When it comes to creating one of the most anticipated games of this generation, it is safe to assume that it accompanies a large amount of pressure. Releasing two weeks after the launch of GTA V, Grand Theft Auto Online hit with quite the bumpy start. Poor server connections, deleted characters and the loss of purchased money were some of the many issues surrounding the game. I myself had a level 13 character disappear without warning. But can the name of Grand Theft Auto and the love and work Rockstar put into it be enough to make it rise above any other multiplayer game on the market?
Grand Theft Auto Online takes the entire open world of GTA V and throws you in with up to sixteen players. You start as a new character before the events of the single player campaign. You get to choose what your character looks like and what type of attributes they have such as stamina and shooting prowess. The ability to upgrade your stats is here as well, enabling you to ever increase your performance. There are hundreds of missions that are available for you tackle on your own or with other players. This is what really makes the online shine: Rockstar chose to encourage players to stick together as part of a team. If you play with friends the amount of RP you earn increases. Reputation Points are the in game XP system which you get for just about everything you do. Crews make a return from Max Payne 3 and are a very nice feature to have. When you start a game, it searches for any friends or crew members playing so that you can join in to their existing game.
What you do online is really up to you. There is so much content already available that your choice is very broad. The entire map is a multiplayer lobby similar to Read Dead Redemptions” Free Roam, and strewn across the map are various missions for you to engage in, from the standard team death match, all the way to 1-1 arm wrestling. If just causing random chaos is more your style then you are in luck. Grab a grenade and see who gets in your path, or take a boat to the AlamoSea and get a sun tan. Watch out though, any of the other players can try to kill you and take your money. Get far enough along in the in game missions, and Lester will allow you to place a bounty on people’s heads. If you are stuck on a mountain holding off all the players trying to kill you and you run out of ammo, don’t worry, Meriwether will be there for a nominal fee to freshen your supply. It is the little things like this that help to make the game play so cohesive and purely addicting.
For most things you do you earn RP and Cash. Cash you need to carry on you to be able to enter certain missions as most missions have an “entry fee” that deducts before you start. This is where the in game economy gets a little tricky. Rockstar has clearly created a game that encourages mayhem and having a jolly old time, yet they punish players with unorthodox penalties. Before the most recent update, every time you were killed you were charged over $1000, thankfully this has been reduced to not exceed more than $500, but still earning money can be a difficult task, especially if you are a reckless criminal. Money is what online is all about. Everything from vehicle upgrades to weapon customization all cost money. Lots and lots of it. The economy even becomes more frustrating when you spend 20 minutes on a mission only to fail, and then find out you get 0 RP and $0 and then have to spend $1000 to replace the ammo that you used on the mission. There is what seems to be an unbalanced economy in this game, and when one considers that Rockstar has micro transactions to purchase in game money, it can’t help but to irk some gamers. It is better than it was, and I feel that the inevitable tweaks will nullify any concerns one may have. That being said though, it is not possible for people to pay to win in this game. There are over 100 levels in multiplayer and as you progress you unlock new weapons, new upgrades, and new attachments. This prevents people from being able to buy a rocket launcher at level 2 just because they have a credit card.
Every time you level up you earn new things like clothing and tattoos. This really helps incentivize you to keep playing. Although Rockstar wants you to do whatever you like online, there are checks and balances to help encourage players to be a fair sport. There is a Good Sport/Bad Sport systems which monitors your actions, you can kill anyone you want without penalty, but if you find it funny to destroy someone’s car, you get charged the insurance deductible to replace it. If you find yourself wanting to leave a losing match before it is over, the games lets you know you will be penalized if you keep it up. So far I have had the warning message come up three times. Nothing has happened yet, but supposedly you will get thrown into a lobby with other poor sports so that you can wallow in your sadness together. Keep on being a good sport and you occasionally receive $1000 for being a team player.
One of the great things about online is that as you continually level up, you unlock new mission types. You are always getting new content, most of which is very enjoyable. Rockstar has enabled a rating system where you can vote on a game type to give it a rating and this way everyone can see how good or poor a certain game mode will be before you start. To date I am level 34 and have logged over 51 hours in the online alone. I am never bored and am always finding new things to do and with the promise of free DLC such as the map editor and heist missions, I can only believe that this will be a long lived multiplayer experience. Rockstar Games has even talked about one day bringing other cities to the online play field. If I could cruise around ViceCity with my friends I would be truthfully happy, especially if they added the sound track to the original. I know one can only hope, but who knows.
Grand Theft Auto Online is the integral part of GTA V and needs to be played. The wonderfully large and detailed world, with vast missions and level up incentives should not be missed by anyone. While not a perfect experience, at its current state, it is one of the most rewarding and addicting multiplayer games I have experienced. There is so much more content that it would take pages to cover it all. If you own GTA V, you should be online now. If you don’t own it, go out and buy it now, because just being honest, I would have paid for this if it was released as a standalone product.
At this point in time I cannot give the online a perfect score because it is not perfect. I will be revisiting the review later on when some new features have been added or when future tweaks are made.