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'GTA' multiplayer lets you and 15 pals cause havoc

  • Story Highlights
  • In team deathmatch, you can battle in teams that are even or lopsided
  • You can change weapon types, add or subtract police, traffic, pedestrians
  • Modes include: Team deathmatch, cops 'n crooks and hangman's noose
  • In race mode 16 people can play in a no-holds barred lap race to the finish
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By Douglass C. Perry
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(GameTap.com) -- I've often asked myself what I would do without a cell phone. In "Grand Theft Auto IV," just as in real life, the answer is simple: not much.

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In the new Grand Theft Auto game released at the end of April you can play in a team deathmatch with up to 16 people.

Just as Rockstar Games created seamless transitions in past GTA titles, jumping from the single-player campaign to the new multiplayer component is as easy as pushing a button.

You can drive in a 100 mph car chase with five cops on your tail. Walk down the street and admire the light shining through the arches of a bridge. Or jump off a 200-foot skyscraper.

Just hit a face button, toggle to "multiplayer," and the game jumps online and entirely new modes.

During our hands-on test time at Rockstar Games in New York the publisher revealed for the first time four new multiplayer modes (the total number will be more than 15), including team deathmatch, GTA race, cops 'n robbers, and hangman's noose.

Among those modes are options for traditional adversarial games (deathmatch or team deathmatch, for example), or co-op games such as cops 'n crooks and hangman's noose, where teamwork is essential.

We played the Xbox 360 version and didn't see the PS3 build. Also, representatives reiterated it will ship both versions April 29.

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GTA IV supports up to 16 players (on both PS3 and Xbox 360) online, and each mode offers enormous customizations specific to each mode. In team deathmatch, you can set up an equally balanced eight-on-eight battle or a lopsided two-on-14 fight.

You can pick a custom or quick game, and party leaders can tweak options to alter each game significantly: You can change weapon types (all handguns for instance or only snipers), add or subtract police, traffic, pedestrians, or blips (i.e., enemy location).

New strategies are created by the addition of enemy blips and the cover system, enabled by pressing the right shoulder button. Enemies show on screen while moving and disappear when stationary.

The amount of times I snuck up and shot an enemy dead was matched by the times opponents jumped from hiding to tan my behind. I also was able to tweak the reticule width, gamertag display, weather type, daytime, and control even voice chat options.

"If players want they can jump online and never even play the single-player again," Jeronimo Barrera, vice president of game development, told GameTap. "Online is a serious time sucker. You're going to have to be really careful if you're married," he added with a smile.

The online game is split into two types, ranked and unranked.

Many developers find gamers are wary of playing ranked games because skilled players lay in wait for newbies. But the reward for ranked players is cash. Cash is earned by winning levels, and it earns players more character customization options.

More significantly, cash awards are accumulated throughout a persistent career, which is how Rockstar "ranks" your skill level.

While the single-player campaign doesn't support co-op like "Gears of War," a good example of cooperative opportunities to earn more cash is found in cops 'n crooks, which enables up to 16 people to play in two distinct teams.

If you coordinate with the whole team and get your boss character from point A to point B, your team earns more points than if only a single player (and the boss) got there.

Likewise, the higher difficulty level that's selected (from easy, medium, and hard), the more money each win earns. When you're not playing as the crooks escorting a boss, you're the cops in pursuit.

Sometimes co-op play is as simple as charting a map. Players who jump in an escape car but aren't driving can set on-the-fly way points using the on-screen map. If your GPS buddy is map savvy, he or she will lead you through town using the most direct route, which appears on screen for your team.

GTA Race is ripped straight from previous GTA single-player campaigns. Up to 16 people can play in a no-holds barred lap race to the finish. But like past GTA games, cars are destructible, and drivers can arm themselves with pistols, machine guns, rifles, and more.

This means you can drive any car, moped, or forklift you see; heck, even walking across the race line even counts, as long as you're first. As our three-hour session revealed, it's just as much fun preventing others from crossing the finish line and disrupting their racing lines with Molotov cocktails and grenades as it is to win. (Another mode Rockstar casually mentioned was GT mode, which is a straight weaponless race.)

Sticking with tradition, no cars are licensed, but fans can pick from car classes, and in each class, they can pick from familiar favorites such as Infernos, Turismos, Comets, and Supercars, to name a few.

Hangman's noose is part of a collection of co-op, objective-based missions engaging four humans versus a countless AI horde.

Each mission starts with a cutscene, is followed by a set of goals, and requires teamwork to achieve success. These ministories aren't part of the single-player game; they're random. Our mission opened up with an unending stream of SWAT police (called "noose" in GTA IV) driving into an airport runway, flanking and surrounding our team.

The object was to survive the first few waves of noose attacks, secure a vehicle, prevent Kenny Petrovic from dying, and get to the designated location. Within seconds of jumping into a car, the difficulty level increases, as multiple helicopters swarm the skies. Cop cars congregate setting up road blocks, pedestrian cars get in the way, and, in the medium and hard levels, GTA's trademark orchestrated blend of chaos, skill, and madness ensues.

Rockstar's multiplayer mode debut is a first for the series. The four modes we played show Rockstar North has made the hard transition past its successful trilogy, offering an impressive variety in gameplay types (more than 15 modes total), hundreds of custom options including character creation, and the organic integration of full world online maps including vehicles such as cars, boats, and helicopters. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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