The HD Universe is the official name given by Rockstar Games to the third and current canonical universe of Grand Theft Auto series, after the 2D Universe and the 3D Universe. It is named for the high-definition 3D graphics introduced in it. The generation comprising the games set in HD Universe is the HD era, previously known as GTA IV era.
The HD Universe started out in 2008 with the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. The game was followed by two DLC packs called The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, both of which occur at the same time as GTA IV. In 2009, Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, a game for mobile platforms set one year after GTA IV with a stand-alone story. The generation was known as the GTA IV era until the announcement of Grand Theft Auto V in 2011, which revealed that games within the series are set in different universes based on their graphics (2D, 3D and HD), contrary to the previous belief that each numbered title started a new era. Grand Theft Auto Online was released two weeks after Grand Theft Auto V and it is currently the latest title in the series.
The HD Universe storyline is mainly set in the city of Liberty City (and the neighboring State of Alderney) and the southern part of the state of San Andreas, both located in the United States of America. This universe also includes the island of Cayo Perico in the Caribbean region of Colombia and, briefly, the town of Ludendorff in the state of North Yankton, located south from the Canadian border region of the United States of America.
HD Universe counterparts of Vice City, San Fierro, Las Venturas, Red County, Flint County, and Bone County are also mentioned to exist. However, these locations are yet to physically appear in the HD Universe titles.
Widely detailed, its locations are much more similar to their real-life counterparts than those of the previous universes. Its protagonists are Niko Bellic, Johnny Klebitz, Huang Lee, Luis Fernando Lopez, Michael De Santa, Trevor Philips, Franklin Clinton and the GTA Online Protagonist.
Unlike the 3D Universe games, most of the games are set in their respective years of release, with exception of GTA: Episodes from Liberty City which crosses over with GTA IV's story in 2008, and the early GTA Online DLCs which are set shortly before the events of GTA V in 2013, until the release of GTA Online: Gunrunning.
Relation with Other Rockstar Series
- The State of New Austin is mentioned in the Further Adventures in Finance and Felony update.
- D. D. Packenbush Repeating Arms Co., a weapons manufacturer in Red Dead Redemption 2, made its first appearance in GTA Online during the Treasure Hunt mission as part of The Doomsday Heist update.
- Later in The Cayo Perico Heist update, multiple factors hint towards a relation between Juan Strickler and Andreas's family.
- In the Los Santos Tuners update, the Frontier Outfit, described as an outfit from a previous era, is an outfit from Red Dead Online called "Pittman Outfit".
This also causes anachronism regarding location names, as Red Dead Redemption 2 mentions real-life locations such as California, New York and San Francisco, instead of its GTA counterparts (Southern San Andreas, Liberty City and San Fierro, respectively). While in the 3D Universe GTA games, it is confirmed that California, New York and Miami co-exist with their in-game counterparts, there is currently no evidence that the same thing applies to HD Universe locations.
Chronological Release List
- Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
- Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned (2009)
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (2009)
- Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony (2009)
- Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
- Grand Theft Auto Online (2013)
Chronological Plot List
- Prologue (Grand Theft Auto V) (2004)
- Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
- Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned (2008)
- Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony (2008)
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (2009)
- Grand Theft Auto Online - From launch until (2013)
- GTA Online: The High Life Update (2013)
- GTA Online: The San Andreas Flight School Update (2013)
- GTA Online: Heists (2013)
- GTA Online: Lowriders (2013)
- GTA Online: Executives and Other Criminals (2013)
- GTA Online: Further Adventures in Finance and Felony (2013)
- GTA Online: Bikers (2013)
- GTA Online: Import/Export (2013)
- Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
- Grand Theft Auto Online - From to the latest update (2017–present day)
- GTA Online: Gunrunning (2017)
- GTA Online: Smuggler's Run (2017)
- GTA Online: The Doomsday Heist (2017)
- GTA Online: Southern San Andreas Super Sport Series ( )
- GTA Online: After Hours (2018)
- GTA Online: Arena War (2018–2019)
- GTA Online: The Diamond Casino & Resort (2019)
- GTA Online: The Diamond Casino Heist (2019–2020)
- GTA Online: Los Santos Summer Special (2020)
- GTA Online: The Cayo Perico Heist (2020–2021)
- GTA Online: Los Santos Tuners (2021)
- GTA Online: The Contract (2021–2022)
- GTA Online: The Criminal Enterprises (2022)
Note: Some of the GTA Online updates are simply focused on the multiplayer aspects of the game (i.e. Races, Adversary Modes, Deathmatches) and are not listed above, as they don't relate to the narrative of GTA Online. Only the GTA Online Story DLCs are listed above, including Businesses, Contact Missions, Heists, and other story-related missions.
Games in the HD Universe
Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) is set in Liberty City in 2008. It was the first GTA game to be released simultaneously for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, and was released on 29 April 2008. In August 2008, Rockstar announced that a PC version of GTA IV would be released later in the year, and the PC version was released on 3 December 2008. The game engine in GTA IV is the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (also known as RAGE) used in Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis and the Euphoria physics engine. The game takes place in a redesigned Liberty City, which bears a much closer resemblance to New York City than its 3D counterparts. The protagonist is Niko Bellic, a 30-year-old Yugoslavian war veteran.
Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned
The Lost and Damned (2009) is the first of the two episodes for GTA IV. The DLC version of TLAD requires the original GTA IV to play and is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. It is included in Episodes from Liberty City, which does not require GTA IV. TLAD's storyline runs alongside the main GTA IV storyline and ties in with the main story on a number of occasions. The protagonist is Johnny Klebitz, the 34-year-old Vice President of the Alderney Chapter of The Lost Motorcycle Club.
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
The Ballad of Gay Tony (2009) is the second episode released for GTA IV. Like TLAD, the DLC version requires the original GTA IV to play, but it is also included in the standalone Episodes From Liberty City. TBoGT's storyline also ties in with both the main GTA IV storyline and TLaD's storyline. The protagonist is Luis Fernando Lopez, the 25-year-old personal bodyguard of Anthony Prince.
This is the final game of the GTA IV trilogy.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (2009) is set in Liberty City based on the GTA IV rendition, in the year 2009. It is the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released on the Nintendo DS, and was announced at the E3 Nintendo Press Conference on July 15, 2008. This game has several new features, such as touch screen mini-games. It is also available on the Sony PSP and Apple iPhone/iPod Touch. The PSP version features drastically improved graphics.
The game focuses on the Liberty City Triads, and protagonist Huang Lee, the 26-year-old nephew of Lee Family head Wu Lee. The State of Alderney does not appear in the game. The game is set in 2009; therefore, the game's storyline does not intertwine with those of GTA IV or its episodes and is not part of the connecting trilogy.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V (2013) is set in southern San Andreas. It is the first game in the HD Universe not to be set in Liberty City. For the first time in a single Grand Theft Auto game, Grand Theft Auto V features three protagonists: Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Philips. GTA V was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 17 September 2013. An enhanced version was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 18 November 2014, and for the PC on 14 April 2015.
Grand Theft Auto Online
Grand Theft Auto Online is set in southern San Andreas and the island of Cayo Perico in Colombia. The game's storyline originally took place several months before the Grand Theft Auto V storyline. However, as the game released updates, the game's setting advanced in real-life timing, with characters later mentioning past events that took place in GTA V.
The game is included on the original retail versions of GTA V and was released on 1 October 2013, two weeks after GTA V however, it can purchased separately as of 2022. For the first time in the series, GTA Online allows the player to create their own playable protagonist. Unlike GTA IV's multiplayer, Grand Theft Auto Online is considered a standalone title by Rockstar Games and is treated as such.
Locations in the HD Universe
State of Liberty
State of Alderney
State of San Andreas
- Los Santos
- Los Santos County
- Blaine County
- Red County (Mentioned)
- Flint County (Mentioned)
- San Fierro (Mentioned)
- Bone County (Mentioned)
- Las Venturas (Mentioned)
State of Florida
- Vice City (Mentioned)
State of North Yankton
- Bullworth 
- Carcer City 
- Cottonmouth 
- Capital City 
- New Austin 
- Other mentioned locations (Real-life locations)
Differences to the 3D Universe
- Graphics were largely improved due to the release of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Increased draw distance, and changes to color schemes, reflections, shadowing and quality.
- Cities such as Liberty City and Los Santos resemble their real life counterparts more than their 3D Universe counterparts and for instance, Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto III and Liberty City Stories lack major landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. However, they were present in the HD Universe rendition as the Statue of Happiness, Grand Easton Terminal, the Broker Bridge and Rotterdam Tower respectively.
- Vehicle Brands and Vehicle Classes were added, and detail was added to interiors of vehicles, as were logo and name badges.
- The player still had cell phones, and the phone's usage was expanded beyond simply receiving calls, as the player could now change the ringtones, backgrounds and receive text messages.
- In GTA IV (PS3 only) the player can launch the Six Axis Tutorial. This allows them to practice movement involving moving the controller whilst on bikes, reloading weapons, steering boat and controlling helicopters.
- In The Ballad of Gay Tony, the player can replay missions through the phone.
- In GTA IV, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, the player can begin multiplayer sessions.
- Mission cutscenes were expanded greatly, and in Grand Theft Auto V and Online, different jobs can be done within missions, such as hacking a terminal to unlock it.
- In GTA IV, using a Pay'n'Spray would now advance the time by three hours.
- In GTA V, Pay 'n' Sprays were replaced by Los Santos Customs garages, which are much more advanced, and allow the player to manually customize their car to how they want.
- In GTA V, animals, such as dogs, sharks, cougars, deer and coyotes are introduced for the first time, but aren't featured in GTA Online.
- Police departments also have more than one patrol vehicle as opposed to the 3D Universe. In GTA IV, there were two, a Police Cruiser (based on the Ford Crown Victoria) and a Police Patrol vehicle (based on the Chevrolet Impala). In TBoGT's multiplayer, three new vehicles were added, including a Police Stinger, a Police Buffalo (based on a Dodge Charger) and a Police Bike. In GTA V, a new high performance Cruiser vehicle replaced the Impala from GTA IV and a newer Crown Victoria replaced GTA IV model, and the Charger and bike returned from TBOGT 's multiplayer.
- Local law enforcement agencies do not conduct their own tactical operations, unlike the 3D Universe. Tactical operations are instead delegated to the National Office of Security Enforcement, an HD Universe analogue for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Liberty City's establishment date and history once again changed. This time, Liberty was originally founded as New Rotterdam in 1625, before changing the name in 1664.
- Mount Chiliad is not a monolith mountain and is located in a different San Andreas county. It is also located north from Los Santos in this canon.
- Francis International Airport is located in a different borough of Liberty City.
- New Jersey's counterpart (Alderney) was once again renamed, and was also established in the same period as Liberty City from this universe.
- The HD Universe counterpart of the Grove Street Families disbanded at some point before 2013; the Ballas took control of Grove Street claiming it as Balla turf.
- The Yakuza and the Colombian Cartel have never operated in Liberty City.
- Some things do appear in multiple universes, including company brands, vehicles, placenames, weapons, and in-series celebrities, with minor lore changes.
- Vice City stuntman Jock Cranley from the 3D Universe appears as a former San Andreas stuntman and a politician in the HD Universe.
- Lazlow's 3D Universe roles as the DJ on V-Rock, presenter of Entertaining America on WCTR, and host of "long defunct" Chatterbox FM are also canon in the HD Universe, as they are mentioned on radio station Integrity 2.0 in Grand Theft Auto IV.
- Fernando Martinez is a "real Latin" in the HD Universe.
- OG Loc is referenced as being a hip-hop singer in this universe.
- According to some in-game dialogue and mentions in the media inside Grand Theft Auto V, the Los Santos Riots also occured in the HD rendition of Los Santos in 1992, though it is unknown what started this incarnation of the riots.
- The GTA Online Protagonist is the first (and currently the only) female protagonist in the HD Universe of the Grand Theft Auto series (as both genders are treated as canon storywise), and the first one overall to have some kind of personality applied to her character. She is also the seventh female protagonist to appear in the entire Grand Theft Auto series.
- All of the protagonists can swim.
- Unlike the 3D Universe, all of the HD Universe protagonists are featured on their respective game box art.
- In all HD Universe games, the car engine sounds seems to be derived from the Midnight Club series, another Rockstar game.
- Cars no longer explode after being rolled over, except in GTA Chinatown Wars as that game has similar elements to the 3D Universe.
- The HD Universe is the best-selling era of the GTA series, with over 225 million copies of its installments sold, with GTA V alone selling over 160 million copies as of 2022.
- In the HD Universe, particularly GTA IV and GTA V, firing rockets, especially from armed helicopters, will make the screen-edge flash slightly, as an extra special-effect.
- “...the “universes” are the worlds interpreted at different definitions, 2d, 3d and high definition, so we felt brands and radio / back ground characters would exist in both, but 3 dimensional characters would not. This is the logic (as far as it could be considered logical) behind it – so no, we don’t believe any GTA3 characters could exist in the GTA4 universe.”— "Grand Theft Auto III: Your Questions Answered – Part One (Claude, Darkel & Other Characters)" - Rockstar Newswire, December 15th 2011
- “The Grand Theft Auto III timeline is not necessarily over - but it is a different world to Grand Theft Auto IV - only the branding and certain radio personalities exist across both worlds. The reason for this was that we felt Grand Theft Auto IV was a high-definition experience and required different kinds of characters. That - and the fact that most people from the previous world are dead.”— Rockstar Newswire - Asked & Answered, September 18, 2009
- The Bullworth Academy is shown briefly in a segment of the CNT reality show I'm Rich in Grand Theft Auto IV. It is shown as a boarding school that Jill Von Crastenburg is attending.
- Mentioned in all HD Universe titles, except Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
- Referenced only. Several businesses in Grand Theft Auto IV originally debuted in Manhunt 2. Hingmyralgan and H4PP1 pills were manufactured in Cottonmouth.
- Mentioned in the "miles traveled" stats of Grand Theft Auto IV.
- GTA Online: Further Adventures in Finance and Felony and GTA Online: After Hours - New Austin Capital is a business who appears as a buyer for the player's special cargo.
- Timeline (HD Universe)
- Tallest Buildings in HD Universe
- Character Deaths (HD Universe)
- 3D Universe
- 2D Universe