Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the most “slept on” games in the GTA series. The child at the dinner table that can’t seem to get a word in among its younger (GTA: San Andreas) and older (GTA V) siblings. However, with such a large shadow cast by the two in terms of expectation, it is easy to see why it never gets the proper recognition that it deserves, with such a beautiful playground in Liberty City, filled with unique interactions and carnage just begging to be started. The consensus of which title in the series reigns supreme seems to always lean just outside of its reach, causing it to fall into a pit of mediocrity.
However, even with its meager accreditation, Grand Theft Auto IV has a lot to offer beneath the surface. In fact, what If I told you that this so called “lackluster” title – in more ways than one – puts even the “holy grail” known as GTA V to shame?
From the little things such as swimming and climbing, to more intricate interactions with NPCs, there's plenty to love. Grand Theft Auto IV is an underdog in the fight, but a competitor nonetheless. Today, we'll take a look at this underrated superstar with 15 reasons why GTA IV is WAY better than GTA V.
Beyond the mafia, yakuza, ballers and other notorious groups that have graced the GTA series, police are by far the biggest threats especially in Grand Theft Auto V. Just standing in front of an officer for too long in the game will have you profiled pretty damn fast.
This is where Grand Theft Auto IV excels. Unless provoked, the boys in blue tend to leave you alone. Also, if you happen to engage in some rather nefarious acts – unless you’re seen, the likelihood of those red and blue flashing lights isn’t that high. So feel free to indulge to your hearts content, but in Grand Theft Auto V be prepared for a bloodhound like bounty hunt and may the odds be in your favor.
“Niko, it's your cousin Roman! Let's go bowling!”
One of the most infamous phrases ever conceived by Rockstar Games, that has become the leading cause of brain aneurysms for many GTA fans. However, though the unrelenting assault from Roman is one of the most annoying aspects of Grand Theft Auto IV, it’s oddly satisfying to hear. The fact that friends established and relationships built with other characters in the game last beyond a few missions here and there is a feature most have grown to miss in Grand Theft Auto V.
From Little Jacob, Brucie, Patty, etc, Grand Theft Auto IV delivers more in-depth interactions with nonlinear characters, creating a feeling that the world is living around you even outside of the main story line. Couple that with the funny banter and rather interesting side dialogue you engage in, and it makes for a fun dynamic.
Speaking of hanging out with friends, one activity in particular is nothing short of a good time. That is heading to the bar and cracking open a cold one with the boys! Getting drunk in Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the most eventful things you will experience in the game. Aside from being a cultural “rite of passage” in friendship, the effects afterward on your character are hilarious. And no I’m not just talking about a blurry screen.
The euphoria system in GTA IV sees you slurring your words, falling over face first, getting behind the wheel and then finally crashing into everything in sight. Almost to remind the player “drinking and driving is bad.”
Grand Theft Auto V does provide this euphoria effect, but only to an extent and for a much shorter time, making GTA IV the game for those looking to get lit!
Starting fist fights with random civilians on the street is one of the most joyful pass times for any Grand Theft Auto player. Most gamers anxiously await those moments where an NPC talks slick or looks at us the wrong way. It validates our unreasonable reasoning for them to “catch these hands,” and it feels good.
What makes these fights even better is when you approach someone that is packing a little more than you were expecting. In Grand Theft Auto IV, NPCs have far more health and put up a better fight. Fighting a random 'lady of the night' can quickly turn into a Mayweather versus McGregor pay per view bout.
I mean really who doesn’t like a good challenge.
There are times when a friendly game of “fisticuffs” with a random NPC may get out of hand (in other words you were getting your a** whooped). In those cases, firearms – in the minds of most gamers – are the only option left before they become a chalk line on the pavement.
One neat feature that Grand Theft Auto IV possesses, that its successor does not, is the reactability of NPCs when shot. Shooting either the arm, leg or sometimes stomach doesn’t necessarily guarantee death (you know like in real life). The NPCs, if not fatally wounded, will get up and favor the wound as they try to get away. It's something small, but a cool addition to the game. Honestly, it's kinda mind-boggling that it was omitted in Grand Theft Auto V.
Even crossing the street in Grand Theft Auto V can be the difference between life and death. Drivers are some of the most blood thirsty NPCs in the series and, if you're not careful, they can ruin a mission, stop an escape or damage your newly painted car from LA Customs (we’ve all felt that feeling of anger and sadness before). Luckily for players of GTA IV, the carnage that plagues the roads of Liberty City is far less hectic. Stop lights are no longer a place of regret and open roads are no longer a field littered with “wasted” past lives. Drivers typically are more respectful, but then again maybe that’s just a testament to drivers on the east coast over the west? I’m only guessing, of course.
The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned are regarded as some of the best DLC/ add-ons in GTA history. The storytelling and change of pace from the traditional grungy feel of Liberty City, to the colorful nightclubs and dive biker bars, were simply refreshing. Though Grand Theft Auto V definitely gets its props for their consistent releases of free DLC additions for the online, there's been nothing for single player.
When it comes to single player longevity, Grand Theft Auto IV shows up to work on its off day, allowing fans of the game to get a new look at the storyline through a new pair of eyes.
The lush and lavish vehicles of Grand Theft Auto V are amazing. Both the stock cars in the single player and the added “drop tops” online never fail to impress and have been compared to games like Forza. Which is saying something. However, Grand Theft Auto IV’s handling takes the cake. The turns and maneuvering alone feel a lot more fluid and true to life, but it doesn’t stop there.
Crash detail in GTA IV hold true to real damage. Striking the corner of your car will dent solely the corner and popping a tire will see the air slowly seep out. Honestly, vehicular damage in GTA IV is just a lot of fun. Many times I would go as fast as I could into oncoming traffic just to see how much damage detail I could cause.
There are far more minor intricacies in Grand Theft Auto IV that make cars more than just something to go from A to B.
It boggles my brain as to how this oversight in Grand Theft Auto V wasn’t caught ahead of its release, as the act of climbing and jumping in an open world game seem fundamental, next to running and looking left or right. Coming face to face with a wall in Grand Theft Auto IV is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. However, in Grand Theft Auto V, turning down the wrong alley during a police chase and seeing even a semi-climbable wall will fill you with more fear than coming home to mom after the street lights came on. Terrifying and regretful.
The introduction of the open waters of Los Santos most definitely deserves a few hand claps. It almost creates another open world map for gamers to explore, with scuba diving and submarine activities adding extra motivation to discover. It’s inspiring to see so much detail go into a typically ignored section of the game. However, when it comes to physics, it’s a downgrade from a game made just five years prior.
Grand Theft Auto IV’s swimming physics and water movements look smoother. It’s uncertain whether or not the detail to the water physics was a case of art style differences between the two games, but it can’t be helped but to call out the better of the two. Especially when bringing a helicopter down towards the water with waves flowing naturally away from the center. It’s the little things that matter and GTA IV took notice.
Ever since the infamous “coffee scene” in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, girlfriends have played a major part in the series. Aside from occasionally being a subplot to the main story, girlfriends hold a special place in our hearts as an added structure device for our protagonist.
In Niko’s case, our favorite Russian Casanova explores himself through a plethora of female cohorts. From Kate to Michelle, the added companionship is welcomed and the hot “coffee” isn’t too bad either. This isn’t the case in Grand Theft Auto V, however, as the storylines avoids this. Sure, we’re given a tease of some sort with Franklin’s girlfriend, but that’s where the buck stops and it never goes further than a random cut scene.
We’ll just have to live out our loneliness in the arms of Juliet from the Vanilla Unicorn. As long as you have money, she will always have the time.
A lesser known feature unique to Grand Theft Auto IV is its unique interactions with the world around you. Unlike GTA V, there are far more things to engage with when just walking down the street. A rock or soda can be used to chuck through a window or knock objects out the hands of NPCs. Even pushing NPCs out of your way is an option when things get a little too close for your “personal bubble.” Grand Theft Auto IV exhibits realism in its aesthetics.
Explosions and fires also play a part, both of which can do tremendous damage to nearby structures. Even without the “amazing” graphics, the fluidity and polish this game has is something that would be a crime to overlook.
The story of Grand Theft Auto IV is one that has a majority of long term fans straddling the fence. It’s long and drawn-out and, with a cousin like Roman stalking you every chance he can get, it’s hard for the casual player to fully engage with what's going on.
However, compared to Grand Theft Auto V, the later might be preferred. Though for the first time ever in a GTA game we were introduced to a three-player system, the story in it occasionally strayed away from the beaten path, making things hard to follow.
Niko’s journey, on the other hand being the sole focus, allowed for more character development. I was able to sympathize and feel for the Russian oaf trying to make it in America, more than I was; an up and coming gangster, rage filled hillbilly or bank robber turned family-man going through a midlife crisis. They say less is more and, in this case, I think they were right.
It would be an understatement in saying that Grand Theft Auto V, in terms of difficulty, has been drastically watered down from its predecessors. It embraces the “casual gamer” more often than not, making it a breeze to pick up and play. Now most of you may think I’m crazy for calling that a bad thing, but honestly, it’s all up to your perception. If the feeling you get when you finally finish a mission like "Three Leaf Clover" isn’t too much passed a “yay I did it,” then by all means it’s a good thing. However, for many that intense level of accomplishment after you’ve debated throwing the controller out of the window in frustration is what makes playing the game worthwhile. It’s a challenge, a test. Grand Theft Auto IV prepares you for that test by upping the ante and making gamers work for their reward. For that it deserves its respect.
Ever feel like today’s Grand Theft Auto just doesn’t feel like Grand Theft Auto?
It may sound crazy, but GTA V, even with all of its supped up cars, outrageous cut scenes and dynamic combat systems, just doesn’t live up to what we want from a GTA game (some demanding bastards, aren’t we?). It just doesn’t seem to reach that level of fandom, which was first realized in Grand Theft Auto III and then perfected through the eyes of CJ in San Andreas. Something isn’t clicking.
Though it too stumbles in authenticity, Grand Theft Auto IV feels closer to the “rags to riches,” “king of the jungle” narrative we all know, love and desire to playout. The progression in the game is a semi-perfect blend of serious overtones and occasional comedic breaks, which is what the series is all about and what GTA V seems to forget.
Though it could be a case of too many “member berries,” is it so wrong to yearn for nostalgia? Especially when something was fixed, that was never broken.