I played the multiplayer side of "Grand Theft Auto IV" for just one day. So long as I was playing with friends, it was fun. Without them, not so much.
Gamers -- at least my friends -- seemed to leave "GTA IV"'s multiplayer in droves. That was partly because we never knew what game mode to play. Some of the modes were fun in short spurts, but didn't hold up after a few rounds.
THQ and Volition are attempting to solve this case of attention deficit disorder in the M-rated "Saints Row 2" by eliminating the idea of separate game modes and rolling them all into one. They call this the "Strong Arm" game type.
I learned at a hands-on demo of the new mode in San Francisco last week that it just might work.
Every few minutes during a Strong Arm game, the objective changes. One moment, a team might be frantically driving prostitutes to various clients in a cash grab. A few minutes later, however, they could be crashing into one another in a "Pain"-esque game mode where you're rewarded with money for hurting yourself. The constantly shifting game type means players who are weak in one area can suddenly become useful in another and stops one team from dominating the other if they're more coordinated.
The test for Strong Arm mode will be the variety of the game types and whether their gimmicky nature holds up after a few hours of play. The potential here is that Volition could seemingly keep Strong Arm forever fresh by dropping in new game types as downloadable content in the same way that Bungie Studios and Infinity Ward keep "Halo 3" and "Call of Duty 4" alive with new playlists.
Unfortunately, that's hard to gauge at a multiplayer event where most people are spending their time coming to grips with the controls and game types. It'll be hard to know how "Saints Row 2"'s multiplayer experiment plays out until we're given more time with the game.
That won't be long, though -- "Saints Row 2" drops on October 14.