Grand Theft Auto Online, as you all know, was released as a standalone component because Rockstar wanted people to actually pay attention to it (*cough* GTAIV*), on November 1st. Now, if you were reading the news at the time, the release was extremely bumpy. Was it bumpy because the game was buggy? Not really. Was it bumpy because Rockstar didn’t anticipate millions of people trying to play it at the same time? No, they stated on their website that they were even getting more servers to try to anticipate the magnitude of users trying to play. Anyway, enough said about the launch. A lot of people complained, some avatars of people who ignored the bad servers and connections and continued to mega-grind for a week lost their avatars, and Rockstar apologized by paying all of us $500,000. Woohoo!
I’m going to straight up say it: I’ve been wanting something like Grand Theft Auto Online ever since I was 11 or whatever inappropriate age I was when I played GTAIII for endless amounts of hours just driving around and punching NPCs for no particular reason. Grand Theft Auto’s reactive world always fascinated me and feeling like a part of it with other people was only a distant dream back then; a fantasy that some even tried to realize with a San Andreas mod. I always love playing the story first, and it was smart that Rockstar waited a couple of weeks to release GTA Online to allow people to focus on that before heading into an online space. We could even form our own crews, make crew emblems, and recruit friends to play with us when it came out. A lot of planning that I was willing to do for a good time! I had to plan because, you see, I typically play games on the PC and have about 6 friends on PS3, even less who were probably willing to play GTA Online as frequently as I wanted to.
Fortunately I have one really good friend of mine who wanted to play this thing as badly as me… and so it was: two badass chicks in a sea of obnoxious dudes and pre-pubescent boys trying to recruit homies and make paper. The game is immediately fun when you start. There’s a 20 minute introduction/tutorial phase that is pretty necessary because it teaches you how to do “Jobs”, make money, and start you off with a car and clothes. You know, everything you need to know to be a hustler! After that you are sort of localized in a noob server until you level up higher.
The amount of activities you can participate in are pretty varied in addition to the missions and jobs! You can play golf, tennis, darts, arm wrestle, and rob stores. I never thought I would have so much fun playing virtual tennis or golf for that matter, but with a good friend these activities were made extremely memorable and fun. Even the jobs have a great variety to them: Last Team Standing, Deathmatch, Survival, Parachuting, Racing (bikes, cars, off-road), and GTA Race which allows you to shoot each other, of course! There’s so much to do all the time you just feel like you can’t get enough right off the bat. And every time you finish doing one job, it takes you and your team to a loading screen of 6 randomized jobs to vote on, or you can vote Replay, Refresh (new jobs) or Freemode to go back to roaming an instance of Los Santos with other players.
In the beginning, my friend and I were really focused on just hustling as much money as possible. The best way to do this as a new player is to rob stores, steal cars to sell, and do missions. We realized right away that some of these things were tough to achieve due to the other players in the game. I don’t know if it’s just the demographic of Grand Theft Auto Online or console gamers in general, but we quickly realized that 99% of people on there have the prerogative of just driving around to brainlessly murder whoever they can find in their pimped out sports car and yell “bitch” into the microphone. It’s kind of funny for a while because it feels realistic in a way and also gives you an excuse to hunt some guy down and kill him back like a childish game of tag. But after a while, when people do this while you’re trying to rob high priority vehicles or even just go shopping for a new pair of earrings, it just gets long, exasperated sighs from us now.
The other down side of the game is that it’s pretty tough to meet and connect with other people you like to join your crew. The higher level you get, the harder the missions are and you really need a team of skilled, consistent players to accomplish them for the big payouts. Most people playing are already part of a crew and have no reason to join my little personal crew, Dice Co. I wish they did though because playing with more than 2 people is a great, great time. It seems that Rockstar still hasn’t gotten the “Crew Only Session” option working in the menu that would allow you to play in a world with only your own gang members.
I’m going to be honest on this subject: half the reason I play the game is because I can’t get enough of car collecting, modding, and racing. The graphics and physics are just so darned good, it’s almost comparable to Forza or a similar AAA racing game… except that you can run people over. And trust me, having cars you love is all the incentive you need to go out and make money, even if it is simply to return to your garage and dump all of your money into your new Schyster Fusilade. There are hundreds of cars and motorcycles in the game to choose from, and they all resemble real-life vehicles. I have just been collecting high end sedans and sports cars that I love the aesthetics of in real life like the Mercedes 300 series, BMW M series, and Jaguars XF. They all sound difference, race differently, and just look awesome. Okay, I’ll stop talking about cars now. But, CARS.
I find GTA Online to be a complete success. Sure I get annoyed when I am trolled by other brainless players sometimes, but just having the opportunity to roam the gorgeous, meticulously crafted city of Los Santos with another player has been such a fun-filled, truly immersive experience so far that makes it hard to put my controller down. Sometimes you just have to stop grinding for money and take the time to ride around on a bicycle or a boat and just see the city for what it is. Go ahead and walk down the beach and hear what the NPCs have to say. Every time I play, I hear or learn something new about the world that I didn’t know before, and I love that. There’s a joke or reference around every corner just waiting for me to explore. I’m just now starting to learn my way around the city even though I’ve probably put 100 hours into the game (I have no idea how many hours I have put in…)
If you’re reading this and still hesitant about trying, just give it a shot! Join my crew, Dice Co, and just enable Passive Mode. Passive Mode costs $100 and gives you invulnerability from bullets from other players. Soooo, you can still be blown up in a car or run over. Grand Theft Auto Online is great fun and I really look forward to the free updates that Rockstar promises us on a regular basis. The beach bum pack is coming out on November 19th which will give added missions and content for players which my friend and I are going to be on like piranhas to a… I don’t know where I was going with that.
It’s hard to wrap up this review because I could talk about the fun I’ve already had in this game for hours. Go play!