The reason I never reviewed the online portion of Grand Theft Auto V is because it wasn’t available when the game launched. Gamers had to wait two weeks before getting a chance at playing the online portion of the title. When they did…they weren’t happy. GTA Online was plagued by all manner of bugs, most notably, people losing their money, vehicles and characters when the game failed to save them.
I heard about all of these problems and kept my distance. There was no way that I was going to put up with having my character erased several times or having all of the money I worked hard to steal suddenly vanish on me. No thanks! I was busy preparing for and attending this year’s New York Comic Con so I wasn’t really able to play the online portion anyway.
During NYCC is when the game was patched to a degree where I felt comfortable enough to dive in and check things out. Within the first five minutes I hated it. People would gun me down for trying to deposit my money or just to get their jollies. I expressed my initial frustrations with GTA Online on The Throwdown #58. Rachael Murdock (associate editor supreme) called me an old man for bitching and told me “dude, everyone’s Trevor online”. She was right and after having played some games with her and the STFUandPLAY crew, I realized that the only way to properly play GTA Online is to mentally become Trevor.
After dropping the nice guy bit and getting my hands on some decent hardware (teh gunz), I finally started to enjoy GTA Online and I haven’t been able to put it down. This is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had with an online game and this is coming from a guy who typically hates anything online. There are some canned modes (like all online games have) but the fact that GTA Online gives me the freedom to do what I want and doesn’t force to do the typical Deathmatch type of stuff is fantastic. I can be a loner or I can play with friends. It’s almost as if Rockstar said: “let’s make an online mode that Tony Polanco would like”. They’ve succeeded.
One of the cool things about GTA Online is the sense of progression. You begin the game by creating your character and then afterwards you go through a lengthy tutorial that shows you the ropes of online. This setup makes you feel like you’re a part of the world and as you continue to do more missions and level up, you’ll get a real sense that you’re building something. Missions become more complex and you’re able to afford the nicest cars and apartments that the city has to offer. You aren’t conquering Los Santos but you are carving out your own piece of it. My biggest problem with online games is that you don’t have a narrative thrust to keep you going. While GTA Online doesn’t exactly have a traditional narrative, it does make you feel like you’re progressing towards something.
In my experience with this game I’ve had the most fun when playing with my friends and crew members. Running around in the open world and getting into random trouble never gets old because it’s never the same. Whether it be hunting down bounties, getting revenge on asshole players, receiving millions of dollars from random GTA sugar daddies or fleeing from tanks and jets; playing online with my buddies never ever gets old. This is the core of the GTA online experience for me.
If you desire a bit more structure or—dare I say it—a more stereotypical online experience, then GTAO has several modes to fit your needs. There are Deathmatches and Team Deathmatches. These modes are self explanatory: kill to win. There are a few race types as well: standard, GTA and rally. GTA race types are my personal favorite because you’re allowed to do whatever you want and you can use things like missiles and thunderbolts to destroy your foes. Yup…GTA races are basically like Mario Kart and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also a horde mode called survival that pits you and your allies against ten waves of foes. Out of the standard type modes, Survival is my favorite since you get a ton of cash for completing all ten waves. Find a good camp spot and earn some easy money and experience!
The missions that you receive or can call up for are well done and this is where the sense of progression I talked about earlier really sets in. At first you’ll get sent on some lowly fetch quests but as things continue, the missions become more dangerous, complex and multilayered. You’ll earn a lot of money and experience from doing these and I found them to be addictive. When I’m feeling anti-social I do these missions alone but I can always invite my friends or randoms if I want.
As you level up, you’ll have access to better weapons and the ability to call for certain things like helicopter pick ups, airstrikes and mercenaries. With all of the cash you’ll be earning (or stealing) you can buy clothes, cars, apartment and weapons. You unlock stuff pretty frequently too so it’s easy to lose hours of your life playing since there is also something new to check out. There are also a wide variety of side missions to engage in like there were in the single player game.
Although Heists—which are a big part of the single player—are noticeably missing from GTA Online, I absolutely love this mode. You can indulge in more traditional online modes or create your own fun by messing around in Freemode. Rockstar has managed to create an online experience that caters to a wide variety of gamers. I think these guys are on to something here and this could be a nice glimpse of how online worlds could work in the future. Grand Theft Auto Online isn’t perfect but it’s the best online experience that I’ve ever had.
Grand Theft Auto V was produced by Rockstar Games and distributed by Take-Two Interactive. It is available now for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.