It’s finally here, Grand Theft Auto Online, the game world in which you can cause havoc, pain and mayhem in order to get paid and get paid good. Sadly the online portion of GTA V has been plagued with problems since its launch, though some of the errors have been ironed out thanks to Rockstar Games. All I can say is hang in there, GTA Online will still be here when everything is back to normal and the more you wait, the more you’re going to enjoy the experience when you finally begin playing.
Online is a whole new ball game as far as GTA V is concerned, it a has a few little extras on top of the single player portion which makes this a fantastic addition. With that said it doesn’t work like a simple addition to the single player like most multiplayer elements feel, it has its own feel and flavor which tastes oh so good.
As with most multiplayer games, you are able to create your own character and customise almost everything about them but the way in which they present it is rather confusing. Unlike the options available to you in such games as Saints Row, here you have the option to choose how your parents and your grandparents from both side of the family look, thus adjusting sliders to change your characters appearance. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea, I have to admit, but once past this stage you shouldn’t need to look back.
Once you’ve created your character you can then jump straight in to the online which begins with a cutscene giving you a small introduction as to how your character got to Los Santos and then a race ensues. On a personal note I‘m not a huge fan of racing, so Rockstar’s choice for the first mission was rather odd, though easy. Lamar (Franklin’s friend) is the guy you have to beat here and although this is a single player race, you versus the AI, you still have to connect to the online in order to play. The whole process can take up to 20 minutes, frustrating as it can be, I guess you have to start somewhere.
After each mission, race or other activity you will earn money and reputation points which will increase your overall rank. The higher your rank, the more items and missions that become available to you. Once this is done you are then able to freely go around the map as you wish; walk, run, drive or fly, you play it however you want to. Cruising around the middle of the hustle and bustle, listening to Fergie on the radio and shooting up some online punks really is rather entertaining.
Missions are varied and can include being put in to two teams for face offs, chasing down AI characters for drugs or other must have materials and races against random opponents or friends should you choose so. Missions can be found using the phone or can be quickly accessed using the back button (Xbox 360) feature which brings up an in game menu to quickly select where you want to go or what you wish to do, this is then shown on your GPS.
Like in single player, your phone does almost everything, this is a godsend. You’re not endlessly messing around in menus like you seemed to in GTA IV, you can quickly browse contacts, jobs lists and more. Did I mention you can also take pictures, you posers better get ready!
A big factor of GTA Online are crews, something which the Rockstar Social Club have been advertising for weeks in advance of the actual game coming out. You can join any public crew you like or create a private one for just you and your friends, in these crews you can conduct activities together and gain extra RP to increase your ranks. Inviting your crew members is also easy, you can simply find them in the contacts area of the phone, give them a quick ‘call‘ and they might come and join you. It’s wise to bring a friend along as back up as playing out in the open world can become troublesome, especially when someones packing more than just a pistol.
If you like earning your money and enjoy keep that money, getting killed or being killed means either losing or receiving a small wad of cash, your money is split in to two categories for this. Bank and cash, the money that’s in the bank is safe from the attackers online, the cash in your pocket though is there for the taking. I found this to be a great mechanism, you’re always going to have some money to spend, even if you find that you’re dying often and the I’m hoping that the money you purchase in the game using real currency is applied to your bank amount rather than you cash in hand amount. There is an option to set the game to passive mode, whilst in this you can’t be shot by other players and you can’t shoot them, as the tip screen says “it’s widely unrealistic!“. This stops anyone from losing or gaining money.
If you don’t like joining crews you can still get the experience as you play, some missions require more than one person so there’s always going to be someone around for you to hang around and enjoy the mayhem with, even if it’s just for a short while. Unless you get on said persons nerves and they feel the need to kill you, steal your money and then take your car.
You have access to Ammu-Nation’s, clothing shops, hairdressers, garages and more as you play, though some of these need a certain rank to unlock. The only noticeable difference between the single player and online regarding these are the prices, everything is far more expensive in the online world. One big problem I have are the weapons and when they’re able to be used, from the start of the game until you rank up quite a few times, you’re stuck with a pistol and that doesn’t do much after a certain distance. The majority of the good weapons are locked until then, this isn’t a major drawback but I would have liked to have seen a couple more weapons available from the get go. I did notice the shotgun, though I’m not sure if this is available to everyone as it was to me?
Garages aren’t unlocked at the start either, which is a shame, but once you’ve ranked up you’re then free to find cars you like and store them there. Cars are fully customisable, like your character, just as in the single player. You can beef up one ride specifically for races and have another for riding out in the dirt up North. A new addition regarding cars is the ability to add a tracker and purchase insurance, meaning if you lose your ride or it ends up totaled you can just ring up and get a new one, it’s just like real life, though I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing?