Wanted Level in GTA IV Era
A Wanted Level in Grand Theft Auto IV and its expansions is a measure of how much the player is wanted by Liberty City law enforcement, and therefore how much force will be used in pursuit of the player. As in previous games, the GTA IV's Wanted Level is measured on a six-star scale, ranking police lethality from the non-lethal one star to the extremely aggressive six stars.
Relatively minor crimes committed within sight of the police may attract one star. Committing serious crimes is likely to earn multiple stars outright — for example, killing or wounding a police officer with a firearm results in an immediate three star Wanted Level, rather than a two star Wanted Level like in previous GTA games.
Wanted Level stars are cumulative — repeatedly committing "one-star" crimes within sight of police may lead to a two-star rating, and so on.
Once the player has a Wanted Level, LCPD officers give chase and attempt to arrest the player; if caught, the player is transported to the nearest police station and released a few hours later after a fine (10% of the player's current cash balance) and the confiscation of all weapons.
Police officers can arrest the player by holding them at gunpoint — if the player is in a vehicle, the protagonist surrenders immediately; if on foot, the player can resist arrest by running away and/or fighting back, however this immediately escalates a one-star wanted level to two-stars (three if the player chooses to retaliate with a firearm) and causes the officer to open fire, a risky endeavor at close range. It should be noted not to get busted AT ALL COSTS, even if it requires being killed, when killed you at least get to keep your guns.
As the player's Wanted Level increases, law enforcement spends less energy trying to arrest the player and more trying to kill the player at all costs. As such, it is almost impossible to get arrested at a Wanted Level of three stars or higher, although police will attempt vehicular arrests if the opportunity arises.
Police are in constant radio contact with one another, which is reflected in the 'search radius' system — when the player attracts a Wanted Level, a 'search radius' will appear on the map, in the form of a flashing red and blue circle centered on the player's position when the police are first alerted to the crime. While within this radius, the player's Wanted Level does not decrease; the goal is to move outside of this circle without the police making visual contact with the player again — if they do, the circle re-centers itself at the player's current position. If the player escapes the circle and avoids the police for several seconds, the player's wanted status is entirely removed.
Pay 'n' Spray
Unlike GTA III era games, Wanted Levels cannot be lost by picking up police bribes, as these no longer exist; the Pay 'n' Spray service is, however, still available. Unlike in previous games, Pay 'n' Sprays cannot be used in sight of police, even for vehicle repair; visibility to police is indicated by whether the wanted stars on the HUD are white (visible) or gray (out of sight). Pay 'n' Sprays instantly remove the player's Wanted level, and their use advances the in-game clock three hours.
GTA IV gives the player the opportunity to swap vehicles while in the radius. This makes the cops less likely to identify the player as the police dispatcher relies on the color, make, and model of the vehicle the player was last seen driving when tracking the player. Like the Pay 'n' Spray, swapping a vehicle can only be done if the player is out of the sight of the police. If possible, the player should obtain a replacement vehicle in a secluded area. At higher wanted levels, swapping vehicles is essential in order to keep police confused and to ensure that the player has a fresh getaway vehicle. The player must be careful not to stay in the area too long, as the police will eventually recognize the player, causing the wanted radius to refocus to the player's current location.
Police in GTA IV are better-equipped, smarter, more determined, and more lethal than in previous GTA games; they can even respond to crimes committed out of their sight, as civilians can call police on their cell phones to report crimes. Police use their available weapons intelligently -- an officer with a Pump Action Shotgun will move in closer to the player to compensate for the weapon's short range, while one with a Carbine Rifle will hang back to take advantage of distance. During a chase, police officers will coordinate themselves and will attempt to box the player in with several cars, drive faster, use the PIT maneuver and try harder as the player's wanted level increases. Also, police can commandeer civilian vehicles (parked or occupied) if their vehicles are destroyed, or if a police car is unavailable; they may even commandeer the cars parked in front of the player's safehouses.
Police radio messages are an additional audio indicator of a player having one or more police stars. These messages reflect the crimes being committed by the player; for example, firing a pistol will lead to mentions of "firearms discharge" over the radio, and hitting an individual with any gun is described as a "shooting".
When the player attains their first Wanted level, the game displays information to briefly explain the Wanted level system.
The area cops search is shown by the flashing red and blue zone. Cops are shown by the flashing red and blue icons.
To lose your wanted level, escape the flashing zone.
The cops are less likely to identify you if you swap vehicles or run through alleyways and side streets.
If the wanted stars are grayed out then the cops have lost sight of you.
At a one-star Wanted Level, any LCPD police patrols will give chase and attempt to arrest the player on sight. Officers only shoot at one star if they feel threatened (for example, if the player aims a firearm in their direction or drives dangerously close to said officer), and most commonly attempt to arrest the player. Police cars follow the player. The search radius for one star is approximately two city blocks. The player is unable to buy any items (weapons, clothes, or food [except from vending machines]), enter a taxi as a passenger (except for Roman's Car Service), enter bars or clubs, or partake in activities like TV, darts, bowling, etc., while wanted by police.
A one-star Wanted Level is attained by committing the following crimes:
- Attacking a police officer unarmed or with a melee weapon
- Attacking and/or killing civilians (explosians may result in higher levels)
- Damaging or destroying a vehicle (explosians may result in higher levels)
- Attacking, crashing into, or climbing on top of an occupied police vehicle
- Discharging a weapon
- Hitting a pedestrian or a police officer with a vehicle (player may receive Two Stars).
- Stealing a car
- Driving a vehicle with its alarm sounding
- Driving past a toll booth in a civilian vehicle without paying (emergency vehicles are exempt from the toll)
- Being seen by the police drunk-driving
- Pushing or knocking over a police officer repeatedly by running into them
- Spraying NPCs with a water cannon while driving a fire truck
- Stealing money from a cash register in any accessible store
- Starting fires or getting caught on fire
- Obstructing justice when an officer is chasing or arresting a NPC
Officers now shoot to kill more often. Officers in cars now chase the player, rather than simply following behind, and often try to overtake the player or run them off-road.
Two wanted stars are attained by:
- Attacking a police officer with a firearm or explosives (wounding an officer leads to three stars)
- Aiming any weapon at a police officer
- Repeatedly punching a police officer
- Destroying many vehicles at once
- Killing many people in a short space of time
- Shooting someone in front of a police officer
- Destroying a fuel pump at a gas station
- Resisting arrest
- Destroying a Securicar or Police Stockade with firearms or explosives
- Flying over restricted airspace in a helicopter (FIA Runway or Civilization Committee)
- Stealing certain cars for Brucie's Exotic Exports
At a three-star Wanted Level, police vehicles become more aggressive in their pursuit, attempting to pin the player's vehicle against buildings and run them off the road. NOOSE now begin to assist the LCPD in setting up roadblocks on main roads and bridges; they also send NOOSE Cruisers and NOOSE Patriots in pursuit of the player. NOOSE Patriots may attempt to ram the player from the front, putting the player and officer(s) inside at risk of a windshield ejection from their vehicle. Strong, fast vehicles are recommended — motorcycles are not suggested, due to the aggressive driving of the police. Officers on foot now use Pump Action Shotguns against the player.
A police helicopter is now called in, which can be heard on the radio as "Dispatch air unit from _______", The helicopter will shine a spotlight on the player at night and opening fire if officers on board get a clear shot. The helicopter, however, periodically breaks off from pursuit. The helicopter retreats if the player goes underground, stays inside a large structure for a long-ish time, or kills both sharpshooters on board. In the Ballad of Gay Tony, sharpshooters are equipped with Advanced Machine Guns instead of Carbine Rifles. Police boats are dispatched if the player is in or near water. Like the Police Maverick, the Predator has a sharpshooter on board. The player is now unable to board the subway.
Three wanted stars are attained by:
At four wanted stars, the FIB and NOOSE's Tactical Response Unit join the fray, and the player is confronted by NOOSE Enforcers and FIB Buffaloes in addition to the previously mentioned forces. Tactical Response Unit officers and FIB agents come four to a vehicle and are typically armed with Carbine Rifles, although some agents carry SMGs and Pump Action Shotguns, and wear body armor for protection. It is speculated that a player's vehicle of choice will dictate the police vehicles spawned -- FIB Buffaloes dispatched when the player is in a small, quick car, and NOOSE Enforcers dispatched when the player is in a larger vehicle. None of this speculation is confirmed; sometimes, both services chase the player.
Note: In The Ballad of Gay Tony, all law enforcement officers start firing upon the player while in pursuit at this level, and NOOSE and FIB officers use Assault SMGs and Automatic Shotguns as well as the aforementioned weapons against the player.
Four wanted stars are attained by:
At five wanted stars, the Police Maverick is accompanied by a NOOSE Annihilator. In the main game and The Lost and Damned, all law enforcement officers fire upon the player while in pursuit (In The Ballad of Gay Tony they will do this at Four Stars), making getaways difficult — FIB or NOOSE are particularly perilous to engage, as their SMGs are likely to make short work of the player's getaway vehicle. Due the increased risk of being shot to death, use of a motorcycle as a getaway vehicle is especially not recommended. All officers employ more advanced driving techniques, such as the PIT maneuver, as they try to make the player spin out of control and crash. NOOSE/FIB cooperation is more apparent at this level, both forces spawning and pursuing the player in equal numbers.
Five stars are attained by:
At six wanted stars, the Police Maverick is replaced with a second Annihilator, making escape from the search radius extremely difficult. The search area is approximately the size of the Broker-Dukes island in Liberty City. More NOOSE Cruisers, Patriots, Enforcers and FIB Buffaloes pursue the player, with only a smattering of LCPD cruisers and patrol cars. Survival and escape is most difficult, and a very fast and/or durable vehicle is recommended. All law enforcement vehicles fire upon and ram the player relentlessly with very little regard for collateral damage. On foot, the player must move and/or retaliate quickly to avoid being cut down by gunfire. Unlike previous GTA games, Tanks (more commonly referred to as Rhinos) no longer chase the player due to realism. Though they are present in GTA: Chinatown Wars, they are normally locked and can only be accessed by the one at Francis International Airport (starts side mission Fast Tracks) or buying it from the Auto Merchant in BOABO for $10,000.
Six stars are attained by:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement
- Continuing to cause collateral damage
- Crossing police barricades or flying into areas of Liberty City that the player has not yet unlocked
The player can earn two Achievements/Trophies associated with the Wanted Level, however the use of specific cheat codes blocks the rewards. GTA IV Tips can give help on obtaining these achievements/trophies.
- Walk Free — Evade a four-star level while on foot. (50G/Bronze Trophy)
- One Man Army — Survive a six-star level for five minutes. (40G/Silver Trophy)
- With a Wanted level, any nearby helicopter will chase the player, including the Helitours Mavericks, other civilian Mavericks, or even an Annihilator. Fortunately the civilian Mavericks have no riflemen on-board to fire upon the player, but the pilots will shout the same warnings and threats usually heard from police helicopters, as though they were themselves police.
- If the player drinks a can of soda, the police will temporarily cease fire while the player is drinking; they will, however, resume attacking immediately afterwards.
- If the protagonist is drunk and on foot with a one-star Wanted level, the police will merely follow him around, pointing their guns at him until he 'sobers up'.
- If an officer commandeers a vehicle in the player's parking space and the player uses the "Wanted Down" cheat, stealing the car back from the officer doesn't earn the player a Wanted rating.
- If the player spawns a FIB Buffalo via cheat code 227-555-0100, it increases the likelihood of FIB agents appearing.
- At lower levels, prioritize escaping from or killing officers with shotguns, as they can kill a player with 1-2 shots at close range.
- At higher levels, the best way to escape is to shoot down the police helicopters, and sneak into a Pay 'n' Spray before they respawn. Another good strategy is to enter the subway system with a vehicle (preferrably a motorbike) and follow the underground routes until out of the search radius, but the player must be careful not to get lost in the system or getting hit by the oncoming Subway Trains.
- At low levels, head for docks or the Higgins Helitours. It is easier to escape via air and sea than land. However, at 3 stars and above, the player is always visible if in a helicopter and Police Predators will follow alongside if on water, making it impossible to escape these ways.
- Stunt jumping gives the player considerable distance from the police but may not guarantee total escape, as certain factors, such as wanted level radius, environment of the stunt jump, "projectile" motion concept of physics, and the position of other police units, come into play.
- The player can listen to the police radio while being chased; it will indicate which vehicles the police are sending after the protagonist. The "dispatched from [location]" gives the general spawning point for police vehicles. Some are: "Dispatch X (number of police units, usually 2-6) units from __", "Dispatch Air Unit from __", "Dispatch FIB team from __" and "Dispatch NOOSE team from __".
- Run through alleys and narrow streets when on 1-2 star wanted level to give the cops the slip.