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GTA IV Multiplayer

Hands-on: Liberty City, 16-players, no holds barred...

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The two pursuing player cops scuffed it, span through the sky and landed upside down in a pile of sparks as we sped off to freedom. Just like in the movies.

Midnight Club
Next we loaded up GTA Race, a frantic, incident-filled competition across one of Liberty City's many islands. At first glance it's a simple, Midnight Club-style race with waypoints pin-pointing the way ahead. But thanks to a number of subtle gameplay nuances it's a lot more enjoyable than we expected.

Weapons, for example, are laid out across the road Mario Kart-style, and you can only carry one at a time. This has you constantly choosing between Uzis to shoot out the tyres of the bloke in front, or grenades to decimate the guys behind you.

Zoom

Realism is a much stronger theme in GTA IV's driving than before. It's much more difficult to simply right-angle around a corner at speed, and if you don't want to be sent into the side of a building by a bump in the road, you have to slow down. Damage as well makes a massive difference to your handling, and flat tyres resulted in us having to bail out more than once.

From our time, it felt a lot more about learning the streets than driving like a souped-up Saxo as well; in nearly every game we played the first corner resulted in a massive pile-up as everyone scrambled for the lead. Slowing down to hold back helped us avoid the chaos every time, even if it is a really cheeky tactic.

Thankfully though, this being GTA, taking a wrong turn or crashing into the scenery isn't an automatic game over. Thanks to the inevitable gun-crash-'n-explosion carnage up front, catching up with the pack isn't a difficult task. Especially because you can bail out of your starting car (which every player begins with) and hop on a bike or sports car laying around in the street.

Talking of bikes, one awesome GTA Race scenario had us weaving in an out of the Francis International Airport terminal on two-wheelers. Underneath moving 737s, around baggage carts and down the runway in high-speed SMG-blasting chaos; it's one of the few game modes that actually had us chirping, "Let's do that again!"

Co-op carnage
By far the most impressive section of our play date, in terms of sheer scale and spectacle at least, was the one mentioned in the opening of this article.

Hangman's Noose is a no-holds-barred, co-operative battle with Liberty City's entire police force. This is the real meat of GTA IV's co-op, which teams you up with three mates to protect NPC gangster lord Kenny Petrovic as hell breaks loose and the SWAT teams descend. Make it across the city to the rendezvous point with Kenny alive - and your three teammates - and you've won the game. Simple as that.

Zoom

The opening section has you battling against the Liberty City police at Francis International Airport, which is just as impressive to have a shoot-out in as it is to drive through in GTA Race. Massive jumbo jets move around as you dash to and from baggage holds, and the scale of the airport buildings themselves is far more intimidating that anything in San Andreas.

Extra cops scream onto the scene in armoured cars from all sides, and can easily catch you off guard if you're too dazzled by the pretty planes. Kenny is held up inside his private plane at the rear of the terminal, and will refuse to come out until you've taken out all the police gunmen first.

With four guys covering the side of Kenny's private plane, the AI coppers admittedly don't provide much challenge (although you can turn off stuff like auto-aim in the host options). But Hangman's Noose is all about the spectacle; getting Kenny and a second player in an armed van and then sending off your mates to cover in a parked up attack chopper.

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