Grand Theft Auto IV

Game review by
Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media
Grand Theft Auto IV Game Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Murder, sex, drugs, drunk driving. Not for kids.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 137 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 259 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Needless-to-say, this GTA is like the others, allowing players to lead a graphic life of crime. Provides escapism into the underworld of crime and glorifies it by rewarding violence, misogyny, and mayhem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

You play as a gangster who has no regard for society's rules. You can cause mayhem and violence wherever you go. You can hire hookers, use them, and then kill them. You can shoot police officers.

Ease of Play

This is a wide open world to explore, with adequate controls.


As with past GTA games, players can kill other humans, including police officers, or drive into pedestrians on sidewalks and parks. There is gang warfare, beatings, drive-by shootings, and bloody deaths all shown in gory detail.


This is a game that earned the ESRB rating of "Strong Sexual Content." While the game doesn't show women completely nude, it gets close, with women appearing in pasties, g-strings, and the like. You can get a lap dance at a gentlemen's club, where the woman is shown with her legs over her head spread eagle. You can gain "health points" by having implied sex with a prostitute in your car, where you hear what is happening and watch rhythmic actions of the couple from a distance, but don't actually see the act. Two scantily clad women can "entertain" you, and before they climb onto your lap, they gyrate provocatively and mimic the motions of having intercourse with each other. You can also have sex with your girlfriend at home, where you can hear but not see the specific act.


Pushes the envelope for graphic language including many instances of "mother f--ker," "f--k," sh-t," "assh-le." You can hear prostitutes offer to "suck your c--k real nice," as well as other explicit sexual references.


Game offers more than 100 songs in the GTA IV soundtrack (heard over the in-game radios) and they can be tagged within the game by using the in-game cell phone. If the player is registered at the Rockstar Socil Club, they will then be offered a link to purchase the song from

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Players can get drunk (and drive) in this game, but their vision will be blurred. They can drive around with pot-smoking characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this game isn't for kids in any way. This new version is as controversial as its predecessors, letting you lead a life of crime, shoot police officers, drink and drive, and have sex with prostitutes. It features pole dancers and lap dancers at a men's club and is laced with profane language that pushes the envelope (much of it peppered throughout the over 100 songs played on car radios in the game). The star rating given to this game is based on the quality of the gameplay within the context of adult gaming and isn't an endorsement of the violence within the game.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byellcar_fairjudge March 15, 2011

Fine for anyone who comprehends real-life "right" from "wrong"

The Grand Theft auto series does not MAKE people "go bad". This game does have gratuitous amounts of violence, sex, drugs, etc. but it is FICTIONAL.... Continue reading
Adult Written byPsychGuy July 9, 2011

Let your kids play this game......But with you involved.

I disagree with many of the comments about this game. I was 15 when GTA 3 came out. At the time, it was the most controversial game to date. I played GTA 3 all... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 25, 2012

GTA 4: Not so bad

Ok, so lots of people think that Grand Theft Auto is one of the most innapropriate games out there. Honestly, it's really not that bad. The ratings company... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bywhodey April 9, 2008

Its just a game.

Parents need to remember that video games are, well.... games. Children are not going to hire protitutes for sex or do drugs just because some thug in a game do... Continue reading

What's it about?

Without question, GRAND THEFT AUTO IV isn't for younger players because of its graphic violence, sexual themes, and coarse language. Yet the game will be extremely popular with adult gamers because this sequel lives up to its hype in the game-play department. Available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Grand Theft Auto IV lets you play as Niko Bellic, a tough-looking character who arrives on U.S. shores from somewhere in Eastern Europe, expecting to live the good life with his American cousin, Roman, who lied to Niko about his posh lifestyle in the New World. In fact, Niko is a scheming loudmouth who owes money to loan sharks because of gambling debts and lives in a cockroach-infested apartment the size of a walk-in closet. Nevertheless, Niko decides to help out Roman with his rundown cab stand and keep thugs off his back until he can figure out how to make money and connections in Liberty City, the same town as 2001's Grand Theft Auto III, modeled after New York City and New Jersey. Plus, you'll discover a few hours into the game there are other reasons why Niko left his homeland.

For the uninitiated, Grand Theft Auto games offer \"sandbox\" play, meaning you can virtually go anywhere and do anything in this fully realized 3-D city with pedestrians, traffic, and storefronts. Played from a third-person perspective, this includes carjacking any vehicle, listening to more than a hundred songs on car radios (as well as very funny DJ banter and commercials), and playing mini-games such as billiards, darts, bowling, or arcade games. Niko can go on dates, swim, surf the Net, and purchase clothing and weapons. But it's the seedy missions that unravel the lengthy single-player story. In-person or on his cell phone, Niko will be asked to perform missions that include escorting Roman's friends, taking out drug dealers, evading police cruisers, racing to one end of the city before someone else, flying a helicopter, or retrieving stolen money. And how you go about a mission may vary, such as carjacking a cop cruiser to gain access to the police computer to look up an informant: you can call 9-1-1 on your phone so a police car comes and then take out the cop; shoot at pedestrians until the police come; or stealthily steal a cop car from the police station.

Is it any good?

For the first time in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV offers high-definition graphics, including smooth animation and lip-synching, varying weather effects, and a new physics engine that models everything authentically. This sequel also adds more hand-to-hand combat and optional in-car GPS to help you better navigate this city. Without question, though, the biggest new feature is something gamers have been asking about for years: multiplayer. In Grand Theft Auto IV, up to 16 gamers can play online in a host of game head-to-head modes, like "Cops & Crooks," or cooperative missions like "Hangman's NOOSE." Xbox 360 gamers will also be able to download bonus missions and other content later this year, via the Xbox Live service.

Of course, the controversy this game will garner is unavoidable. As with past GTA titles you can shoot at cops, drive into pedestrians, or request "services" from a prostitute and a lap dance from a stripper. This sequel is also laced with plenty of foul language and you can drink and drive, though your cousin calls you a "bloody idiot" for doing so. Again, take heed of the "M"-rating. Aside from a slightly choppy frame rate at random times, where the action stutters for a bit, and hard-to-read green GPS directions on your mini-map, there is little to complain about with the gameplay mechanics of Grand Theft Auto IV. Adult gamers will find a single-player story that can easily last a month, not to mention the ability to hop online and play with friends. In short, this highly-polished sequel will gratify adults who will get a long "bang" for their buck. But don't let your kids anywhere near it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why kids -- who are not the intended audience -- play this game. What is it about the game that appeals to them? Do they understand why this game is inappropriate for young people?

  • You also might ask your kids if they think video game violence is different from TV or movie violence. What affect does it have on your kids when they initiate the violence within the game or do something clearly outside of the law? In the game, they can break the law with no consequence.

Game details

  • Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Price: $59.99
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Rockstar Games
  • Release date: April 29, 2008
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • ESRB rating: M for Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
  • Last updated: November 19, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action adventure

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