GTA IV Setting - Liberty City

Liberty City was first used in the original Grand Theft Auto back in 1997. Seven years later it underwent a huge transformation into a living, breathing 3D world for Grand Theft Auto 3. In 2004 the city was reverted back to the old school top-down view for GTA Advance, where it only modified due to hardware constraints. Liberty City Stories was the next game in the series to utilise the 3D version of the city, a few minor changes were made, however it remained largely similar to GTA3. GTA 4 will be the fifth game in the series to use the city as its setting.

When asked why Rockstar Games decided to use Liberty City, Dan Houser, Vice President of the company said:

[New York City] is an environment we felt had never been done to the level we were envisioning it in a video game. From looking at all of the locations, this was the one that really stood out to us, and really had that impact. It has all of these iconic things that you couldn't put into a game before.

GTA4's rendition of Liberty City is set in 2007, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the real life New York City. Four of the five boroughs have been recreated, their equivalents are:

  • Brooklyn = Broker
  • Manhattan = Algonquin
  • Queens = Dukes
  • Bronx = Bohan
  • New Jersey = Alderney

Many of the iconic things in the city have their own in game versions. For example, the Statue of Liberty is now called the Statue of Happiness, while DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is known as BOABO (Beneath the Offramp of the Algoquin Bridge Overpass).

The size of Liberty City is slightly smaller than San Andreas, however, the smaller size is made up for as "not an inch of [the] world is wasted or dedicated to vast streches of country or desert", the city is a thriving metropolis. Additionally, the entire city is far more detailed than ever before...

The texturing of the Algonquin streets, which are filled with crater-like potholes and occasional glimpses of the brick used in a world gone by, are greatly varied in design and something you can't tear your eye from. The visual makeup of the city "was something we could capture real well and really understand the minute aspects of its personality," adds Houser.
- Game Informer, May 2007

New York City is a totally different place at night when compared to day, and GTAIV reflects these differences in Liberty City. When the light fades and nighttime is upon us, we will see some very different people walking the streets, and you may not want to be found in some parts of the city.

NPC's walking around the city will also strike you as being remarkably different than in previous interations of Grand Theft Auto. Rather than following pre-determined paths and having very limited movement capabilities, NPC's will seemingly have a far more varied amount of things they are able to do. In addition to this, they will be a lot more dynamic, and much more context sensitive.

When you see the streets, and see that this person's smoking, another person is on the phone, and this other person is sitting on a bench, it looks amazing. It feels a lot more real than just a lot of people walking down the street.
- Dan Houser, Vice President of Rockstar Games

Finally, two more quotes from Dan Houser that show how much effort Rockstar have put into making the city just right for the game:

It's not the full city, it's an approximation thereof. We make a city that feels like the real thing, but is perfectly tuned for gameplay in the broadest sense. The world is not designed to be a video game. We are trying to make a video game that feels like the world, but still plays like a video game. The design of the city and the missions that unfold within it are designed hand-in-hand and complement each other perfectly. Everything in this world is here for a reason, where it is directly tied to gameplay or simply there to create atmosphere. 
The visual makeup of the city was something we could capture real well and really understand the minute aspects of its personality. Trying to put that into a videogame is something that we think is unique to the video game medium. It was a way that we could capture some aspects of the experience of living there that you couldn't put into a film, you couldn't put into a TV show, and you couldn't put into a book. A big part of New York life is walking around the streets and meeting lunatics. That's something that we definitely tried to put into the game. We are trying to give it that life and difference between the neighbourhoods and the difference between the kinds of people. We are tying to capture that Capital of the World aspect of New York.

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