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Cities in Games: GTA IV Liberty City

Heli Tours (GTA IV) from VIP3Rz on Vimeo.

Grand Theft Auto IV (abbreviated to GTA IV) is a sandbox-style action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. Typical of the franchise it features some of the best free roaming city visualisations around, creating a believable sense of location and place thanks to interactive traffic models and pedestrian movement.

The game is set in 'Liberty City', a fictional city that is based heavily on modern day New York City. The movie above provides an insight into both the architecture of the city and the ability to freely visualize the urban skyline.

Below provides a further look at the city:

Freefall (GTA IV) from VIP3Rz on Vimeo.

In a report last year in the New York Daily News City Councilman Peter Vallone, chairman of the Council's Public Safety Committee, stated that "Setting Grand Theft Auto in the safest big city in America would be like setting Halo in Disneyland". The article continues that "The mayor does not support any video game where you earn points for injuring or killing police officers," said Jason Post, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg.

The city map for GTA IV is pictured below, you can view an interactive 'Google Maps' style version here.

Now we are not going to get into the debate about violence and games based on real locations.. suffice to say the Mayor of London didn't pass comment on The Getaway (see our movie) which allows you, amongst other things, to hijack a bus at gun point and attack passers by, but these are changing times.

With games increasingly leading the way in the creation of digital cities, and the move towards photorealism, it looks like this is the first shot across the bows of game creators in what looks like a long running debate.

We can't help wondering how different it is however to film, how many violent films have been set in New York and depicted it in a negative way? From the Lights of New York in 1928 (the first Gangster film to feature sound) to the latest blockbuster - New York is often portrayed as a crime ridden city due to its gritty urban environment and architecture. GTA IV is simply following a similar path.

GT4.Net has a great write up showing comparisons between in-game images and the architecture of New York.

Also see the 86 page thread on

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