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Upon my first entrance to this online playground, I found myself walking along a main road heading to my first story-esque objective. In the distance, I could see another player screaming down the road in what looked to be a pretty fast car. Unsure of what to do but hopeful I could interact this person, I began to wander down a back alley as a fail safe just in case. The car zoomed past my alley and I felt somewhat relieved. As I began to walk back to the road to continue forward, that same car screeched in reverse and the shots began to fly. Before I could take cover behind a dumpster, my body slumped over and the person peeled out as they drove on. Welcome to Grand Theft Auto Online.
For me, one of the big draws of Grand Theft Auto V was the fact that the typically single player game was shipping with a completely separate mode, giving players the ability to play online in this massive sandbox. The promise was that whatever you could do in the single player game would be pretty much available for you to do here with friends. Being able to cause the sort of chaos normally reserved for the single player game was a massive reason why I purchased the game in the first place.
Unfortunately, as these super ambitious projects sometimes go, it hasn’t been a smooth road.
To say the launch of Grand Theft Auto Online was rough would be a massive understatement. Upon going live on October 1, the service has been marred by connection issues, deleted characters, bugs, glitches, and a host of gameplay problems. While the majority have been corrected by Rockstar at this point, the service is still far from stable as many users are reporting characters (and progress) being deleted and also some Online issues bleeding into the campaign. I myself currently have a bug where I can’t proceed in the campaign due to the game giving me a mission to do 10-15 missions early. As of right now, the only fix is to restart completely which at this point in my playthrough is heartbreaking. It’s been a frustrating couple weeks for players eager to take the heists online but here’s hoping the light is finally at the end of the tunnel.
If you thought the griefing was bad in Red Dead Redemption, you have not seen anything yet. Generally, unless you’re teamed with friends or other fellow crew members, you’ll find that other players won’t hesitate to kill you. If you’re carrying money not saved in a bank account, they’ll be able to steal that hard-earned cash. The good news here is that if you don’t like being riddled with bullet holes by other players, you can activate a sort of safe mode where you can’t be killed by other players and can’t kill them either.
The menu systems in place are not very intuitive and require the player to navigate through multiple layers to find what they’re looking for. The character creation section for example allows the player to customize what their parent’s grandparents looked like which will affect your appearance. It’s this sort of weird hereditary element, but unfortunately the grandparent portraits are comically small making it hard to see the finer details and thereby making the process much more difficult than they probably intended. It is also worth mentioning that the character models are not terribly flattering and somewhat ugly.
Alright, so it may seem like I have a storm cloud floating above me and while everything I mentioned above is a downer, it’s not all bad. Grand Theft Auto Online has a massive amount of potential and the ability to extend the life of this product far into the future. There’s no bigger thrill than pulling off jobs or heists with friends, having a random guy either help or hinder what you’re doing and absolute chaos erupt. These are things that cannot be manufactured. The gameplay online is so dynamic and unique that you can’t help but to laugh and keep playing over and over. there’s nothing quite like watching another player try to evade a massive police force up the side of the mountain and seeing a police helicopter scanning the mountain side for the player.
DICE likes to remind us that Battlefield has these moments which can only be experienced by playing their game. The same thing can be said about Grand Theft Auto Online. The world is impressively large, providing a virtual sandbox for players to make with it what they will. You can easily lose hours upon hours without accomplishing a single mission and just have a blast. Literally.
Outside of causing havoc in the open world, Rockstar has also added in missions (called Jobs) which add a sort of campaign flair to the multiplayer mode. You’ll see certain characters from the campaign like Lamar and Simeon who will give you things to do complete with cut scenes and dialogue. I found this to be an excellent addition and was happy to see how Online managed to blend elements from the campaign. Outside of Jobs, there are more traditional modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch, races, and other objective based modes. It’s your standard fare and something I wouldn’t solely buy the game to participate in.
Overall, the best would to describe the ambitious Grand Theft Auto Online would be potential. There’s a lot of great ideas at work here even if it’s taken much longer than expected for them to come together. While we’re not fully there yet, when Grand Theft Auto Online works, there’s almost nothing like it out there. In order to find that addictiveness, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and wade through a sea of rough issues. So grab some friends, venture online, and cause some chaos.