Liberty City is where it all started for the 3D and HD era GTA titles, which makes their evolution really remarkable.
Over the years, Liberty City has changed its landscape a lot. GTA 3 was a revolutionary time for sandbox games. Though primitive by today’s standards, it was an open world experience like no other back then.
It was a fully explorable city that exceeded hardware limitations.
GTA 4 was a next generation title that returned to its classic roots. With an updated engine and better graphical capabilities, Liberty City has truly stood the test of time.
GTA 3 ran so GTA 4 could run – there have been several changes to this video game counterpart to New York City.
Five big changes in Liberty City from GTA 3 to GTA 4
# 5 – Pedestrians are much more detailed
To do GTA 3 justice, Rockstar Games didn’t have the technology to implement advanced pedestrian AI. Most of them mind their own business, walk or drive with no sense of direction.
Later games from the 3D era would improve the AI pathways for more behavioral diversity. However, the HD era has taken it one step higher.
GTA 4 is a living and breathing place. In particular, the police will arrest other criminals. Pedestrians go about their daily activities, for example they take shopping bags out of their vehicles.
Sometimes someone sweeps the streets. Liberty City never sleeps, and neither do these pedestrians.
Thanks to a significant increase in model randomization, GTA 4 pedestrians no longer use a specific look. Instead, there are differences in their age, physical characteristics, and clothing.
# 4 – The New York influence is much more pronounced
When Rockstar designed Liberty City in GTA 3, they used a combination of several major cities from across the United States. New York is obvious, but there are also influences from Boston, Detroit, and Chicago (among others).
It can feasibly belong anywhere in the country.
With GTA 4, there’s no denying how influential New York City is on the location. Libery City is a faithful replica, especially in terms of the physical design. Everything from the roads to the transportation system is identical to their real-world counterparts (e.g. Rottendam Tower to the Empire State Building).
There are several historical attractions that add to the New York atmosphere. These include the Statue of Fortune (Statue of Liberty), Middle Park (Central Park), and Star Junction (Times Square).
These are recognizable areas that make GTA players feel like they are in New York.
# 3 – There’s more Burroughs to explore
There are three main areas in GTA 3, namely industrial Portland, commercial Staunton Island, and residential Shoreside Vale. They are loosely based on various locations in New York and New Jersey.
At the time of GTA 4, Rockstar had decided to redesign Liberty City as a video game replica of New York. There are now five capitals; Broker (Brooklyn), Dukes (Queens), Bohan (Bronx), Algonquin (Manhattan) and Alderney (New Jersey). They are lifelike to their respective counterparts.
It is noteworthy that Staten Island is the only borough of New York City that is not represented in GTA 4. There is also an unseen spot near Liberty City known as Carraways. This is a reference to the fair weather Hamptons.
# 2 – Rockstar got rid of the mainland
Unlike other games in the series, GTA 3 has the special distinction that Liberty City is connected to the mainland. Instead of a series of islands, Liberty City is part of another land mass. The Shoreside Vale residential area connects Liberty City to the rest of the state.
In comparison, the rendering of Liberty City in GTA 4 is an island in itself. During the development of GTA 3, Rockstar Mainland wanted players to feel like the world was more.
However, they abandoned the idea in future installments.
# 1 – Graphics have been updated significantly
This is the most obvious difference between the two games. Even then, GTA 3’s graphics were nothing special. Given the system it was on (PlayStation 2), the development teams were still trying to find ways to improve the 3D world graphics.
Instead of the blocky textures of its predecessor, GTA 4 uses updated graphics technology. It even won an IGN award for its graphic skills. At the time, GTA 4 had the best graphics of any GTA title.
There is much more attention to detail, such as rubbish littered the streets.
Liberty City has more light and shadow effects. This makes night and day cycles particularly noticeable (e.g. the changing shadows of trees in a park). In stark contrast to GTA 3 and its cold blue atmosphere, GTA 4 has an orange glow that permeates throughout the day.
Note: This article reflects the author’s personal views.