I’ve been a huge fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise since 3 came and ate my childhood. I don’t mean that it destroyed my life, but more took up a large portion of it, what would feel like minutes roaming the streets of liberty city would , in fact, be hours. The newest installment of GTA is easily doing that, but Rockstar has embarked a rather ambitious journey of bringing the world GTA and populating it with multiple players. This isn’t an entirely new outing, GTA IV had an online mode that was less than spectacular but still fun to play in, GTA Online polishes that fun up and makes you feel connected to the world.
My time with GTA Online is still fairly limited, the mode was opened up to anyone with a copy of GTA V today, what I’ve seen so far is encouraging despite the bugs and glitches that tend to come with any online outing. You start out by creating your character in an interesting way. To begin with you can select the grandparents for each parent, your choice dictates what your mother and father look like which in turn determines what you look like as well. Players who have a linked Rockstar Social Club account are given the ability to use John Marston of Red Dead Redemption fame as your father. From there, players determine their lifestyle which affects bodily appearance and which clothes and accessories you start with. Once you’re satisfied, you arrive in Los Santos and get picked up by Franklin’s friend Lamar. From that point you go through several tutorial missions that run you through tricking out your car and explaining trackers and insurance to getting new clothes. You’re also encouraged to take on jobs and participate in multiplayer matches and even begin the game by taking part in a street race.
The city of Los Santos doesn’t feel quite as alive as it does in the main game, there are fewer pedestrians and the traffic feels calmer but the city doesn’t completely feel dead. There is enough going on to believe you’re in the same place and there is plenty to keep you busy. As you progress by doing missions, playing in multiplayer matches, etc you gain RP or reputation points. These unlock new clothes, weapons, car customizations and more giving players something new to look forward to on a regular basis. To avoid being griefed by other players, you can enable passive mode which stops you from being able to pull weapons in return for not being gunned down randomly by other players. You also have some control over the instances you join if you’re the antisocial type. Players can form crews and work together to take on bigger jobs or just cause general mayhem if they so choose but so far it doesn’t feel entirely needed if that’s not your bag.
Rockstar has already stated they expect to come across some bumps and glitches as they get everything ironed out, I personally experienced some stalls between loading screens but other than that the trauma has been relatively low impact. Overall the experience could use some polish, which Rockstar was promising before the mode even went live, but It’s a lot of fun. You get a sense of investment in creating your own little crimelord that is otherwise lacking in the main game due to the characters already being fleshed out. In the story mode you control the actions of these characters and make some basic decisions for them but in Online you ARE the character and that progression and investment feels all the more visceral.