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|Grand Theft Auto character|
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|
|Motion capture||Michael Hollick
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 portrayed as a war veteran from Eastern Europe who moves to Liberty City, a fictional city based on New York City, to search for the man who betrayed his military unit many years ago, while also reuniting with his cousin after almost a decade. Eventually, in the video game Niko becomes entangled in a world of violence, crime and corruption as he moves up in the city step-by-step, earning work and payment, meeting new contacts and keeping himself from getting killed while searching for the traitor.
Creation and conception
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Niko's nationality is never specified in the game, and has been a subject of some debate. Prior to the game being launched, it was believed by some that he was Russian, Croatian, or Serbian. 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.
In the game's backstory, Niko's father is portrayed as 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, since Niko and his brother grow up during the difficult times of an unnamed war in Eastern Europe. According to the backstory, Niko participates in the war as an enraged youth, serving in an unknown militia 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 leads to his cynical view on life in the video game, with certain degrees of anger, regret, emotional distress and severe depression. A defining moment in the war for Niko in the backstory is when his army unit of fifteen young men from his village are ambushed by the enemy. Niko barely escapes the ambush, and weeks 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 perpetrator, motivated not solely by revenge, but a need for closure and to move on with his own life.
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 during the war. 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. Before the war, his cousin Roman Bellic decides to settle in the United States in order to lead a new life in Liberty City, and frequently offers Niko the opportunity to come 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. Niko manages to abandon the ship and swim to safety, however everything else placed on the ship was lost beyond salvaging, and Bulgarin accused Niko of escaping with the money on board. Although Niko denies the accusations, Bulgarin refuses to believe him and he is too powerful to argue with, so 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. Niko eventually discovers that Florian Cravic, one of the two survivors of the ambush, is also residing in Liberty City. Niko eventually accepts Roman's offer to come to Liberty City to share his lavish life of a mansion, a sports car, money, and beautiful women, which Niko desires and perceives as a "break", while also being motivated to locate Florian Cravic and to evade Ray Bulgarin.
Life in Liberty City
Upon arriving in Liberty City aboard the Platypus and being greeted by an excited Roman. Niko quickly realises that Roman's stories of success were entirely exaggerated, as he actually lives in a small, decrepit apartment and runs a small taxi depot in the Hove Beach area of Broker in Liberty City, while also owing gambling debts across the city to several powerful criminals. Niko's hardened past proves useful for his cousin, as he possesses skills which were acquired during his early army training such as close quarter combat, basic helicopter piloting, shooting and swimming, which give Niko an advantage over the street thugs of Liberty City. Niko is forced to protect Roman from the loan sharks that keep harassing them, and 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 Florian Cravic within the city. Starting from Roman, Niko's professional and personal relationships keep expanding over the course of the game.
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, Irish-American crime family and allies of Torres, Dwayne Forge, Playboy X's mentor and former friend who recently left imprisonment,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, United Liberty Paper, 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.
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Bellic is portrayed as a very down-to-business person, and 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.
Niko appears to be a more mature, empathetic, and sensible person than many of his acquaintances, and is very protective when it comes to those closest to him, and is especially protective of his cousin Roman, despite the fact that Roman often gets him into further unnecessary trouble. For example, Niko kills Vlad Glebov unprovoked for sleeping with Roman's girlfriend Mallorie, despite Roman protesting due to being scared of Glebov. 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 also somewhat of a caring figure to those unrelated to his criminal work, as the player can have Niko help various random people on the streets who are having problems.
The most significant aspect of Niko's personality is his cynicism, which he gained in the war. Although generally he is a caring individual, Niko's realistic view of life allows him the 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." 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.
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. He willingly goes to the funeral of slain police commissioner Francis McReary, and criticises Roman for prank calling the police because he thinks that Roman may someday need the help of the police. In some missions, Niko can only succeed by killing or shooting at law enforcement. Similarly, Niko has a prominent distaste for drugs despite his frequent involvement in the drugs trade, expressing disgust for the heroin he deals with, regularly refusing Little Jacob's offers of marijuana, frequently criticises Brucie's steroid addiction.
Though Niko does not much talk about American politics, he is shown to have a disliking for American politicians and culture. 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, and openly dislikes both communism and capitalism, as shown in the game's cut-scenes.
Niko Bellic is voiced by Michael Hollick. 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. Hollick told The New York Times that while he was a theater student at Carnegie Mellon University he developed a talent for dialects.
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, with these appearances taking place during moments where Niko interacted with the characters from The Lost and Damned in the main game. 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 one of the three protagonists, Michael De Santa, that he knew of "an Eastern European guy making moves in Liberty City, but...nah, he went quiet." 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. Niko also has a Lifeinvader page on Jimmy De Santa's computer where it shows pictures of Liberty City and what looks to be Roman Bellic and Brucie Kibbutz as his Lifeinvader friends.
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.
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. 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." 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." 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." 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. 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. They also used him as an example for the "walking stereotype" archetype.
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He's a Russian immigrant with a life of crime and several problems at home.
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An ex-soldier comes to America from Croatia, seeking revenge for a wartime betrayal.
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Niko is a war-scarred Serbian...
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He's from that gray part of broken-down Eastern Europe, a war-torn area -Sam Houser
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Mission: "Casing the Jewel Store"
Lester Crest: "There was an Eastern European guy making moves in Liberty City, but...nah, he went quiet."
- 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.
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- Grand Theft Auto IV Review
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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
|Protagonist of Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned