The game is set in a redesigned rendition of Liberty City, a fictional city based heavily on modern day New York City. It follows Niko Bellic, a war veteran from Eastern Europe, who comes to the United States in search of the American Dream, but quickly becomes entangled in a seedy underworld of gangs, crime, and corruption. Like other games in the series, GTA IV is composed of elements from driving games and third-person shooters, and features "open-world" gameplay that gives players more control over their playing experience. GTA IV is the first console game in the series to feature an online multiplayer mode, which contains fifteen different game types.
A major commercial and critical success, Grand Theft Auto IV broke sales records by selling about 3.6 million units on its first day of release and grossing more than $500 million in its first week. As of 16 August 2008, the game has sold over 10 million copies. Grand Theft Auto IV has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, becoming the highest-rated video game of all-time on Game Ratio, aggregated review website.
The open, non-linear environment allows players to explore and choose how they wish to play the game. Although storyline missions are necessary to progress through the game and unlock certain parts of the map and content, they are not required, as players can complete them at their own leisure. When not taking on a storyline mission, players can free-roam. However, creating havoc can attract unwanted and potentially fatal attention from the authorities.
It is possible to have multiple active missions, due to the fact that some missions will run over the course of several days and will require the player to wait for further instructions, etc. The player can also partake in a variety of optional side missions. For the first time in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV features "morality choices" at several points throughout the game, in which the player is forced to choose between killing a character or sparing their life or killing one of two characters. The game has two different endings, which are determined by decisions made by the player throughout and at the end of the game. Each choice affects the final missions the player can partake, and the fate of some characters.
Wanted levels operate differently from previous GTA games. When the police are in search of Niko, a search radius appears on the map in which the police will be looking for him. The size of this radius increases with the player's wanted level and re-centres itself on Niko's location if he is spotted by the police. The player can evade the police by escaping the search radius and temporarily keeping a low profile by not committing further offences. The wanted levels can be lost by either driving into a "Pay 'N' Spray" as in previous games or by disguising himself by clandestinely changing vehicles in empty areas such as parking garages. However, entering a "Pay 'N' Spray" will no longer remove the wanted levels if the police notice Niko entering the garage. The player has the option to attempt escaping arrest before he is handcuffed, at the cost of increasing his wanted level by one star. Additionally, pedestrians with cellphones can report crimes they witness in the surrounding environment.
The type of police response also differs slightly from previous GTA games; however, creating more chaos still leads to a stronger response. "Minor" crimes, such as assault, public discharge of a firearm, grand theft auto, and homicide, continue to be handled by police patrols. Higher wanted levels still activate police helicopter and water craft support teams and FBI-like agents, known as FIB (Federal Investigation Bureau) in GTA: IV. However, police SWAT and the military no longer appear at a higher wanted levels, as seen in previous renditions of the series. Instead, they have been replaced with an elite counter-terrorism team known as N.O.O.S.E. (National Office Of Security Enforcement), an amalgamation of SWAT and the Department of Homeland Security.
Car damage physics are more detailed in GTA: IV than in its predecessors. When major collisions on motorbikes occur, the player's helmet will most likely fall off. The physics engine will turn the player into a rag doll after a crash, instead of using a predefined animation, resulting in more realistic collisions. Niko can lose health (or die) if he crashes or smashes through the windscreen of cars when colliding with objects at high speed. Vehicles will not explode if they are flipped over, or shot in any place other than the engine block or fuel tank, however they may catch fire and eventually explode if they are repeatedly damaged via collisions. Explosions can sometimes render nearby vehicles unusable, or cause them to catch fire. Car engines can also die, rendering them unable to start.
When driving or riding in a car, the player is able to smash the window, free-aim, and fire out of the vehicle with several different one-handed weapons as well dropping grenades or Molotov cocktails. In certain areas of Liberty City, Niko can stop along side a prostitute, honk his car horn and let her in. This then enables him to engage in three different sexual activities with the prostitute at different costs.
The game also features several different in-game databases that Niko can make use of. An in-game version of the Internet can be used by accessing the Internet café chain, "TW@", located throughout the city. There are over 100 accessible fictitious websites within the game, and Niko can also send and receive email (complete with random spam mail) and set up prospective dates. Although the Internet café was seen in Grand Theft Auto III, it did not give the player the option to browse the internet. In a police vehicle, Niko can use an in-car computer to access Liberty City's criminal database, discover information about various criminals in Liberty City and even track them down for a reward. The game also features in-game television programming, with several viewable channels featuring programs and advertisements. The television shows cover a wide variety of genres, including news, comedy, talk shows, and sports. There is also a parody of Ric Burns' New York: A Documentary Film running continuously on one of the game's television stations, detailing the history of Liberty City in the same grandiose style as Burns' eight-part documentary.
There are several different game modes available. Team based gameplay modes include Team Deathmatch, where 2-8 teams compete to accumulate the most kills in a traditional deathmatch; Team Mafiya Work, in which 2–8 teams compete to complete contract work for the "mafiya", such as escorting/killing targets or stealing cars; Team Car Jack City where 2–8 teams compete to steal cars and earn money for keeping them undamaged; Cops n' Crooks, featuring a team of cops who must compete against a team of crooks (which features the "All for One" variation - requiring the cops to kill the crooks' "Boss" before he is escorted to the extraction point - and the "One for All" variation - requiring the cops to kill all of the crooks before they reach the extraction point); and Turf War, involving two teams who compete to take control of designated areas of the map and control them for as long as possible.
The game also includes a variety of racing and cooperative modes, which include Race, in which players race through checkpoints in a traditional automobile race; a GTA Race variation, where players race through checkpoints in an automobile race, with the ability to combat their opponents; Hangman's N.O.O.S.E., a co-op mode that requires players to collect a person from the airport and safely escort him to the extraction point before the cops kill him; Deal Breaker, a co-op mission that requires players to assault a construction site captured by enemies, then chase a group of enemies before they escape; and Bomb da Base II, a co-op mission that requires players to clear out a ship, then destroy it with explosives. 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.
In an interview with Playstation World Magazine, Rockstar mentioned that they will "heavily support" Sony's PlayStation Home, a community-based service for the PlayStation Network. Rockstar also mentioned that visitors to their PlayStation Home apartment would receive 'goodies' such as clothing for their avatar and items and decorations for their own PlayStation Home apartment. In addition to this, users can earn PlayStation 3 Trophies for their home space.
Niko Bellic is an Eastern European immigrant and a veteran of the Bosnian War who, after persuasion from his cousin Roman, comes to Liberty City to pursue the American Dream and escape his criminal past. After his arrival, however, Niko quickly learns that Roman's tales of riches and luxury were lies, concealing Roman's struggles with debt and gangsters. Niko aids Roman in his troubles while hoping to carve out a new life for himself in the city.
It is later revealed that Niko came to Liberty City primarily to search for the person he blames for the betrayal of his old army unit: Florian Cravic. Niko soon creates ties with the Liberty City Bratva through Roman's loan shark Vladimir Glebov and later makes acquaintance with a major figure of the Bratva, Mikhail Faustin and his associate, Dimitri Rascalov. Niko completes jobs for Faustin before joining Dimitri's plot to betray Faustin and take over the organization. Niko assassinates Faustin on Dimitri's orders and later meets with him to collect his reward for the killing. Dimitri, however, betrays Niko and reveals that he is in collusion with Rodislav Bulgarin, a former employer of Niko who orders his men to kill him. Little Jacob, a Jamaican arms dealer whom Niko befriended earlier, arrives on the scene and rescues Niko. Dimitri and Bulgarin escape, however, and Jacob suggests dealing with them later.
Niko receives a phone call from Roman, who is hiding in a remote location after having received several silent calls. The two meet up and they drive back to find both Roman's apartment and taxi depot in flames. The two escape to Bohan, after receiving death threats from Dimitri, and Roman reveals his plans to propose to his girlfriend Mallorie. Niko progressively obtains new allies in the city, gaining the money to provide for his and Roman's life while furthering his connections towards locating the person he is searching for. Niko eventually locates Florian, but discovers that he has changed his name to Bernie Crane, and ultimately Niko determines that Bernie is not the person responsible for his unit's betrayal leading him towards the only remaining suspect, Darko Brevic.
Towards the conclusion of the storyline, a shadowy government agency (under the name of "U.L. Paper") that had forced Niko to help them in collusion with an aging mobster, Jon Gravelli, locates Darko in Bucharest and arrange to have him brought to Liberty City as a final reward. Niko confronts Darko, who has become a drug-addicted, guilt-ridden wreck. The player is then left with the option of either executing Darko or sparing his life. Afterwards, having dealt with his past, Niko relaxes at a bar when mob boss Jimmy Pegorino shows up and asks him one final favour; to obtain a shipment of heroin for him that he can sell to a buyer: Dimitri Rascalov.
If the player chooses to exact Revenge, Niko ambushes Dimitri on his tanker while he is supervising a shipment. A gunfight ensues within the hull of the tanker and Niko kills Dimitri in cold blood. In the aftermath, Roman and Mallorie's wedding takes place and Jimmy Pegorino, furious after the betrayal, commits a drive-by outside the church killing Niko's love interest, Kate McReary. Niko, Roman and Little Jacob follow some of Pegorino's men, who lead them to an abandoned casino in Alderney. Niko attempts to kill Pegorino, but he escapes to Happiness Island via boat while Niko pursues him with a helicopter. Niko kills Pegorino, before lamenting on the supposed "American Dream" to Roman and Jacob.
If the player chooses to strike a Deal, Niko meets Phil Bell at the docks to make the exchange. Dimitri sabotages his side of the deal but Niko and Phil eventually retrieve the drug money regardless. Kate, who was against making the deal, is furious with Niko and refuses to attend Roman and Mallorie's wedding. The wedding takes place and an assassin sent by Dimitri to kill Niko inadvertently shoots and kills Roman during a struggle. A devastated and vengeful Niko teams up with Little Jacob and they go to an abandoned casino in Alderney to kill Dimitri, who is now in partnership with Pegorino. Jacob then leaves to formulate an escape plan for Niko after he kills Dimitri. In the casino, Dimitri kills Pegorino and attempts to escape. Niko and Little Jacob follow him to Happiness Island, where Niko kills Dimitri. The story ends with a parting shot of the Statue of Happiness, with Niko concerned for the well-being of his soul.
Grand Theft Auto IV takes place in a redesigned version of Liberty City consisting of four boroughs, based on four of the boroughs of New York City. Broker is the equivalent of Brooklyn, Queens is Dukes, The Bronx is Bohan and Manhattan is Algonquin. Adjacent to the city is the independent state of Alderney based on New Jersey and named after a Channel Island. A Staten Island-esque area is not featured in the game as the developers believed that gameplay in such an area would not be fun. Initially the city's bridges are locked down due to a terrorist threat, but eventually the armed police blockades are lifted and the player is able to lead Niko across the Broker, Algonquin, and Northwood Heights bridges and explore the rest of the city.
Several real-life districts and landmarks exist within Liberty City, including "Hove Beach", based on Brighton Beach and named from Brighton and Hove; "Firefly Island", based on Coney Island, featuring the "Screamer" roller coaster modelled on the Coney Island Cyclone; "Middle Park", a replica of Central Park; "Statue of Happiness" modeled on Statue of Liberty, featuring a Styrofoam coffee cup in place of a torch; "Star Junction", a replica of Times Square; "BOABO" (Beneath the Offramp of the Algonquin Bridge Overpass) a parody of DUMBO; the "Triangle Building", a replica of the Flatiron Building; the "GetaLife Building", a replica of MetLife Building; the "Booth Tunnel", modelled on the Lincoln Tunnel and named after Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth; "BAWSAQ", a parody of NASDAQ; the "Rotterdam Tower", the in-game equivalent of the Empire State Building and the "Zirconium Building", Liberty City's equivalent of the Chrysler Building.
The characters that appear in Grand Theft Auto IV are diverse and relative to the respective boroughs of Liberty City they are based in, belonging to various gangs and ethnic groups. The player controls Niko Bellic, a veteran of the Bosnian War from Eastern Europe. According to Dan Houser, virtually none of the characters from the previous games are returning, as "most of the characters we liked were dead," further evidenced by in-game graffiti bidding farewell to these characters.
Unlike previous games in the series, the voice actors of Grand Theft Auto IV do not include notable and high-profile celebrities, instead opting for lesser known actors such as Michael Hollick, Jason Zumwalt, Moti Margolin, Thomas Lyons, Timothy Adams and Coolie Ranx. However, several high-profile DJs host the various radio stations within the game such as Karl Lagerfeld, Iggy Pop, Luther Campbell, Daddy Yankee, and Lazlow Jones. Saturday Night Live actors Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis appear on the liberal and conservative radio talk shows respectively. Katt Williams and Ricky Gervais also have their likenesses and comedy depicted in an in-game comedy club.
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 18 radio stations, three of which are talk radio stations. The other stations feature music from a range of genres, spanning different decades and also taken from modern day music. Notable inclusions to the game's soundtrack include Smashing Pumpkins, Thin Lizzy, Seryoga, Bob Marley, The Sisters of Mercy, The Who, Queen, Black Sabbath, Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Phillip Glass, Justice, Simian Mobile Disco, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, R. Kelly, Lloyd Liquid Liquid, John Coltrane, Aphex Twin, The Boggs, Elton John, ZZ Top, R.E.M., Ne-Yo, Nas and Barry White. The theme song (intro music) of Grand Theft Auto IV is "Soviet Connection" composed by Michael Hunter, who also composed the theme for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
The game uses a similar music system to that of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In earlier 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 "mixed" 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.
Following a partnership between Rockstar Games and Amazon.com, players will be able to purchase real world MP3s through GTA IV's in-game mobile phone. Players are able to 'mark' radio songs that they like by dialing ZIT-555-0100 on Niko's phone. They will then receive a text message providing the name of the song and the artist. If a player is registered on Rockstar's 'Social Club' website he or she will also receive a real world e-mail with a link to an Amazon.com playlist where all of the player's marked songs will be listed and available to purchase.
Work on Grand Theft Auto IV began in November 2004, almost immediately after the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. According to a financial consultant for Take-Two Interactive, around 150 game developers worked on Grand Theft Auto IV. The team consists of core members of the Grand Theft Auto III team, albeit larger. The game uses Rockstar's own RAGE game engine, which was previously used in Rockstar Table Tennis, 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 [GTA 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 we were hoping to push the detail, variety and life, for lack of a better word, to such a degree 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 recreating 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 is the largest individual city in the Grand Theft Auto series. Although smaller than 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 is done with every GTA 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, "[GTA IV doesn't] really have any cinematic influences", said Dan Houser, "we were consciously trying to go, well, if videogames 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 this movie. [...] Maybe could do something ourselves that would live alongside that stuff."
To date, Grand Theft Auto IV has the largest soundtrack for a video game with 214 songs. 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. Grand Theft Auto IV's theme song is "Soviet Connection" by Michael Hunter, who also composed the theme for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. People who provide voices for the radio DJs include fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, musicians Iggy Pop, Femi Kuti, Jimmy Gestapo and Ruslana, and real-life radio talk show host Lazlow Jones. 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.
Microsoft vice president Peter Moore announced at E3 2006 that the game would appear on Xbox 360, by rolling up his sleeve to reveal a GTA 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. Their stated reason for the date change was "due to additional development time required to complete the title." 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 revealed that technical difficulties with the PlayStation 3 version of the game contributed to the delay. 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 GTA IV had already "gone gold" and was "in production and in trucks en route to retailers" 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 the most expensive game ever developed.
Downloadable content for the PlayStation 3 was said to be "likely" by vice president of development Jeronimo Barrera, in the May 2008 edition of PlayStation World. The form that the content will take was not stated.
Grand Theft Auto IV has received near-universal acclaim from video game critics. The Xbox 360 and PS3 version of GTA IV have received average critic review score of 97% from review aggregator Game Rankings. On TopTenReviews, It is the second-highest rated video game of all-time, behind Super Mario Galaxy. Ahead of its worldwide release, most publications were not sent copies of the game. Instead, reviewers had to play the game at Rockstar premises or in booked hotel rooms.
The May 2008 issue of Official Xbox Magazine (UK) published the first Grand Theft Auto IV review, giving the game the maximum score of 10/10. The magazine also stated that the game has an "amazingly realistic world; stunning action set pieces; genuinely engrossing storyline; hugely entertaining multiplayer;" and that it is "vast in every respect." PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) also gave the game 10/10 in their May 2008 issue, describing the game as "a masterpiece that improves on all GTA's best bits." Xbox World 360 gave the game a 98% rating, the highest it has ever given to any game, mentioning the game was "everything we were entitled to expect, and yet somehow impossibly more. GameSpot's Justin Calvert initially submitted the review with a 9.5 score. However, that was before the review was overlooked by the GameSpot committee, who agreed that the score should be heightened to a perfect 10. The initial score of 9.5 became available on Gamespot's web site due to a bug in their publishing system. It became the first game since 2001 that GameSpot had rated perfect. The review called the game "compelling," with a "plethora of online multiplayer features" and stated that GTA IV is "undoubtedly the best Grand Theft Auto yet."
Hilary Goldstein of IGN gave the game a 10/10 score, with the game earning 10/10 in each individual category: presentation, sound, graphics, and lasting appeal. It is the first game in the publication's history to receive straight-10 subscores across the board. Goldstein called the game "just as big a leap forward" as Grand Theft Auto III, albeit "in subtler ways", and said it "sets a new benchmark for open-world games", with "no one major weak aspect." Goldstein's only serious criticism was for "the occasional flaw in the cover system", but the review concluded with the statement that "We don't give 10s often—just to games that merit the score."
The British newspaper Daily Star gave it a positive review, praising: "This could be a console defining title, one that in years to come people will remember as the stand-out of the era. The New York Times wrote a favourable review as well, calling it a "violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun." The film magazine Empire gave the game a perfect 5/5 in its game reviews section, calling it "damn-near perfect".
Despite the almost unanimous praise given to GTA IV, the game has received some criticism. A review in Ars Technica states that the game "...[is] not perfect. It does not deserve unquestioned, unadulterated praise. In many ways, the slight regression of the series from San Andreas is surprising: there are fewer vehicles, weapons, and story missions, less character customization, and even the size of the city itself is smaller." GameSpot noted that there are occasional problems with friendly AI and avoiding the police being "a little too easy." There were some minor complaints with the game's cover system, which reviewers noted, stumbled in box-filled environments and the stickiness of cover points being an issue. The occasional presence of noticeable pop-in was also criticised.
Upon release, Grand Theft Auto IV claimed two entertainment industry sales records, posting the best single-day and seven-day sales totals for a video game. The game sold more than 3.6 million copies on its first day of availability (garnering $310 million in sales), while also selling 6 million copies in the first week of availability (garnering $500 million in sales). In the United Kingdom, the game sold 631,000 copies on its first day of release, making it the fastest-selling game in a 24 hour period within that region, according to Chart-Track. The previous record holder in the UK, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, sold 501,000 copies within 24 hours.
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, 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.
On 6 May 2008, it was reported via Major Nelson's website that Grand Theft Auto IV was the most-played title on Xbox Live for the week beginning 28 April 2008, taking the number one spot from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare which had held it for the preceding 12 weeks.
GameStop and EB Games reported that the game led in sales the first week after its release, noting that its stores in Puerto Rico led all districts in pre-release reservations and sales 48 hours after its release. According to GameStop, the Xbox 360 version of the game outsold the PlayStation 3 version by about 2 to 1 in the first week.
On 13 May 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV broke the Guinness World Records for "Highest grossing video game in 24 hours" and "Highest Revenue Generated by an Entertainment Product in 24 Hours". It sold 3.6 million copies on day one, which equalled roughly $310 million in revenue. For first day sales it also broke the record of "Fastest-selling video game in 24 hours", previously held by Halo 3 at $170 million.
During the first five days of availability, the title sold 1.85 million units on the Xbox 360 and 1 million on the PlayStation 3 in the United States, according to the NPD Group; in the United Kingdom the Xbox 360 version sold 514,000 copies and the PlayStation 3 version sold 413,000, according to Chart-Track.
As of 31 May 2008, the title has sold over 11 million copies to retailers and 8.5 million have been sold through to consumers, according to Take-Two Interactive. According to the NPD Group and GfK Chart-Track, the game has sold 4.711 million units in the US and 1.582 million in the UK, respectively, for a total of 6.293 million units as of 1 August 2008. As of 16 August 2008, the title has sold over 10 million copies through to consumers, according to Take-Two Interactive.
On 7 May 2008, Rockstar and Sony released a patch for the PlayStation 3 version of the game to improve the multiplayer experience. According to developer Rockstar, the update prevents GameSpy's servers from being overloaded and therefore reduces the impact on those servers that were causing the game to stutter and lock up. Further multiplayer fixes were made available on 23 June 2008.
Prior to and since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, the game has been subject to a great deal of controversy. Figures including George Galloway, Jack Thompson and Glenn Beck have criticised the game, as have organisations including New York City officials and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The version of GTA IV released in Australia and New Zealand was edited to remove content to allow the game to meet the requirements of the Australian classification system.
However, the game was resubmitted to the New Zealand OFLC by a 21-year-old entrepreneur, Stan Calif, 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 is now available for purchase in New Zealand.
A group of six teenagers were arrested after engaging in a crime spree in New Hyde Park, New York, assaulting and robbing several people. Police claim the teens admitted that they were inspired by Grand Theft Auto IV.