It works really well as Liberty City is a hell of a lot bigger than your average Call of Duty map. Even these slimmed down multiplayer chunks can take ten minutes to cross. So it's nice to be able to see where the carnage is going on via the blips on the radar.
This keeps the combat central and injects even more strategy into the sandbox shooting formula. If you crouch and creep around you'll disappear from your enemies' radar sights, allowing you to sneak behind cheeky rocket launcher campers and stab them in the back. We don't think we've ever cursed so much on Xbox Live.
Law in your own hands
Liberty City Deathmatch is awesome, but our favourite of GTA IV's multiplayer modes are easily the team-based games such as Hangman's Noose and Team Mafiya Work. Just in our day's gaming session, these have provided some of the most memorable GTA moments we've ever had, and some of the most enjoyable online action of the year as well.
Take, for example, a high-speed chase with an armoured van - driven by two real players - with our mate gunning from the passenger seat and us at the wheel. Speeding and smashing through busy traffic we're gunning like mad men at the van, but its armour's simply too thick to penetrate.
"Take out the tyres!" my comrade yells over his Xbox Live headset, just as we swerve to miss a grenade the players in front have dropped in our path.
It's as intense and fast-paced as any chase we've ever had in GTA's single-player, and the heat turns up a notch when the target player van swerves around a corner only to topple on its side, resulting in an on-foot shoot out on the street. Just like this, GTA IV multiplayer lets you play out your favourite GTA solo experiences with real people, which is simply brilliant.
This is exploited to the max in 16-player team mode Cops 'n Crooks, which pitches eight coppers against yes, you guessed it, eight crooks in a round-based setup. Cop players get the advantage straight away, starting off in a police car armed to the teeth with SMGs and grenades.
The crooks, meanwhile, start off on foot with one randomly selected VIP player who needs to be escorted to an evac zone at the other side of the city. The cops have to kill him. With the blues 'n twos blaring in the distance, the chase is on.
Playing on the cop team is a game of cat and mouse, thanks to the other little advantage they have in being able to see where the crook team is at any given time on radar (the crooks are totally radar-blind).
In our play session the law instantly then became all about stealth; turning off the sirens, sticking your best driver behind the wheel and coming at the enemy players from all angles.
The cops can also see which player is the VIP on their radar, so the other crooks serve merely as a nuisance in the inevitable high-speed city chase that ensures - just like the one we mentioned above.
The crooks in our session were far more enjoyable to play as (which isn't a problem because the teams are swapped after each round). The satisfaction of shooting out the tyres of a pursuing four-player cop car, and then watching it smack into the side of a bus stop as you speed off towards freedom, cannot and hasn't been matched in any game of this type we've played.
Another incredible, typically GTA moment happened when in the passenger seat of a player-driven Crook vehicle. My driving buddy escaped the chasing player's cops by nailing a hidden jump ramp, sending us flying over several walls and the Liberty City highway.