visuals an improvement over the original versions. Andy Robinson of Computer and Video Games called the visuals "impressive", while Tom Orry of VideoGamer.com called them "superb". Conversely, the port's system requirements, considered difficult to run with advanced settings, received criticism. Eurogamer's Gillen said that, though the Windows version is "the most attractive version", it's "annoyingly fiddly to get there". GameSpy's Tuttle was able to overlook the demanding system requirements in exchange for the game's other features.
Within twenty-four hours of its release, Grand Theft Auto IV sold over 3.6 million copies, equating to approximately $310 million in revenue. Within a week, it generated more than $500 million in worldwide revenue, equating to approximately 6 million copies sold for Take Two. The numbers surpassed analysts' expectations for the title. After one month of availability, the game had sold over 8.5 million copies. It broke three Guinness World Records on 13 May 2008: highest grossing video game in 24 hours, highest revenue generated by an entertainment product in 24 hours, and fastest-selling video game in 24 hours. On 11 March 2011, Take-Two announced that the game had sold over 20 million copies, with the Grand Theft Auto series surpassing a collective total of 100 million copies. As of July 2013, the game has sold over 25 million copies. All sales records broken by Grand Theft Auto IV were beaten by its successor, Grand Theft Auto V, upon release.
In the United Kingdom, the game became the fastest-selling game of all time, selling over 631,000 copies in twenty-four hours. This broke the record set by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas at 501,000 copies over the same period. During the first five days of availability, the game sold over 927,000 copies in the United Kingdom. Over the same period, 2.85 million units were sold in the United States. By the end of 2008, the game had sold over 5.18 million copies in the US. In its first four days of availability in Japan, it sold 133,000 copies on the PlayStation 3 and 34,000 on the Xbox 360, according to Media Create.
In the first week of availability, the Windows version of Grand Theft Auto IV debuted at seventh place on the weekly charts; by the second week, it had left the top-ten. Based on unique user counts, the game was the most played Games for Windows – Live game in 2009 and 2012, and the second-most played in 2011.
Following the critical acclaim it received on its release, Grand Theft Auto IV has received various awards from various critics and publications. It received several Game of the Year awards, from gaming media outlets such as Spike TV, Giant Bomb, Kotaku, and GameTrailers, as well as mainstream publications, like The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine. Grand Theft Auto IV also received seven nominations at the 5th British Academy Video Games Awards (BAFTA Games Awards), and three nominations at the 9th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, but did not win any of them.
Prior to and since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, the game had been subject to a great deal of controversy, as was the case with previous Grand Theft Auto titles. Figures including George Galloway, Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton have criticised the game, as have organisations including New York City officials and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD asked ESRB to change the rating of the game from "M" (for ages seventeen and up) to "AO" (for adults only) due to the player's ability to drive under the influence of alcohol.
The initial version of Grand Theft Auto IV released in Australia and New Zealand was pre-censored by Rockstar to allow the game to meet the perceived requirements of the Australian classification system. However, the game was resubmitted to the New Zealand OFLC by Stan Calif, a 21-year-old student who was unhappy that New Zealand received an edited version of the game as a result of Australian censorship laws. The unedited version was subsequently given an R18 rating and cleared for sale in New Zealand. For the PC release, the uncensored version of the game was awarded MA15+ in Australia. Following the release of The Lost and Damned, Rockstar distributed a patch which uncensored the Australian release for consoles.
There have been reports in the United Kingdom and the United States of crimes perpetrated against people purchasing Grand Theft Auto IV, as well as employees of stores selling the game. One of these incidents, an attack near a Gamestation store in Croydon, London was later reported to be an unrelated argument between two groups of people leaving a pub and the story has been referred to as a "media panic." Six teenagers were later arrested in June 2008 after engaging in a crime spree in New Hyde Park, New York, assaulting and robbing several people, and attempting a carjacking. According to police, the teens claimed that they were "inspired" by Grand Theft Auto IV.