As with just about every game, there are both ranked and unranked matches. Ranked matches are the only way to progress up the ranking system (from 0-10). Progressing up the ranks not only makes you feel better about yourself, but it opens up new clothing and accessories to better customize your character. There's not a lot of pull to rank up, though, because many of the modes don't use your custom character. The co-op modes and Cops n' Crooks use a different cast, so if those tend to be your primary focus, having new outfits for a character you never see isn't going to mean much.

I won't go so far as to say that GTA IV is the best multiplayer out there, but it's definitely among the best. Having Liberty City in full effect and only seeing occasional instances of slowdown is a real treat. When a few million people load hop online, it's anyone's guess how the game will hold up, but from my experience, playing with 16 people in Free Mode only caused occasional hiccups. Certainly not enough to make me stop playing.

Closing Comments
Grand Theft Auto III was a revolutionary title, one that inspired a whole new generation of 3D action games. Grand Theft Auto IV is just as big a leap forward, though perhaps in subtler ways, and sets a new benchmark for open-world games. Everything in GTA IV works in harmony. The story would be nothing without the city; the city gains realism from the physics engine; the physics complement the improved AI; the AI would make no sense without the new cover system. And on and on. There is no one major weak aspect.

A "10" is not a score we give out very often. In fact, the last time we gave a 10 to a console game was Soul Calibur in 1999. A 10 doesn't mean a game is perfect -- it means a game is pushing boundaries, expanding a genre, and doing many things to a level so far above and beyond its competitors that they overshadows any flaws. Certainly, GTA IV has some issues, the most noticeable being the occasional flaw in the cover system, but there are many more pieces of GTA IV that are better than anything I've seen from a game in the past decade. We don't give 10s often -- just to games that merit the score.

Another Take

It's not very often that a game comes along that turned out to be pretty much exactly what I expected, and yet also managed to wow me practically every second. Grand Theft Auto IV is a GTA game through and through, but its execution is so epic and fantastic that you can't help but be in awe at the fact that it has come together as well as it has. Rockstar North has really outdone itself and has issued proof that it is not only the founding father of open world games, but also the undisputed king of the genre.

GTA IV manages to break every negative stigma from past games in the franchise while keeping the series' core gameplay intact, albeit much more in-depth than ever before. The new aiming and cover mechanics, while not perfect, do a fantastic job of completely changing the way combat works while keeping it at least as intense as we'd seen in past titles. Mission progression is paced incredibly well, and side things like managing relationships directly impact your game.

Liberty City is simultaneously the most realistic and immersive location we've seen in a game like this. The amount of detail that you'll find here is astounding, not only visually but with regards to the things pedestrians and whatnot will do. Watching someone yank out a newspaper and hold it over their head while running for cover when it begins to rain is just one example of the personality and small touches of realism that you'll see everywhere.

But while the mechanics, side missions and other core gameplay elements are all fantastic, it's the story and overall presentation that elevates GTA IV to heights very rarely seen in gaming. Rockstar North has once again done an amazing job of walking the fine line between humor and seriousness with characters that you're immediately able to connect to. They're almost all bad people, to be sure, but each of them has character weaknesses and vulnerabilities that make them real. Characters have reasons for doing what they do, and it's apparent that they also have morals and inner demons as well. The cast plays perfectly into a fascinating story that is not only is easily the best of the franchise, but one of the best you'll find in gaming anytime soon.

I could go on and on about why Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the best games we've ever seen and why even folks who are easily offended should play it, but that would be pointless. The only thing you need to know is that you have to play this game. Period.

IGN Ratings for Grand Theft Auto IV (X360)
Rating Description See Our Glorious Home Theater Setup!
out of 10 click here for ratings guideGet Ratings Information
10 Presentation
The story is Oscar quality. The use of the phone as a gaming portal is genius. There's really nothing more that could be asked for from GTA IV.
10 Graphics
The level of detail is astounding. Liberty City feels alive and lived in. While there are some technical issues, the artistic merits push the score to the max. A true marvel.
10 Sound
The dialogue makes the story. Without the excellent writing and the stellar voice acting, the story would fail. And the soundtrack kills -- more than 200 songs and almost all are great choices.
10 Gameplay
The cover and targeting system work great. Blind firing with an RPG is a thing of beauty. Everything works in harmony and not a single one of the missions is bad. The most fun I've had in years.
10 Lasting Appeal
The story will take anywhere from 25-45 hours to complete, depending on your skill level and attention span. There's plenty more to do once you finish the story, such as excellent multiplayer.
(out of 10 / not an average)
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