Development history of GTA IV: disassembling the beta version of the game

Grand Theft Auto IV was released in 2008 and has sold over 25 million copies on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. The game has become a cult, especially among gamers from the CIS – all thanks to the theme and incredible elaboration of the game world. To achieve this success, Rockstar spent over $ 100 million in development and promotion. Today we have the opportunity to look at early versions of GTA IV and follow how the project was done, which set a new standard for quality in the industry.

Town
Initially, the new GTA was developed on the San Andreas engine – RenderWare from the Criterion company. But then Rockstar decided to create their own engine, which they called RAGE . First, it was run on a small Table Tennis project, at the same time using Euphoria’s procedural animation tool.

Liberty City early in development – while using the RenderWare engine

Initially, they wanted to make the map just huge, reproducing the entire state of New York in the game, and not just the city. Fortunately, the power of the new consoles Xbox 360 and PS3 allowed. The series’ executive producer and screenwriter, Sam Hauser, later noted that the idea was gone, focusing on what could bring a new experience to the players. They decided to limit the map, but fill it with content as much as possible. And the idea with the whole state will be implemented a little later, in GTA V.

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Some areas had to be removed during development. For example, The Caraways was removed from the final build. Mentions about him remained on in-game TV and road signs.

The Caraways were a replica of The Hamptons, a real New York suburb

On the texture of one of the books in the game, you can see a preliminary version of the map. The jackalization of the image is off the charts, but some details could be discerned.

Francis Airport had four runways instead of two, Middle Park was slightly smaller, and there was a large “green” area of ​​unknown purpose in the northwest.

Almost all establishments have been renamed. For example, the Binco store, which migrated from San Andreas, then turned into “Latest Fashion”:

Thanks to the cut audio files and animations, we found out that Niko could go to almost all restaurants and even buy ice cream on the street. For some reason, this is not available in the final version.

Cut animation of eating ice cream

The Statue of Happiness was originally a copy of its prototype – the real Statue of Liberty. Later, the face was changed, it became strikingly similar to Hillary Clinton. And instead of a torch, a cup of coffee was inserted – a hint of the Hot Coffee fashion scandal , to which the former US Secretary of State was involved.

In the final assembly, there were small hidden rooms that were used by the developers as test sites. Modders were able to access them. At these sites, you can see, for example, telephone poles with steps. Niko could climb them to get on the roofs of buildings or just look around.

Characters (edit)
The development of the protagonist Niko Bellic can be easily traced in the official illustrations and trailers. At first he looked a little younger and had more hair on his head.

In the early beta, there were even barbershops, that is, there was an opportunity to radically change the hairstyle. This idea was abandoned in order not to “kill” the gangster atmosphere of the game.

Niko was voiced by a little-known TV series actor Michael Hollick, but the character itself was based on the image of Vladimir Mashkov from the movie Behind Enemy Lines.

Behind Enemy Lines (2001)

The brother of the protagonist Roman had a slightly different face. The clothes were also different.

For Michelle’s character, the model was redesigned practically from scratch.

Tom Goldberg , a lawyer who must be killed in one of the missions, has turned from a bald and fat Jew to practically Robert De Niro.

The character is based on the real-life lawyer Jack Thompson , who has repeatedly sued Rockstar, accusing the GTA series of promoting violence.

Roman’s girlfriend Mallory Bardas was clearly sexier in her early concept art.

And the main villain Dmitry Raskalov dressed more stylishly and wore different glasses.

Missions
Quests have not been significantly reworked. The most frequent change was, oddly enough, setting the time of day and weather. So, the introductory mission in the beta version began before dark, and not late in the evening.

In the first meeting with Eddie Lowe, the weather was rainy, not foggy:

Rockstar is making these changes to have more impactful visuals in trailers or previews.

One of the main missions was removed by the developers. As the ninth in a row, it was called The American Dream. Footage from it is in one of the trailers – Niko with Roman and two NPCs on the boat are trying to escape from the police.

The second remote task can be guessed from the screenshot. Obviously, Niko is tasked with blowing up a limousine with a police escort:

One of the advertising images shows a fistfight inside the cabin of the Skycar. Whether such a mission actually took place is unknown.

Telephone
The base phone was originally gray in color and slightly different dimensions. The advanced model that Niko gets along the way had many more features, like a built-in MP3 player. The player could listen to music even while walking.

There was also a camera in beta version, the functionality of which was replaced by a smartphone.

Weapon
Many weapons have been removed from the game. There is even a 3D model for the revolver, but it did not make it to the final version. Probably, with his cowboy appearance, he destroyed the atmosphere of the mafia Brighton Beach.

The silenced pistol was meant to be used in stealth missions, but it also went to the trash can. Niko prefers to act directly!

A club, a cue, a flamethrower, a multi-barreled machine gun and much more were planned. Rockstar had to ditch these weapons to make the game feel real.

Modders found a cue in game files

In beta, Niko used the SPAS-12 shotgun, but later it was replaced by the Remington 1100. And the more recognizable AK-47 took the place of the Yugoslavian Zastava M70 assault rifle.

SPAS-12 in beta and Remington 1100 in release

The police were initially armed with rubber truncheons. The mods found a lot of voiceovers related to its use.

“Do you know where you can stick a club?”

Transport
The biggest thing that games cut out are airplanes. They fit well with the original concept of the whole state, but in the small Liberty City, their presence was superfluous.

Carved transport

In the early stages of development, the presence of the military was assumed: there are even hints of a fighter in the game files.

Helicopters were left as one of the tourist attributes of New York. Their design has changed slightly. Also, some cars underwent minor edits.

The Maverick helicopter originally had only two propellers.

Judging by the model names in Roman’s depot, it was initially assumed that instead of regular taxis, he rented limousines. This explains one of the scenes in the trailer:

 

Other changes
Judging by the lines of code that control the movement of pedestrians, there were snow missions in the game. They were added later – in GTA V, but the physics of sliding cars worked already in the “four”. Thanks to mods on the PC, you can change the time of year.

Auto tuning should have migrated from San Andreas, but for the stern Niko, such a hobby would look out of place. The races themselves were left, but they are tied to the missions of Brucie Kibbutz.

Brucie and Nico at the auto shop

Went to the trash and some mini games as well as video games. According to the original idea, the main character could play with Roman not only bowling, but also on the console – the corresponding audio files and animations remained unused.

“Do you want to forget the real world and play a little?”

There is a lot more information and details that we have not mentioned. If you disassemble every little thing, the article will turn out to be huge and very boring. The most important thing I want to say in conclusion – despite its venerable age (13 years), Grand Theft Auto IV is still not outdated and plays great!

The Complete Edition for PC was recently released on Steam , and the Xbox Series X and S can be played in backward compatibility mode at 60 fps.

Game console Microsoft Xbox Series S 30 799 *
Considering that GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is about to be released , we can expect that a remaster will soon appear for the fourth part of the legendary series.