Niko Bellic

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Niko Bellic
Grand Theft Auto character
Niko Bellic.jpg
Game artwork of Niko Bellic
First game Grand Theft Auto IV
Created by Rockstar Games
Voiced by Michael Hollick[1][2][3]
Motion capture Michael Hollick
Sam Glen
Bas Rutten
Amir Perets
Mario D'Leon

Niko Bellic is a fictional character and the playable protagonist of Rockstar North's 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV, also featuring as a supporting character in its episodic content The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, all published by Rockstar Games. In the games, he is voiced by Michael Hollick.

Niko is a veteran of an unnamed war in Eastern Europe who moves to Liberty City in search of something important, but quickly becomes entangled in a world of gangs, crime and corruption.

Characteristics[edit]

Niko is portrayed as a very down-to-business person, and is very protective when it comes to his family and those closest to him, especially Roman, despite the fact that Roman often gets him into further trouble. During the game, many of his female acquaintances often point out that Niko has sophisticated manners and appears to be a very decent person. Niko also maintains a no-nonsense attitude, and at many times throughout the game attempts to resolve conflicts between two parties without the use of violence. He is portrayed as a caring figure; the player can have Niko help various random people on the streets who are having problems. However, he is shown to get angry easily when he is met with irrationality, is falsely blamed or cheated - a trait that might have been aggravated by his past experiences during the war - and he is often quite sarcastic. In addition, although he feels regret for his past crimes, he feels that his soul is permanently tainted, and that killing is all he can do. This split attitude occasionally leads to moments of hypocrisy from Niko. For instance, he is genuinely sympathetic to Kate and Packie McReary after the death of their brother (either Derrick or Francis), even though he secretly committed that murder. Another example is when Mallorie calls him, worried that Elizabeta Torres may have killed Manny, he responds with "Really?", even though he witnessed the murder and transported Manny's body to a black market organ dealer. He appears to be a more mature and sensible person than many of his acquaintances. Also, Niko possesses an ability to manipulate people into giving him his own way — for instance, when Francis McReary is trying to get him to assassinate someone threatening to expose him, Niko simply refuses unless he is paid for his services - when McReary tells him that the target sells drugs to kids, he responds "the world is full of bad people, Mr. McReary."

The most significant aspect of Niko's personality is his cynicism,[4][5] which he gained in the war. He criticises his acquaintances for expecting him to have fun amidst his troubled situation. Niko's biggest weakness is his inability to let go of the past - which causes him much aggression when the issue of finding his betrayers comes up, and means the desire for revenge is a driving force in many of his decisions, some of which backfire; Niko is criticised by many of his friends and most notably Roman, for this weakness. Despite that, Niko holds on firm to his belief that one of the main reasons he is in the United States is to resolve and put closure to his past. Niko also has a prominent distaste for drugs— he regularly refuses Little Jacob's offers of marijuana, frequently criticises Brucie's steroid addiction and expresses disgust for the heroin he deals with. Along with this, Niko also has a somewhat positive view of law enforcement. He willingly goes to the funeral of slain police commissioner Francis McReary and he also has said that cops are just people trying to survive. He also criticises Roman for prank calling the police because he thinks that Roman may someday need the help of the police. He still has these views even though many of the people around him do not and in some missions Niko can only succeed by killing or shooting at law enforcement.

Though Niko doesn't much talk about American politics, he is shown to have a disliking for American politicians. This is reinforced by the frequent hypocritical statements made by politicians in-game, but he also remarks that the war gave him a cynical view of all political figures in general. He also dislikes communism and capitalism, as shown in the game's cut-scenes.

Characterisation[edit]

Michael Hollick, voice of Niko Bellic, won a Spike TV award for "Best Performance by a Human Male"

Niko Bellic is voiced by Michael Hollick.[6] Hollick was paid about $100,000 for his voice acting and motion-capture work over the course of about 15 months from 2006 to 2007. Hollick was paid about $1,050 a day for his work on the game, about 50% more than the standard Screen Actors Guild-negotiated rate for actors, although he claimed it was still a fraction of the income he would get from a film or TV-show performance, and that he was upset about not getting residuals from game sales, putting the blame on the union for not securing such agreements.[7] Hollick told The New York Times that while he was a theater student at Carnegie Mellon University he developed a talent for dialects.[7]

Fictional biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Niko's nationality is never specified in the game.[8] Niko's nationality has been a subject of some debate: prior to the game being launched, it was believed by some that he was Russian[9] and articles have interpreted the character as being from Croatia[10] or Serbia.[11] Executive producer Dan Houser spoke on the matter saying that Niko is "from that grey part of broken-down Eastern Europe",[12] suggesting that Niko's nationality was left intentionally vague or to the interpretation of the player.

Niko's father was a violent alcoholic, who physically abused him, his mother and elder brother. Niko's mother, Milica, who possessed a maternal and caring nature, regretted that her sons were forced to endure such hardships as children, since Niko and his brother grew up during the difficult times of an unnamed war in Eastern Europe. His elder brother was killed in action in the war, a war in which Niko participated as an enraged youth. Niko witnessed numerous atrocities during the war,[13] including the murder and mutilation of over 50 men and women, which led to his cynical view on life, with certain degrees of anger, regret, emotional distress and severe depression. A defining moment in the war for Niko was when his army unit of fifteen young men from his village were ambushed by the enemy. Niko barely escaped the ambush, and weeks later concluded that the unit had been betrayed by one of their own soldiers, so he returned to the pit where his friends were buried. He dug up the bodies, counted them, and identified each of the corpses. From this he learned there were two other survivors: Florian Cravic and Darko Brevic. Niko vowed to search for the perpetrator, motivated not solely by revenge, but a need for closure and to move on with his own life. Niko would eventually discover that Florian Cravic, one of the two survivors of the ambush, was also residing in Liberty City. Despite this, Niko possesses certain skills which were acquired during his early army training, such as close quarter combat, basic helicopter piloting, shooting and swimming.[14][15]

By the end of the war, Niko experienced difficulty finding work and leading a normal life. His cousin Roman decided to settle in the United States, in order to lead a new life in Liberty City before the war. Niko, knowing only violence, turned to the Balkanic criminal underworld for the following ten years, while at the same time trying to search for the two other men who survived the ambush. After being released from a brief stint in prison, Niko joined a smuggling and trafficking ring run by Russian criminal Ray Bulgarin.

During one smuggling run into Italy, the boat that Niko was working on sank in the Adriatic Sea[16] a mile from the nearest shoreline. Niko managed to abandon the ship and swim to safety, however everything else placed on the ship was lost beyond salvaging. Bulgarin accused Niko of escaping with the money on board. Although Niko denied the accusations, Bulgarin refused to believe him and he was too powerful to argue with, so Niko joined the merchant navy in order to flee from Bulgarin. He spent the following seven months at sea in the Atlantic Ocean, befriending the crew of the Platypus[17] and contemplating Roman's request for him to come to Liberty City. Roman had been asking Niko to come to Liberty City to share his lavish life[1][18] of a mansion, a sports car, money and beautiful women, which Niko desired and perceived as a "break". Niko was also motivated to come to Liberty City in order to locate Florian Cravic and evade Bulgarin.

Life in Liberty City[edit]

Upon arriving in Liberty City, Niko realises that Roman's stories of success were entirely exaggerated;[19] he actually lives in a small, decrepit apartment,[20][21] runs a small taxi depot[18] in the Hove Beach area of Broker in Liberty City, and owes gambling debts across the city to several powerful criminals.[22] Niko's hardened past proves useful for his cousin, and Niko is forced to protect Roman and himself from the loan sharks that keep harassing him. Roman soon introduces Niko to friends and enemies alike, all of whom offer work which Niko accepts, giving him access to money and contacts that can help him locate "that special someone".[23] Starting from Roman, Niko's relationships keep expanding over the course of the game.[24]

Initially, Niko worked with his cousin in Broker, helping him to remove the threat of loan sharks and expanding his taxi business. After killing Vladimir Glebov, a Russian loan shark with influential friends, Niko later found work with a powerful Russian Mafia don, Mikhail Faustin, and his erstwhile assistant, Dimitri Rascalov. Faustin later ordered Niko to murder the son of rival don Kenny Petrovic on a whim, and in order to spare himself and his cousin from the wrath of Petrovic, Niko was coerced into killing Faustin by Rascalov. Rascalov would then reveal himself to be an associate of Bulgarin, who is now based in Liberty City, and Niko and Roman were forced to flee Broker after their apartment and taxi depot were burned.

Niko moved to Bohan, where he made contact with various drug dealers, including Elizabeta Torres and Playboy X. He forged further contacts with the Irish crime family, the McRearys, dejected former criminal Dwayne Forge and Ray Boccino, a caporegime in the Pegorino Family. Through the latter, Niko was able to gain further entry into the world of the Liberty City Commission, working for would-be Don Jimmy Pegorino. Thanks to this vast network of contacts, Niko was able to move into a penthouse apartment in the center of Algonquin and enjoyed a high standard of living; yet he was still frustrated by his failure to find the perpetrator behind the attack on his former unit.

Eventually, Niko tracks down, with the help of Ray Boccino, Florian Cravic, only to discover he has become a flamboyant homosexual secretly dating the Deputy Mayor of Liberty City, Bryce Dawkins, also intent on forgetting the past; Niko then concludes that Darko Brevic was the man responsible for the atrocity. Thanks to his work for a shady government agency, United Liberty Paper, Niko was later rewarded by having Brevic flown specifically to Liberty City, where he, along with Roman, would finally be able to confront him. Before killing Darko, Roman suggests to him that he is forced to live his hard life he is apparently living, giving Niko a kill-or-spare choice. If Niko kills Darko, then he later admits that he didn't feel any better by his move. If Niko lets Darko live, then he is at first disappointed but decides that he did the right thing. It is highly likely but unconfirmed if either option gives Niko his long needed closure.

Niko would later be presented with the chance to complete a heroin deal with bitter enemy Dimitri Rascalov, on behalf of Pegorino, and here Niko either attempts to complete the deal, only to be betrayed, upon which point he must shoot his way to the money, or instead Niko goes straight to the boat where Rascalov is hiding and kills him there. If the first path is chosen, Roman is killed by a hitman sent by Rascalov for Niko; if the second path is chosen, Kate McReary, Niko's girlfriend, is killed by an enraged Pegorino in a drive-by-shooting when Kate is attending Roman's wedding. Following these various endings, Niko either tracks down and kills Rascalov (who kills Pegorino before his own death), or chases and murders Pegorino, aided by the contacts he has built up throughout his time in the city. With all of his loose ends tied up, Niko muses on the American Dream and concludes that it is a hollow promise, which no one can truly achieve.

During the game it is shown that Niko's view of American culture is one of confusion and mild disgust. The rampant materialism annoys him and he has trouble relating to Roman's fascination with the country. At one point, he shows an extreme contempt for American advertising, saying that it has "nothing to back it up." This is the polar opposite of Roman's view of American life, which is one of pure optimism. After working for so many criminals, the cynicism he developed in the Balkans is merely reinforced in Liberty City.[25]

Appearances[edit]

Niko is the protagonist and playable character in Grand Theft Auto IV, with the player following his experiences upon arriving, and settling in Liberty City. After settling in the city, he is faced with decisions that the player can determine.

Niko makes several, non-playable appearances in the Grand Theft Auto IV expansion pack, The Lost and Damned.[26] Niko meets the game’s protagonist, Johnny Klebitz, twice during the game; Niko first helps Johnny sell some heroin but the deal is a sting. The second time they meet is to make a diamond deal with the Jewish Mob, but Luis Lopez attacks the deal and Johnny steals the money. Niko is shown to be responsible for many of the events that provide the storyline of The Lost and Damned. Among these events are the killing of Lost member Jason Michaels, on the orders of Mikhail Faustin, which leads The Lost’s leader, Billy Grey, to falsely claim that it was an attack by The Angels of Death, provoking a gang war. Johnny is shown to be responsible for one of Niko's problems in GTA IV, when he kidnaps Roman for the Russians. Later, when Niko works for Ray Boccino, he assassinates the treasurer of The Lost, Jim Fitzgerald, after Johnny steals Ray’s money during a diamond trade. This event acts as part of a chain of events that leads to the breakup of The Lost. Niko's voice is later heard after Johnny plants a bug in Bryce Dawkin's car: since the car has been given to Niko as a gift, Niko can be heard yelling at the police. Later he is seen at various stages in the credits.

Niko plays a small role in The Ballad of Gay Tony, appearing in the first mission where he is seen holding the protagonist Luis Lopez hostage, assisted by Packie and Derrick McReary. Niko and Luis manage to escape the bank. Niko appears briefly in the opening credit sequence, stopping to let Luis cross the street, and returns later in the mission "Not So Fast" where Luis steals the diamonds being sold by Niko and Johnny. Niko's final appearance is when he trades the diamonds for Gracie Ancelloti in the mission "Ladies Half Price".

A tongue-in-cheek reference is made to Niko in Grand Theft Auto V. When discussing putting together a crew for a possible heist, Lester Crest mentions to protagonist Michael De Santa that he knew of "an Eastern European guy making moves in Liberty City, but...nah, he went quiet."[27] Packie McReary also makes an appearance in the game, and mentions Niko, stating that he "is probably dead", suggesting that Packie cut all ties with Niko after Grand Theft Auto IV not long before he moved to Los Santos. It appears Niko has retired from criminal life and is moving on with his life in Liberty City.[citation needed]

In Grand Theft Auto Online, players can choose what their character is to look like by selecting between different parents; Niko is one of the special parents available, meaning that players can select Niko so that their character has a level of resemblance to him. However, the ability to select Niko is only available to players who have purchased the Collector's Edition version of the game.[28][29]

Reception[edit]

Niko's character has been well received by critics, as well as by gamers. He was voted as the 14th top character of the 2000s decade by readers of Game Informer.[30] In 2008, The Age ranked Niko as the second greatest Xbox character of all time, as "few characters in videogame history have provided us with such a spectrum of emotions. Niko’s tale is such a rollercoaster ride that by the climax you’d be forgiven for feeling exhausted and perhaps even a little numb."[31] IGN's Hilary Goldstein commented "Niko's struggles with his ruthless nature never inhibit the gameplay, but instead enhance the emotional gravity of a brilliant storyline. The more absurd the action becomes, the greater we feel the very real pathos of Niko Bellic."[32] Tom Bramwell of Eurogamer opined Niko "himself is quickly sympathetic - his moral latitude is rooted in horrible war stories, but he's warm-hearted - and imposing."[33] GameDaily included him in a top 25 list of video game anti-heroes, stating that he has a heart-of-gold beneath his rough exterior.[34] In another article, GameDaily listed the "scary foreigner" as one of their top 25 video game archetypes, using Niko as an example of this due to his "European thug" appearance.[35] They also used him as an example for the "walking stereotype" archetype.[36]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Totilo, Stephen (11 April 2007). "'GTA IV' Details: Who's Niko Bellic? - Video Games News Story". MTV. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  2. ^ "Voice of GTA IV's Niko Bellic wants more respect // News". Gamesindustry.biz. 21 May 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "About Michael Hollick". Michaelhollick.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  4. ^ Schiesel, Seth (21 May 2008). "A Video Game Star and His Less-Than-Stellar Pay". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  5. ^ Goldstein, Hilary (29 April 2008). "IGN: Grand Theft Auto IV Review". Uk.xbox360.ign.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  6. ^ "Jack Black announces new game trailers at video game awards". Daily Telegraph. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Seth Schiesel (21 May 2008). "A Video Game Star and His Less-Than-Stellar Pay". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 May 2008. 
  8. ^ Cowen, Nick (28 April 2008). "Grand Theft Auto IV: the biggest and the best". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  9. ^ Workman, Robert (16 October 2007). "Grand Theft Auto IV". Businessweek.com. Retrieved 30 July 2010. He's a Russian immigrant with a life of crime and several problems at home. 
  10. ^ "Top 10 Video Games of 2008". New York: Nydailynews.com. 2 January 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2010. An ex-soldier comes to America from Croatia, seeking revenge for a wartime betrayal. 
  11. ^ Schiesel, Seth (21 May 2008). "A Video Game Star and His Less-Than-Stellar Pay". New York Times. Niko is a war-scarred Serbian... 
  12. ^ Crispin Boyer (27 April 1008). "Sweet Land of Liberty". Electronic Gaming Monthly: 44–56. Retrieved 8 November 2008. He's from that gray part of broken-down Eastern Europe, a war-torn area -Sam Houser 
  13. ^ http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0077027/quotes
  14. ^ "Grand Theft Auto IV". Rockstar Games. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  15. ^ Clive Thompson (2 May 2008). "Games Without Frontiers: 'Grand Theft Auto IV' Delivers Deft Satire of Street Life". Wired.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  16. ^ Schiesel, Seth (28 April 2008). "Grand Theft Auto Takes On New York". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "Keith Stuart on the subtleties of GTA IV | Technology | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. 29 April 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  18. ^ a b "Grand Theft Auto IV". Ur magazine (Rogers). p. 64. 
  19. ^ "Grand Theft Auto IV Review from". 1UP.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  20. ^ Kendall, Nigel (26 April 2008). "Grand Theft Auto IV the drive of your life". The Times (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  21. ^ 9:01 p.m. ET (28 April 2008). "'Grand Theft Auto' will blow you away - Games - msnbc.com". MSNBC. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  22. ^ "Grand Theft Auto IV Review for Xbox 360 - GameSpot". Uk.gamespot.com. 29 April 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  23. ^ Gray, Sadie (4 May 2008). "Grand Theft Auto IV Making a killing is the name of the game". The Times (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  24. ^ Gray, Sadie (27 April 2008). "Its just a game says man behind Grand Theft Auto". The Times (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  25. ^ Goldstein, Hilary. "IGN: Grand Theft Auto IV Review". Uk.xbox360.ign.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  26. ^ "‘Hell No’ - No New Lines For Niko Bellic in ‘Grand Theft Auto’ Expansion » MTV Multiplayer". Multiplayerblog.mtv.com. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  27. ^ Rockstar North (17 September 2013). "Grand Theft Auto V". PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Rockstar Games. Mission: "Casing the Jewel Store"
    Lester Crest: "There was an Eastern European guy making moves in Liberty City, but...nah, he went quiet."
     
  28. ^ R* Q (26 August 2013). "More Details and Screens from the Grand Theft Auto V Special and Collector's Edition Digital Content". Rockstar Games. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  29. ^ R* A (23 September 2013). "Some More Details on Grand Theft Auto Online". Rockstar Games. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  30. ^ Bryan Vore (December 3, 2010). "Readers' Top 30 Characters Results Revealed". Game Informer. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  31. ^ "The Top 50 Xbox Characters of All Time". The Age. September 30, 2008. Archived from the original on October 6, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  32. ^ Grand Theft Auto IV Review
  33. ^ Grand Theft Auto IV Review. Eurogamer
  34. ^ "Top 25 Game Anti-Heroes". Gamedaily.com. 25 April 2009. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  35. ^ "Top 25 Game Archetypes". Gamedaily.com. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  36. ^ "Top 25 Game Archetypes". Gamedaily.com. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
Preceded by
Victor Vance
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Protagonist of Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto IV
Succeeded by
Johnny Klebitz
Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned