GTA-IV’s multiplayer system is … a little confusing. There are some gems in there that keep me from calling it “crap” and “pathetic”; the interface scores 1/5 points but the multiplayer experience is so much fun it scores 9/5 points, making up for the loss.
“Quick Match” => “Join Existing Game, unless there really isn’t one available”
“Custom Match” => “Host your own game”
“Player Match” => “Practice mode”
“Ranked Match” => “Where everyone is playing”
“Party Mode” => “GTA-IV Lobby”
“Free Mode” => “Dissapointment”
To clarify: Player Match is basically an all-comers mode where you can invite your buddies to play with you, with zero persistance.
Ranked Matches, however, have a persistant score accumulator (cash); as your cash goes up, so does your rank. It tries to match people up based on their rank so that newbs aren’t fighting pros, etc.
For some reason, you can’t invite your buddies to ranked matches the same way you can Player Matches. This struck me as a little bizzare. I thought, perhaps, it was seen as exploitable.
But then it turns out that “Party Mode” is basically “Ranked Match” for friends.
Party Mode is sort of neat; you basically spawn into a private, free-mode, into which you can invite your buddies and goof around. When you’re ready to play, the host selects which co-op game you want to play and badda-bing, everyone gets redirected to the same Ranked game.
Which is cool, except what if I want to just invite my one buddy on over to this Ranked match I’m waiting on?
It really feels like the devs resisted the idea of multiplayer. For instance, the fact that you have to load up single player mode so that you can access the in-game phone to select multiplayer. GAH. Loading is so slow on the 360. They should rename it the ‘L’box 360.
That, presumably, is to retain the traditional flow of hte GTA series: Logos, Splash Screens, Loading, Game They could have put a non-blocking “Press < for multiplayer” at one of the Splash screens.
The rest of my problems with GTA-MP is that the brand is traditionally ultra-minimalistic and spartan when it comes to user interface; when multiplayer works, this is great. When multiplayer has any kind of problem, it’s worse than a fish out of water.