Grand Theft Auto Online: A Review
If you're a JGG on HubPages regular, you'll know I'm one to step outside of the norm, but I don't do everything in my power to give opposite thoughts to everyone else. This review is no different, meaning that while everyone else's reviews of GTAO are highly in-depth and claim it to be one of the best online experiences they've ever had, mine are less so. Grand Theft Auto Online isn't really what I'd hoped it to be and in some cases you can't blame me for being disappointed, however there will be areas where it's not going to be possible for this day and age, and I should learn to live with it.
It's not that GTAO is bad per se, it's just average in its presentation. In theory, players get to meet others from all around the world and partake in GTA-esque missions like gang wars, drug deals and generally re-enact a bad day in Bosnia (feel free, sheltered mothers, to use this as ammunition in your war on video games). In practice, it's only fun when you're with Crew members with similar interests or with good friends, and even then friends can only make missions, races and deathmatch go so far before you're bored.
Needless to say, Grand Theft Auto Online had a rocky launch and it didn't help that Rockstar didn't have an open/closed beta to work out the kinks. Of course errors are expected from the online side of a game, but not being able to log in for the first month - and should you get in experience frequent disconnections - was nightmarish. Those who did play the game during the video game apocalypse simulator would receive compensation of $500,000 in-game, which people have already spent rather quickly on things like apartments and vehicles. Because I was fortunate enough to not have the game online at the time, I'm now looking at it a month later with an open mind and, at the risk of sounding sentimental, an open heart.
The first example of GTAO's attempts at trying to make a personal online experience is when making one's own character, which sadly doesn't work in this game. Perhaps in the Sims games where the developers have had more experience with this thing, but not the staff of Rockstar, who didn't have a clue. When making your character you don't just have things like facial options, weight and height options and a slider for each; instead you have this genetic hierarchy system, where players change the looks of their grandparents, how their children turned out, and then finally how you turned out. This is a great innovation but it's broken beyond belief. I can't see how the staff of Rockstar upon making their characters said "This is exactly how I wanted my character turned out, and is so much more convenient and intuitive than sliders".
The fact is this isn't a game like Sims where your family plays one of the games' largest roles. Most of the time I'm not going to be looking at my Crew boy's face but rather the back of his head aiming down my sights, or the boot of my car. As IGN said your character - and everyone else's - doesn't look right, and I agree. If anything these characters look like they're Saints Row members making a cameo appearance in Grand Theft Auto.
Another thing that adds to the personal experience is the Crews, or so you might think. Crews are made and joined through the Rockstar Social Club, another membership you have to make in order to get online and all the conveniences GTA has to offer. The only way Crews can help you is if you invite members of them to your matches to play with you, or if you play a Crew-only match. While crews sound like a great way to meet new and likeminded players, I was very much mistaken, because they're the equivalent of the World of Warcraft "social" guilds. Just to be clear, there are some genuinely fun and interactive crews out there, much like in World of Warcraft there's properly social guilds, but for the most part they're scarce and don't care if you wear their colours and emblems or not.
Upon entering Online, you'll immediately be introduced to Lamar who is helping you get some work in Los Santos, thanks to meeting on Life Invader. Once you're there, you meet Simeon and Gerald who will help you in your quest for ultimate fame and glory, but sadly can't help much against other players who are constantly gunning for you. The story has no depth and is limited in length, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, you've still got the largest GTA campaign yet and a multitude of things to do even after completing it. Upon coming to Los Santos though, you'd best get your flak jacket ready. And when I tell you my experiences, I'd best get mine too.
For my first race and mission, things weren't all that bad. I met some great sports who were fair and even gave good feedback despite being new to GTA on PS3 (my driving skills weren't grand thanks to the Dual Shock 3's terrible back triggers). These gave me high hopes for what the rest of the game would be like, but when I went to explore the entirety of Los Santos and see what was so different about online mode, things went sour.
When another player comes up behind you in their car and then slowly creeps around you before they block your path, you're just assuming that they're checking out the new fish of this whole new pond. That's fine, it's expected seeing as rank is something to be respected in this game. But when they just stop there, it's quite clear they're not there to be social and welcoming to the neighbourhood: they're aiming down their sights with care to make absolutely sure they don't destroy your car, but the driver. Interacting with random players isn't easy in GTAO and it doesn't help when going near someone or driving up to them makes them whip out a gun at a moment's notice. It was when I saw toward the bottom left of my screen so many kill announcements that I realised the online counterpart of GTA5 was purely PvP. Or as I like to call it, "Open season on the new guy".
Thankfully you can save yourself from all the drama and trauma of open world Player versus Player combat by entering missions, races and deathmatches of all kind which really spice up the gameplay. Without these GTAO would be incredibly boring and would offer no more than the spawncamping and sniping of players who aren't in Passive Mode (which costs $100 to get into temporarily, and only works on foot). These are never ending and there's plenty of them, but how long you can tolerate the rinsing and repeating of such events is totally up to you.
Despite Rockstar's strong suit being missions, they're very short and generic here, not to mention that there's little that can save you from the wrath of the trigger happy. You're not told that your teammates can kill you to claim the dropped drugs, evidence or other cargo and take the reward for themselves, so the term co-operation isn't just used lightly; it's as flimsy as a sheet of wet paper. To be fair you can't do this all the time though because you can give negative or positive feedback at the end of each match, and the more negative feedback people accumulate, the less chances they have of meeting good people and good players. Instead, they'll become what's called a Bad Sport, and will only be able to play with other Bad Sports until their reputation clears up. This is a great way to make sure people who don't play nicely get what they deserve but like any reputation system it can easily be abused, and people will give negative feedback for the sake of it. Furthermore, you can only give feedback as a whole and not to individual players, so after completing a match you can't give one person good feedback and the other lousy play - the thumbs up or down system only works based on how you found the match rather than the players.
The most infamous way of becoming a Bad Sport is by destroying other people's vehicles, but killing a player inside a vehicle is considered OK. Your own cars can be fitted with trackers to prevent them from being stolen or lost, and insured so you can recover them after being destroyed. I've rarely seen other people attempt to destroy my vehicle but instead aim for a clean headshot. You'd think this is smart, but it's hardly subtle when the guy doing it is right in front of me on the tracks of a tramline.
Author's note: I was supposed to be talking about races and PvP around 3 paragraphs ago. This is why I need an editor around me at all times. And preferably a medical professional.
Races however are an example of havoc combined with fun, something rarely seen in GTAO unless you're with buddies. In races you can not only partake in them but also make your own tracks, allowing you to make some very dangerous, casual or hilarious races. It's not until other players get angry when you make contact with their vehicles or start shooting when things really kick off, as the turbo and the SMGs come out and everything becomes serious. It's one of the funniest experiences to drive around the entirety of Blaine County in heated bloodlust, not sure on whether this is about winning the race or destroying your opponent. Not every race turns out to be like this but when they do you need to laugh, not get angry.
'Instanced' PvP is things like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Last Team Standing. These modes may not seem that attractive when compared to something like Call of Duty or Gears of War, but thanks to combat being so much more engaging, you're guaranteed to have a good time here and may put in a few more hours of DM before moving onto another game. It's great fun against random players, and having your own Crew members in the same team against others adds more to the authenticity of gang warfare, something I sadly didn't feel during my time with the Saint's Row games. This is where you can vent your anger after being griefed or had your car blown up by some thoughtless man with a rocket launcher. It's not as innovative or as different to other multiplayer games in this sense, but it sure is fun regardless. GTAO's deathmatches go to prove that you don't need a million guns and a billion maps to make things interesting.
Outside of the instanced content like missions and versus modes, there's not much to separate Online mode from the single player, which in my opinion was vastly more enjoyable and not just because it was my playground and had no interruptions. Robbing small stores is quite fun and is a great way of making cash, something that in the single player was next to virtually non-existent and the side of a milk carton. You can also take part in the multiple sports such as yoga, tennis, golfing and hunting, though the latter is something that players must score themselves as it's not a game mode. If those don't appeal to you, and you're not impressed by the sounds of TDM, races and missions, prepare to be disappointed. And with this, I bring to you my conclusion.
As I said before, GTAO is not bad, it's just not very good. The missions, races and versus modes get boring very easily and interaction with other players is minimal unless you're in a crew or with mates. It pains me to say this because Grand Theft Auto's quality is in the name: grand. Everything about this game is huge, over the top and is totally self aware, but the multiplayer mode in my experiences was a huge disappointment. Perhaps I was too demanding when I thought over 15 players would be in a single match? Then again, I can't complain because out of those 15 players, I interacted with approximately zero of them except through matchmaking systems.
If anything, Grand Theft Auto Online should've been a drop-in/drop-out system for the single player campaign, where other players can help you in missions, get an equal amount of money from doing mission (perhaps a little less each time you do that specific mission until a certain point to prevent exploitation). How it would work I've no idea, and I'm aware there would be a lot of flaws but I honestly believe it would be a huge improvement over the shallow open world experience that GTAO tries to boast.
Recommended? If you have GTA5 or are renting it, sure, give it a shot but I'd recommend the single player campaign over this. If you don't have GTA 5, don't rush to buy this title just for the online mode, because you can do so much better. I'm sorry to say these things about a game I love so much, but I'm equally as sorry that Rockstar have made an online mode where players are thrown in and left to fend for themselves.
Before we finish here though, I'd like to know your experiences with GTAO and tell other readers if you recommend it or not! Also, my review will change over time as my experiences differ and more things are added slowly but surely. With frequent patching and constant change, it's likely that the next review revamp will be coming shortly. Thanks for reading and have a pleasant day!