|Series||Grand Theft Auto|
|First game||Grand Theft Auto IV|
|Voiced by||Michael Hollick|
Niko Bellic (Cyrillic: Нико Беллић) is the main protagonist and playable character in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. He is a 30-year-old former soldier who moved to Liberty City to escape his troubled past and pursue the "American Dream". Niko was persuaded to move by his cousin Roman, who claimed to be living a life of luxury, with beautiful women, sports cars and lots of money. It soon becomes apparent, however, that he runs a failing taxi business, has mounting debts and various criminals from Liberty City's underworld have put a price on his head. Aware of Niko's violent past, Roman had lied to convince his cousin to move to the city, knowing that Niko would fight against his pursuers, and eventually be the one to turn his lies into a reality. (It is also stated that Roman is motivated partially by desire to see his cousin again.) Niko, however, also has other, underlying motivations for moving to Liberty City, which are revealed as the story unfolds.
Niko's nationality is never specified in the game, although he speaks and reads Serbian and it is said he is from the Balkans. Niko's nationality has been a subject of some debate: prior to the game being launched, it was believed he was Russian, and articles have interpreted the character as being from Croatia or Serbia. In-game, several different nationalities are mentioned by other characters when referring to Niko, including Serbian and Polish. Executive producer Dan Houser spoke on the matter saying that Niko is "from that gray part of broken-down Eastern Europe", suggesting that Niko's nationality was left intentionally vague.
Niko's father was a violent alcoholic, who 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 the Yugoslav Wars. His elder brother was killed in action in the war, a war in which Niko participated as an enraged youth, motivated by ill-founded nationalism. Niko witnessed numerous atrocities during the war, including the murder and mutilation of over 50 children, which led to his cynical perspective on life, with certain degrees of regret, depression, emotional and social detachment. 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 and shoveled up, counted, 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. Despite this, Niko possesses certain skills which were acquired during his early army training, such as close quarter combat, shooting and swimming.
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. At some point during this time, he was briefly imprisoned. After he was released, Niko joined a smuggling and trafficking ring run by Russian criminal Rodislav "Ray" Bulgarin. Niko would eventually discover that Florian Cravic, one of the two survivors of the ambush, was also residing in Liberty City.
During one smuggling run into Italy, the boat that Niko was working on sank in the Adriatic Sea 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  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  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
Upon arriving in Liberty City, Niko realizes that Roman's stories of success were entirely exaggerated; he actually lives in a small, decrepit apartment, runs a small taxi depot in the Hove Beach area of Broker in Liberty City, and owes gambling debts across the city to several powerful criminals. 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". Starting from Roman, Niko's relationships keep expanding over the course of the game.
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, however Niko was coerced into killing Faustin by Rascalov. Rascalov would then reveal himself to be an associate of Bulgarin, who was now based in Liberty City, and Niko and Roman were forced to flee Broker after their apartment and taxi depot were firebombed.
Niko moved to Bohan, where he made contact with various drug dealers, including Elizabeta Torres and Playboy X. He forged further contacts with 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 centre of Algonquin and enjoyed a high standard of living; he was still frustrated by his failure to find the perpetrator behind the attack on his former unit.
Eventually, Niko tracks down 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. Niko is given a choice to either kill Darko or let him live. 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.
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 murdered by a hitman sent by Rascalov; if the second path is chosen, Kate McReary, Niko's girlfriend, is murdered by an enraged Pegorino. Following these various endings, Niko either tracks down and kills Rascalov, 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 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. Also, after working for so many criminals, the cynicism he developed in the Balkans is merely reinforced in Liberty City.
Niko is portrayed as a very down-to-business person, and is very protective when it comes to his family and loved ones, especially Roman, despite the fact that Roman often gets him into 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. However, he is shown to get angry easily when he is met with irrationally, 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. However, he is also portrayed as a caring figure; the player can have Niko help various random people on the streets who are having problems, and Niko also consoles the family of a friend after one of their family members dies. 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, which he gained in the war. He criticizes 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; Niko is criticized 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 America 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, expresses disgust for the heroin he deals with, and never drinks alcohol except in the cutscene after his confrontation with Darko and when controlled by the player. 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 criticizes 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 many missions Niko can only succeed by killing or shooting at law enforcement.
Role in games
Grand Theft Auto IV
Niko is the main protagonist and playable character in Grand Theft Auto IV, with the player following his experiences upon arriving, and settling in Liberty City.
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
Niko makes several, non-playable appearances in the Grand Theft Auto IV expansion pack, The Lost and Damned. Niko meets the game’s protagonist, Johnny Klebitz, twice during the game much like in his main story along with a cameo in the game’s intro, when a man he accidentally bumps into swears at him, prompting him to swear back at the man in his native Serbian language. 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 was also responsible for many of the events that provide the storyline of The Lost and Damned. Among these events were the killing of Lost member Jason Michaels, on the orders of Mikhail Faustin, which lead to The Lost’s leader, Billy Grey, to falsely claim that it was an attack by The Angels of Death, provoking the gang war between them. Also, Johnny is responsible for one of Niko's problems in GTA IV; he kidnapped 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 break up of The Lost. Niko's voice is later heard after Johnny bugs Bryce Dawkins Infernus and listens to it: 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 is referred to as "a Serb" in a dialogue between The Lost members.
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Niko is shown in the introduction first committing the robbery then fleeing the scene of the bank robbery with Packie and Derrick. He is seen later in the Libertonian and one last time during the final diamond trade for Gracie Ancelotti.
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 movie 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's character has been well received by critics. IGN comments "...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..." Eurogamer says "[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 and beneath his rough exterior. In another article, they list 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.
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Grand Theft Auto (series)
- List of characters in Grand Theft Auto IV
- Pretty Village, Pretty Flame
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