Total Converts: How To Go Walking In Grand Theft Auto IV

By Graham Smith on May 1st, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

What's in the bag?

Total Converts is a new weekly column about mods, maps, models, and anything player-created which you can use to amend or append your games.

I stopped playing Grand Theft Auto IV’s missions at the moment where they became too objectionable and turgid to continue. I started to enjoy playing Grand Theft Auto IV almost immediately afterwards, when I began to experiment with the mods available for the game. Without any tools, and with a barely functional Games For Windows Live-cripped PC port, the game’s community had introduced dozens of new ways to toy with the parts of the game I enjoyed: its city, its physics, the rambunctious silliness of its free-form multiplayer.

You can fly and fire lasers from your eyes like Superman. You can flank Nico with a phalanx of baby Star Wars Walkers. You can introduce a police notoriety system, or play as a police officer yourself. You can introduce GTAV style character switching, or make the game prettier than GTAV (from particular angles) with a set of ENB Series tweaks.

Or, like me, you can just go for a walk.

What I’m talking about is this:

I love walking around cities, but it’s not an experience that’s easy to re-create in videogames. Most videogame cities lack the openness, detail and variety necessary to make ambling interesting, or they continually throw obstacles and objectives in your path which stop you from enjoying your stroll. The so-called walking simulators that have been been made in the past few years aren’t really simulators at all. They’re mostly set on strange islands, and not the JG Ballard kind.

GTAIV is one of the few exceptions. Best of all, nearly six years after its release and after the console arrival of its sequel, new mods are still being released every day. My favourites aren’t any of those I mentioned above, which expand your abilities and powers and expand the power fantasy of exploding havoc in Liberty City. I prefer mods which help me better inhabit that world and which make the city itself feel more alive. There’s only a couple of tweaks in the video above, but it makes all the difference. I’ll tell you what I’m using, how I’m using it, and point towards some other things you can do with the game along the way.

First, a few technical notes. Because GTAIV doesn’t officially support modding, you’ll need to do some work before anything will run. It’s not hard, but let’s get that out of the way first:

  • You need to cut Games For Windows Live out of the equation before mods will work. A crying shame, right? The downside is that you won’t be able to play online, but let’s be honest, that barely worked to begin with. To remove the game’s reliance on Microsoft’s dying service, download and follow the installation instructions* for XLiveless on this forum thread. (Basically you’re just copying a .dll into your GTAIV install folder).
  • Not every mod requires it, but many rely on Script Hook in order to work. Download the latest version from that link and follow instructions, though again you’re just copying it into your GTAIV install folder.
  • You should then grab a tool which lets you implement modified files (like new car models) into GTAIV’s original file structure. OpenIV seems to be the modern tool of choice, and it’s worked fine for me thus far.
  • Again, this isn’t strictly necessary, but stick ‘-norestrictions’ in your GTAIV shortcut or under Launch Options within Steam. It’ll stop the game from artificially throttling your graphics settings for no good reason.
  • I wrote detailed install instructions for most of these mods once before, but that was another life.

Like a tinkerer’s flux capacitor, these tools are what make modding possible. So let’s mod. I like to begin with Simple Trainer, which introduces a bunch of keyboard shortcut cheats to the game. Hundreds of them, even. If you’re starting from scratch, there’s cheats to unlock all three islands, to teleport wherever you want to go, and to save your game and position without the need to first head to a safe house. There’s also this, in the list of commands: “RCTRL+J Enable/Disable Gravity Gun”.

Liberty City is absolutely one of my favourite videogame places, but those six years have dulled its impact. For a start, the streets are strangely quiet, the pavements often empty. If you’re running the game on any kind of modern PC though, you’ll be more than capable of simulating some crowds. So lets next fix that.

More Liberty is a mod which radically increases the amount of traffic and the number of pedestrians lining Liberty City’s streets. It makes the city feel like a city: loud and bustling and frantic. It also amplifies the game’s personality as the deliberate imprecision of AI drivers causes more bumped fenders and traffic jams, and the violent tendencies of pedestrians explode more often when faced with so many people blocking their path. Across the board, it makes walking around Liberty City’s streets a more unpredictable and entertaining experience.

First Person also works inside vehicles.

Of course, there’s a more obvious effect in the video embedded above: it’s in first-person. Grand Theft Auto’s third-person setting is more cinematic, but it makes it the city feel small. Switching the view to first-person puts every pedestrian in the game at eye level and raises the skyscrapers around you high above. It’s a recipe for feeling both insignificant and comfortingly swaddled, which is exactly how a walk in a city should make you feel. All you need to switch the game’s camera angle is the First Person Mod and to double-tap the camera button (‘v’ by default) while in-game.

With just these two mods, you’re ready to go for a stroll through Liberty City. Here’s my suggestion: pick two points, far apart, and try to walk between them. In reference to Will Self, I like to start at the airport on the eastern coast of the eastern most island, and walk to the western coast of the western most island. You’ll stroll through areas you’ve never lingered in before. You’ll see old haunts from a whole new perspective. To make your journey contiguous on foot you’ll necessarily wander alleyways, scramble up embankments and hop fences, and in doing so stumble across an almost absurd amount of previously unseen detail created by Liberty City’s architects, from idle animations to lines of pedestrian dialogue to shop fronts and audio effects.

It’ll make you feel, far more than its artificial comedy clubs and TV channels and safe houses, as if Liberty City is your home.

Of course, the great thing about modding is that it’s always possible to go further. A select few of you might be able to do this:

If you’ve downloaded the First Person Mod already, you’ll have noticed it comes with two config files: one for regular mode, and one its creator added at the start of the year so it supports the Oculus Rift. You’ll need something like TriDef to fake the 3D double-vision (it works with the free trial), but afterwards it works seamlessly. You can wander the streets of Liberty City and crane your neck like a genuine tourist until you start to feel a bit motion sick.

And if you ever get bored with walking, then yeah, there’s still that Superman script.

(There’s a Superman model you can switch to as well, but it creates a little ludonarrative dissonance).

Hi, by the way. This is Total Converts, a weekly column about mods, levels, and anything else player-created you can use to append and amend a vidoegame. I don’t really know what mods are anymore – do Steam Workshop items count? do they stop counting when they’re sold in a Valve-endorsed item pack? – but I’d like to find out. They were a big part of why I fell in love with PC gaming in the ’90s, and I’d like to find out whether they still belong in a world where a potential modder might just as well pick up Unity for free and make something from scratch.

The format of the column will change each week – maybe sometimes it’ll be about something new, something you can play, but I think it’ll just as often be an interview with a creator, or a look at something long forgotten. We’ll see. If you have suggestions for what I should be playing or writing about or what you’d like this column to be, drop ‘em in the comments below. We can mod this space together.

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41 Comments »

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Top comments

  1. JP says:

    Cool to see this column! If you can find enough of them, you should do a feature on mods that remove gameplay to turn a game into a more ambient experience. I made one for the original Unreal:

    https://bitbucket.org/JPLeBreton/unreal1_tourism

    From the readme:

    Why would you remove shooting from a shooter? Do you hate fun?

    Absolutely.
  1. evilbobthebob says:

    As a member of the team (map designer and misc modelling) I would appreciate if you checked out the Phoenix Rising total conversion for Star Wars: Empire at War’s expansion. You can check out our website at http://www.eawpr.net. We’re currently in the process of creating a new version that has huge changes across the board, but the current v1.2 is still pretty representative of our vision (if a bit of a poor performer framerate wise in parts).

    SW:EAW is a very fertile ground for mods in general and I suggest you check it out even if you ignore Phoenix Rising.

  2. sinister agent says:

    GTA4 is a real motherfucker to mod, at least, if you want to use more than one. It’s probably not worth it really, I tried to use just a handful of simple ones and it became the crashingest thing on earth. Annoying given the stupid save system. Best keep it simple if you’re thinking about it, people.

    As for other games and mods… Jagged Alliance 2.13 is probably too obvious (and might have been covered before), but one of the best.

    X3 is a good one for modding – shitlods of stuff out there, a lot of it can work together, it’s well supported, and the base game is such an arsehole that it really needs it. No way to fix the UI though, sadly.

    • GameCat says:

      Speaking of moddable games – Gothic.
      It spawned some huge (sometimes even bigger than original game) and beautiful mods.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oozo says:

      That it’s not easy to mod might be true, but I greatly appreciate this column anyway — I actually could not even start GTA so far because of GFWL. Obviously, I got it in a Steam sale long ago and did not actually care too much about not being able play it, but I might give it a chance now that I know that you can take GFWL out of the equation.

      So, thanks!

  3. Seraphithan says:

    I stopped playing Grand Theft Auto IV’s missions at the moment where they became too objectionable and turgid to continue.

    May I ask which moment that was?

    • Chiron says:

      About 30 minutes in probably, like most GTA games

      • Seraphithan says:

        I know you are not speaking literally but 30 minutes into GTA IV you maybe have beaten up some dude?

        More generally speaking if you can’t stomach what the missions in the first “30 minutes” of any GTA ask you to do you’ll be so opposed to violence that you can’t play any game requiring active violence. Now I don’t know Graham’s gaming taste but I doubt it’s that restrictive.

        • Dave Tosser says:

          Though I remember the “Ooh, I’m a poor delicate flower and somehow just can’t deal with all this murder” fever that at least one games journalist on every site caught around the release of GTA5, I really doubt Graham means GTA4’s missions were objectionable on theme.

          No, I think it’s more that most of GTA4s missions weren’t very good. Even decent ones are somewhat crippled, and there’s the divide between players that adore the shooting/driving and those that’ve been plotting to bomb Rockstar’s North American headquarters since 2006 in retribution. I’ve just obtained the explosives, myself.

          • Seraphithan says:

            Can’t really comment on that view, as GTA IV was my first (3D) GTA. Since then I have enjoyed San Andreas and hated Vice City*, but both haven’t put a dent in my opinion of IV, if only because it was shiny and smooth and new and the others weren’t.

            *My hatred for Vice City is entirely based on its insanely stupid follower AI and horrible controls.

          • Yglorba says:

            I think part of it may also have been that — radio stations aside — GTA IV tried to be grimdarker and more serious than previous games.

          • Kentauroi says:

            The themes of the story were pretty distanced from the missions though. For me it wasn’t just that the missions were boring and clunky, it was also the fact that you sat through a cutscene where Niko is whining about the horrors of war and then IMMEDIATELY AFTER you are given a mission to murder a couple dozen people, not even counting the pedestrians you run over driving to the mission.

            It tried to be a serious story and a wacky destruction spree at the same time and ended up failing at both.

          • Aethers says:

            Blowing up the North America offices would do nothing. All the GTA games come from Scotland ;-)

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          I quite enjoyed the first couple of hours in GTA 4. Just driving around watching the suroundings as a migrant to a new country. Not killing anyone or stealing cars. Then came that chase mission where you can let a guy go or kill him. I choose to kick him and stab him dead. After that point the game turned into the usual spiralling violent chaos.

    • Graham Smith says:

      Shortly after unlocking the second island, when I had destroyed my cousin’s life and kept yelling at him to stop whining about it, despite him letting me live with him and getting me a job and otherwise being the only person in the world who legitimately cared about me. Even if, yeah, the nagging phone calls to hang out were annoying. They were also /sad/.

      Also: the mission where you have to beat protection money out of an illegal immigrant – a job for an asshole your character hates, as in all Rockstar games – and he says, “I thought America would be different” as he sadly drives away.

      Basically I’m cool with any and all horrible acts up until the story makes me feel empathy by humanizing the person I’m debasing.

      • satan says:

        Been a while since I played through the story… but you end up killing the asshole who gave you that job. I was surprised at just how… human/real? the GTA4 storyline was throughout the game, I hope you go back to it someday.

        • james___uk says:

          GTA4 seemed to have really been overlooked for its narrative, I thought it was brilliant, as you play the game more and more you realise it has a feel/vibe as vice city and san andreas does, and it does it without being cushioned by a bygone era

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Personally speaking, I couldn’t disagree more. I actually think GTA4 is one of the more racist games I have ever played. Voice acting of racial minorities are almost never conducted by actors of that region/ethnicity, and each character is little more than a cultural stereotype. I’m not one to cry racism very often, but the character of Little Jacob in particular was little more than a modern take on a gollywog as far as cultural sensitivity goes, in my view. Couple that with the games penchant for constant annoyances via the phone, awful PC port, poor car handling model that tried to be realistic without even managing to be predictable, and generally edgy and overly-serious narrative tone that contrasted bizarrely with the more humorous world tone (tw@) and you have for me, the second most critically over-rated game of modern times. (As much as GTA4 disappointed me, that honour is reserved for Skyrim)

            (I’m not attacking you personally by the way, or saying that anyone who likes GTA4 is a participant in racist caricature, I’m just explaining things the way I see it)

  4. JP says:

    Cool to see this column! If you can find enough of them, you should do a feature on mods that remove gameplay to turn a game into a more ambient experience. I made one for the original Unreal:

    https://bitbucket.org/JPLeBreton/unreal1_tourism

    From the readme:

    Why would you remove shooting from a shooter? Do you hate fun?

    Absolutely.

    • headless97 says:

      The thing I find most interesting about this is how ready people are to dismiss Gone Home, Proteus, Dear Esther, and The Stanley Parable as games, and here we have people removing the gameplay from GTAIV and Unreal in order to better experience walking around. I love it!

  5. Premium User Badge

    Matt_W says:

    That Superman video is basically all of Saint’s Row IV.

  6. Phasma Felis says:

    The (lack of) flying animation in the Superman video is a bit disappointing. This one does it in a much more appealing way. I love the intro.

    • Graham Smith says:

      If you install the Superman model (a separate download to the Superman script), linked from the same site, there’s a flying animation. I didn’t turn it on for the video, is all.

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      I found it mildly horrifying. Especially on account of the way the target system results in the player just sort of standing there staring at someone dispassionately for a few moments before suddenly zipping up to them and kicking them into a nearby car that has conveniently been filled with unstable TNT.

      What I’m saying is that the video needed a Staring Eyes tag.

  7. Keyrock says:

    Jaywalker!

    • Nice Save says:

      He’s British. You can tell by the way he looks the wrong way before crossing the road. We don’t have jaywalking here. Why would crossing the road be illegal anyway?

      • Premium User Badge

        Martel says:

        It’s more about the cars you walk in front of when you do it. At least that’s what would happen in the US.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          I think because it’s legal here in the UK to cross wherever it’s safe, drivers are less likely to be taken by surprise if there’s a pedestrian in the road.
          It seems to work out all right anyway.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        Countries with laws against crossing certain roads arbitrarily does it to cut down on people getting injured/dead from stupidity/carelessness (both from the pedestrian and the driver) and to make the flow of traffic more efficient when people actually use the designated crossings.
        It’s also in a way shifting responsibility to both the driver and the pedestrian instead of only the careless driver running people over in places where people shouldn’t be in the road.
        In the grimdark far future the laws will probably be required for the traffic flow when people realise they can just walk into traffic without risk of injury (the self-driving car projects being tested in various places now).

        • UKPartisan says:

          Laws against jaywalking to not deter idiots from being run down, as I observed in Bonn City centre yesterday. What they do, do is make a judgement on your own ability to determine when it’s safe to cross a road and assume you are incapable of being responsible for your own personal safety. If a road is empty of cars why should I not be able to cross it quickly and safely? Why should I have to walk 400 yards up the road to the pedestrian crossing?

          When I was a kid in the 70’s we had David Prowse (Darth Vader) who headed a public safety campaign as the Green Cross Code Man. Stop, look, listen was the slogan…It was imprinted in your head as a child. Pedestrian safety is higher in the UK than most European countries that have jaywalking laws. Figure that one out?

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            I’m not picking sides as I don’t know if laws makes any realistic difference. Perhaps simply educating kids is more effective. It was just an observation.

            It’s a bit mixed in my country (Sweden). It used to be punishable to cross a road if there is a pedestrian crossing nearby, and to walk against a red signal at a crossing. It’s still illegal but no longer punishable. Other than that you just have to cross it in a manner not disrupting traffic or causing danger to others or yourself. The number of pedestrian fatalities is pretty low here despite that (12% of all traffic fatalities in 2010. As a comparison; 22% in the UK same year).

            As an example to the contrary (I hate to single out one country though, but it was the first one to come to mind with high number of road deaths): Brazil, where it’s punishable to cross the road nilly-willy, many drivers disrespect crossings and pedestrians still cross wherever they feel like it. In 2009 pedestrians fatalities made up 23% of all road traffic fatalities.

            (Source: WHO “Global status report on road safety 2013″).

      • Haplo says:

        One theory I heard suggests that Jaywalking grew out of an early automotive industry campaign in the US to blame rising car accidents on pedestrian error as opposed to driver error.

        You can read a little bit about that here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26073797

  8. EBass says:

    I always liked GTA’s missions. Just doing stuff for the hell of it without any context never did much for me.

  9. sabasNL says:

    LCPDFR. ICEnhancer. Trainer.

    GTA IV with mods is absolutely one of my favourite games on PC.

  10. povu says:

    You should combine the first person mod with the crazy frictionless cars mod, and try to survive in first person.

  11. The Random One says:

    (There’s a Superman model you can switch to as well, but it creates a little ludonarrative dissonance).

    And an ugly Eastern European in ratty clothing flying around while standing in an idle position doesn’t? If it was Superman you might think it’s Silver Age Dick Superman, or maybe SBMC Superman.

  12. DickSocrates says:

    Some of the best times I’ve had in GTAIV are just walking around. Rockstar do know how to make great cities with the detail to walk around. It’s just everything else they’re terrible at. And GTAV doesn’t really work for just walking because it’s LA and they inexplicably made every single pedestrian a complete asshole that actively comments on you, rather than being realistic people getting on with their own lives.

  13. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    All this urban pedestrianism makes me wish for a World of Darkness sandbox city (no MMO please).

    But I guess I can pretend I’m a classical antiquity god-avatar banished to walk amongst mortals. My destructive powers only limited by the capitalist system’s seedy underbelly. Never able to experience final death to escape.
    And I don’t even need to take animal form to lay with women, just gift some currency.

  14. KenTWOu says:

    What a coincidence, yesterday I reinstalled GTA4 for whatever reason, free roamed few hours, got bored, unin… and then I saw this. Thanks, Graham!

    P.S: First Person Mod… another proof that first person view is more immersive.

  15. captain nemo says:

    Having read this article reminds me why I visit RPS daily