‘GTA IV’ Details: Who’s Niko Bellic? And Where’s Staten Island?

Magazine article, pictures shed more light on October game.

“Grand Theft Auto IV,” a game designed to please millions of series fans, may not have been built to please the Wu-Tang Clan.

That’s one detail that became a little more clear today as the clouds above Liberty City parted just a little bit thanks to an article in the May issue of Game Informer magazine.

Just two weeks after a teaser trailer for Rockstar Games’ “GTA IV” brought several major gaming Web sites to a crawl (see ” ’GTA IV’ Revealed: Game Returning To City That Made It Famous” ), Game Informer has published 10 pages of big screenshots and a story about the new game. Online images from the magazine show the same New York City-inspired landscape that was glimpsed in the trailer and serves as the bedrock for the fictional Liberty City. The only major new visual was the lead character holding a machine gun.

It’s Game Informer’s story that has the news about the highly anticipated October PS3 and Xbox 360 game. The new Liberty City includes regions inspired by four of the Big Apple’s five boroughs — Wu-Tang home base Staten Island not included. Manhattan is called Algonquin, Queens is Dukes, the Bronx is Bohan and Brooklyn is Broker. A bit of New Jersey will make it in as a land called Alderney.

The magazine reports that the game’s lead character, seen in the trailer, is an Eastern European immigrant named Niko Bellic. He comes to Liberty City to see his cousin, a man named Roman, who brags about cars, women and living the American Dream. But the real main character isn’t really Bellic — it’s Liberty City, a.k.a. New York.

“We live here,” Dan Houser, vice president of Rockstar Games told Game Informer. “We’ve been here for a number of years. Even the guys [at ’GTA’ development house Rockstar North] in Scotland spend lots of time here with us. It was an environment we felt had never been done to the level we were envisioning it in a video game.”

Houser works in Rockstar’s New York offices, where the “GTA” games are partially developed. The game’s actual coding, and a large portion of its design, is driven by Scotland-based Rockstar North.

So what’s the character of New York? “A big part of New York life is walking around the streets and meeting lunatics,” Houser told the magazine. “That’s something that we definitely tried to put into the game. We are trying to give it that life and difference between the neighborhoods and the difference between the kinds of people. We are trying to capture that ’capital of the world’ aspect of New York. There are lots of non-American characters in the game.”

The magazine also reports that there were no planes in the current build of the game and likely won’t be in the finished product. The overall game territory is reported to be smaller than that of the tri-city “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” Little details — like varied walking animations for a character depending on the type of terrain — are revealed, while Houser stayed quiet when asked how the game’s oft-criticized targeting system will be refined. Houser confirmed that the game can be multiplayer but said it won’t be as vast a massively multiplayer game as some fans had speculated.

“GTA IV” is set to ship on the PS3 and Xbox 360 on October 16.