In February 2009, Rockstar North released their first expansion for Grand Theft Auto IV. The Lost & Damned will probably be best remembered for its downbeat plot and extensive redefinition of what we could expect from downloadable content, but for me its greatest gift was tucked away in the multiplayer section.
The greatness of GTA IV’s online multiplayer has perhaps been understated a bit since the game’s release – the base game’s Cops ‘n Robbers mode was incredible – but the fact that people aren’t constantly, enthusiastically singing the praises of TLAD’s incredible one-on-one ‘Chopper vs. Chopper’ mode is particularly sad.
Conceptually, Chopper vs. Chopper is genius. One player is on a bike of their choosing, racing around the entirety of Liberty City, passing through checkpoints. The other player is in an indestructible attack helicopter, equipped with two machine guns that fire explosive bullets.
The pilot, obviously, is seeking the violent destruction of their friend (because this mode really needs to be played with a friend to get the most out of it). Roles are swapped each time the biker dies, and the winner is whoever passes through the most checkpoints within the allotted time. You can alter the traffic and pedestrian numbers, but I recommend maxing them both out, because half the fun comes from missing your opponent but blowing up everything and everyone around them.
Every single kill in Chopper vs. Chopper is a story worth telling. In fact, most of the attempted kills are more exciting than anything you’ve ever seen in a Michael Bay film. The burnt husks of exploded cars fly past you; you’re thrown from your bike and desperately scramble for new transportation as your friend destroys all your options; you turn a vital corner while the helicopter right behind you reloads.
This is a damn dramatic mode, one in which loud noises constantly deafen the bike rider, roads are seemingly engulfed in hellfire as shots rain down, and David and Goliath moments play out as the biker tries to take out the helicopter pilot with their automatic pistol (which is actually pretty doable if they’re on foot, because the salvo of shots that has thrown the player off their bike is unlikely to have left the helicopter in a good position for an immediate secondary attack).
Eventually, when the time limit is cranked up, Chopper vs. Chopper fades into the background of whatever conversation you’re having during play, but it’s rare that you’ll go more than a minute without swearing or laughing really hard at something that just happened. The question ‘how did that not kill you?’ is asked frequently, but in the three years I’ve been playing the game semi-regularly, not once has it been asked in anger. Winning is nice, but absolutely secondary to the joy and chaos of the experience. Chopper vs. Chopper is an incredible realisation of a fantastically absurd idea, and the most fun multiplayer mode I’ve experienced on this generation of consoles.
By James O'Connor