Niko Bellic

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Niko Bellic
Grand Theft Auto character
Niko Bellic.jpg
Promotional artwork from Grand Theft Auto IV depicting Niko Bellic
First game Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
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 of which are published by Rockstar Games.

In Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic is a war veteran from Eastern Europe who moves to Liberty City, a fictional city based on New York City, to live with his cousin Roman Bellic and search for the man who betrayed his military unit. Eventually, Niko becomes entangled in a world of violence, crime, and corruption as he moves up in the city, earning work and payment, meeting new contacts and keeping himself from getting killed while searching for the traitor.

Niko Bellic is voiced by Michael Hollick, who also provides some motion capture for the character.

Nationality[edit]

Niko's nationality is never specified in the game, and has been a subject of some debate.[4] Prior to the game being launched, it was believed by some that he was Russian, Croatian, or Serbian.[5][6][7] Executive producer Dan Houser spoke on the matter saying that Niko is "from that grey part of broken-down Eastern Europe", suggesting that Niko's nationality was left intentionally vague or to the interpretation of the player.[8]

Background[edit]

In the game's backstory, Niko's father is a violent alcoholic who physically abuses him, his mother, and his elder brother. Niko's mother Milica, who possesses a maternal and caring nature in the backstory, regrets that her sons have been forced to endure such hardships as children. Niko participates in an unnamed war as an infantryman, tank operator, and helicopter pilot. During his time fighting he witnesses numerous atrocities, including the murder and mutilation of over 50 children, which traumatized him, leading to his cynical view on life, with certain degrees of anger, regret, emotional distress and severe depression. A defining moment is when his army unit of fifteen young men from his village are ambushed by the enemy. Niko escapes and later concludes that the unit has been betrayed by one of their own soldiers. He returns to the pit where his friends were buried, digs up the bodies, counted them, and identifies each of the corpses. From this he learns that there are two other survivors, Florian Cravic and Darko Brevic. Niko vows to search for the traitor.

By the end of the war, Niko experiences difficulty finding work and leading a normal life, and his elder brother has been killed in action. Knowing only violence and having very little opportunities, Niko turns 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. His cousin Roman Bellic who settled in the United States offers Niko to join him. After being released from a brief stint in prison, Niko joins a smuggling and trafficking ring run by Russian criminal Ray Bulgarin. During one smuggling run into Italy, the boat that Niko is working on sinks in the Adriatic Sea, a mile from the nearest shoreline.[9] Niko swims to safety, but Bulgarin accused him of escaping with the money. Niko joins the merchant navy in order to flee from Bulgarin. He spends the following seven months at sea in the Atlantic Ocean, befriending the crew of the Platypus and contemplating Roman's requests for him to come to Liberty City.[10] Niko eventually discovers that Florian Cravic, one of the two survivors of the ambush, also lives in Liberty City, and accepts Roman's offer.

Life in Liberty City[edit]

Niko quickly realises that Roman's stories of success were exaggerated: he lives in a small, decrepit apartment and runs a small taxi depot,[11] and owes gambling debts across the city to several powerful criminals.[12][13][14][15] Niko's military skills such as close quarter combat, basic helicopter piloting, shooting and swimming give him an advantage over the street thugs of Liberty City.[16][17] Niko protects Roman from loan sharks, and soon begins making money and contacts that can help him locate Florian Cravic within the city.[18] His professional and personal relationships expand over the course of the game.[19]

Initially, Niko worked with his cousin in Broker to help him to remove the threat of various loan sharks from around the city and expanding his taxi business, but Niko kills Vladimir Glebov, a loud-mouthed Russian loan shark with influential friends, for having sex with Roman's long-time girlfriend Mallorie Bardas. Niko and Roman are soon kidnapped by henchmen of Glebov's superior, the powerful but mentally unstable Russian Mafia don, Mikhail Faustin, and his erstwhile assistant, Dimitri Rascalov. The two are interrogated in the basement of Faustin's mansion, however Faustin enters the basement, angry because he had not authorized the kidnapping. Faustin kills the henchman interrogating Niko and shoots Roman in the stomach for screaming too loudly. After being released, Faustin reveals that he hated Vlad Glebov and actually approves of Niko for killing him, admitting that "The only reason I keep him around is because I fuck his sister". Faustin gives Niko work as a hired gun, but eventually orders him to kill the son of a rival Russian mafia don, Kenny Petrović. After killing Petrović's son, Dimitri sets up Niko to assassinate Faustin, under the promise of protection from Kenny Petrović to prove that the death should be blamed on Mikhail and that Niko was just a hired gun. Deciding he has no choice, Niko confronts Faustin at his club, Perestroika, where he gets into a gunfight with Faustin and his bodyguards. Chasing the him to the club's rooftop, Niko corners Faustin and aims a gun at him. Faustin tells Niko that neither he or Dimitri will survive in America without him, and that the greed of Liberty City takes over everyone. Niko executes Faustin, but not before he is warned that Dimitri will betray him. When Niko goes to collect the money for the hit, Dimitri in fact betrays him by trying to sell Niko to Ray Bulgarin. Roman's business and Niko's apartment is then burnt down by the Loan Sharks.

Niko moved to Bohan, where he made contact with various drug dealers, including Elizabeta Torres and Playboy X. He obtains further contacts including the McRearys, a weak Irish-American crime family and allies of Torres, consisting of Packie, Derrick, and Gerry, Dwayne Forge, Playboy X's mentor and former friend who recently left imprisonment, Francis McReary, one of the brothers of the McReary crime family who has become a prominent yet incredibly corrupt police officer, and Ray Boccino, a caporegime in the Pegorino Family. Through Boccino, 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, composed of childhood friends, from the war. Eventually, with the help of Ray Boccino, Niko tracks down the suspect he believed lived in the city, Florian Cravic. Niko confronts Cravic, only to discover he has become a flamboyant homosexual called Bernie Crane, who is secretly dating the Deputy Mayor of Liberty City, Bryce Dawkins, intent on forgetting the past. Niko then concludes that Darko Brevic was the man responsible for the atrocity, but has no lead to his location. After completing work for a shady government agency and the most powerful Mafia don in Liberty City, United Liberty Paper and Jon Gravelli, Niko is rewarded by Brevic being tracked down to Bucharest, Romania, and flown specifically to Liberty City. Niko, along with Roman, confront a bound and confused Darko Brevic at the airport, who reveals he betrayed Niko's unit for a mere $1,000. 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, 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.

Five years later, in Grand Theft Auto V, Niko is briefly mentioned by Patrick McReary, who says he does not know whether Niko is alive or not when remarking on their bank robbery; the other two crew members, Michael Keane and Derrick McReary had died since then, and Packie had lost contact with Niko in the intervening years. Another reference appears at the end of the game: should Michael survive and find his family at the dining room table, his son Jimmy is stalking Niko on LifeInvader, a parody of Facebook. Apparently Niko had moved back to Broker in the intervening years in between games and is now working as a taxi driver for Roman's cab service. A closer inspection reveals that Niko has wished Roman a happy birthday, although Rockstar noted that Roman's death is not non-canon.[20]

Characteristics[edit]

Bellic is portrayed as a very down-to-business person, and angers easily. He has a dry, sarcastic sense of humour, and often makes acerbic remarks. Though he regrets his past crimes, he feels that his soul is permanently tainted, and that killing is all he can do.

Niko appears to be a more mature, empathetic, and sensible person than many of his acquaintances. His female acquaintances often point out that Niko has sophisticated manners and appears to be a very decent person. Many times he attempts to resolve conflicts between two parties without the use of violence.

The most significant aspect of Niko's personality is his cynicism, which he gained in the war.[21][22] Although generally he is a caring individual, Niko's realistic view of life allows him the ability to manipulate people. Niko's biggest weakness is his inability to let go of the past, and the desire for revenge is a driving force in many of his decisions.

Despite his long involvement with criminal activity, Niko holds a somewhat positive view of law enforcement, stating that cops are just people trying to survive. Niko has a distaste for drugs despite his frequent involvement in the drugs trade, expressing disgust for the heroin he deals with, and regularly refusing offers of marijuana.

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.[23] 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.[24] Hollick told The New York Times that while he was a theater student at Carnegie Mellon University he developed a talent for dialects.[24]

Other appearances[edit]

Niko makes several, non-playable appearances in the Grand Theft Auto IV's expansion pack, The Lost and Damned.[25]

Niko plays a small role in The Ballad of Gay Tony's first mission, holding the protagonist Luis Lopez hostage. Niko appears briefly in the opening credit sequence, and returns 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".

In Grand Theft Auto Online's Collector's Edition, 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.[26][27]

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.[28] In 2008, The Age ranked Niko as the second greatest Xbox character of all time, as "few characters in video game history have provided us with such a spectrum of emotions. Niko's tale is such a roller coaster ride that by the climax you'd be forgiven for feeling exhausted and perhaps even a little numb."[29] 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."[30] 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."[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] They also used him as an example for the "walking stereotype" archetype.[34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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. ^ Cowen, Nick (28 April 2008). "Grand Theft Auto IV: the biggest and the best". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ Schiesel, Seth (21 May 2008). "A Video Game Star and His Less-Than-Stellar Pay". New York Times. Niko is a war-scarred Serbian... 
  8. ^ Crispin Boyer (27 April 1008). "Sweet Land of Liberty". Electronic Gaming Monthly: 44–56. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 8 November 2008. He's from that gray part of broken-down Eastern Europe, a war-torn area -Sam Houser 
  9. ^ Schiesel, Seth (28 April 2008). "Grand Theft Auto Takes On New York". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  10. ^ "Keith Stuart on the subtleties of GTA IV | Technology | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. 29 April 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  11. ^ "Grand Theft Auto IV". Ur magazine. Rogers. p. 64. 
  12. ^ "Grand Theft Auto IV Review from". 1UP.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. [permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Kendall, Nigel (26 April 2008). "Grand Theft Auto IV the drive of your life". The Times. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  14. ^ "'Grand Theft Auto' will blow you away - Games - msnbc.com". MSNBC. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  15. ^ "Grand Theft Auto IV Review for Xbox 360 - GameSpot". Uk.gamespot.com. 29 April 2008. Archived from the original on 23 April 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  16. ^ "Grand Theft Auto IV". Rockstar Games. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  17. ^ Clive Thompson (2 May 2008). "Games Without Frontiers: 'Grand Theft Auto IV' Delivers Deft Satire of Street Life". Wired.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Gray, Sadie (27 April 2008). "Its just a game says man behind Grand Theft Auto". The Times. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  20. ^ http://www.rockstargames.com/newswire/article/36881/asked-answered-max-payne-3-and-grand-theft-auto-v.html
  21. ^ Schiesel, Seth (21 May 2008). "A Video Game Star and His Less-Than-Stellar Pay". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  22. ^ Goldstein, Hilary (29 April 2008). "IGN: Grand Theft Auto IV Review". Uk.xbox360.ign.com. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  23. ^ "Jack Black announces new game trailers at video game awards". Daily Telegraph. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ "'Hell No' - No New Lines For Niko Bellic in 'Grand Theft Auto' Expansion » MTV Multiplayer". Multiplayerblog.mtv.com. 23 January 2009. Archived from the original on 24 June 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  26. ^ 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. 
  27. ^ R* A (23 September 2013). "Some More Details on Grand Theft Auto Online". Rockstar Games. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  28. ^ Bryan Vore (3 December 2010). "Readers' Top 30 Characters Results Revealed". Game Informer. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  29. ^ "The Top 50 Xbox Characters of All Time". The Age. 30 September 2008. Archived from the original on 6 October 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  30. ^ Grand Theft Auto IV Review
  31. ^ Grand Theft Auto IV Review. Eurogamer
  32. ^ "Top 25 Game Anti-Heroes". Gamedaily.com. 25 April 2009. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  33. ^ "Top 25 Game Archetypes". Gamedaily.com. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  34. ^ "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