It’s possible to sum up Grand Theft Auto online with the following sentence, you can lift up a tank with a helicopter then fly around shooting people with it. A simplistic way to look at the game sure, but it says all you really need to know, this game is perhaps the new dictionary definition of dumb fun. And in no way, shape or form is that a bad thing.
Grand Theft Auto Online is the multiplayer add on to the now colossal mega hit Grand Theft Auto 5, coming free with the single player campaign, the game surprised many by being in some ways larger and more expansive than the main campaign itself. While missing one of its main selling points on launch, and indeed for nearly a year and a half after, for what many feared would be a rushed tack on to a single player game instead became the reason many keep coming back. An experience that while at least based in GTA5’s world in many ways offered more freedom and game types than the single player campaign could ever hope to. At least when it works.
The game itself is basically split into two main parts, A structured set of missions and character unlocks reminiscent of an MMO, and a Sandbox with an almost endless amount of variables and the tools to affect them that even the most hardcore of Minecraft fans would swoon at the sight of. The structured campaign as I will refer to it, is the most similar to the single player experience, but with a focus on cooperative play. Players first have to create their character, an experience once home to the worst character creation tool in gaming history, a confusing mess of a system that involved picking grandparents and parents and deciding whom you look more alike, a system that thankfully at least for the PC, PS4 and Xbox one versions of the game has been improved upon with the edition of the sliders everyone was hoping for in the first place. From then on a short tutorial mission featuring a couple of easy mission and a race are all that’s between you and the freedom of Los Santos.
From then on in you are free to explore the city and do any of the games activities you have unlocked at your own pace; Sell stolen cars, be killed by other players, stick up a convenience store, start a gang war, get killed by other players, do missions or more than likely get killed by other players. While this is the structured part of the game it still feels extremely free flowing and laid back, you are never forced down a certain path or mission. For some more used to a structured quest chain system this can feel a bit daunting and rambly but the freedom is a breath of fresh air compared to others of its ilk.
The missions are all started by cast members of the main game with only Michael and Franklin seemingly absent, so yes Trevor is still here to be the walking embodiment of 4chan, and while it should feel cheap this is a nice link to the single player and makes it feel more like a main part of the game as opposed to a tacked on multiplayer that plague so many single player games these days. The missions are pretty basic to be honest, all rifs on either capture X and deliver to Y or kill someone within the time limit. While they can be pretty large in their scale with some of the later missions needing you to break into a military base to steal a fighter jet, they pale in comparison to the single player stories or the the heists. Nearly every mission can be done solo and with a range of difficulty settings, rewarding people who risk it on the higher difficulty with more cash or experience, past about level 20 doing any of the missions on your own is not recommended. To balance this, Grand Theft Auto Online added a matchmaking system for every activity in the game, simply open the missions to other players and you will soon have a team ready to do whatever zany thing Trevor wants you to do to the bikers. At least when it works.
Outside missions you have the usual Grand Theft Auto faire, The races are fun and well balanced with the weapon based GTA race being as close to an R rated Mario Kart as we are likely to get this generation. Driving controls on the whole feel like a large step forward since Grand Theft Auto 4, with more of an emphasis on arcade style driving rather than the frustrating pseudo-realistic style than saddled 4 so much.
Straight forward death matches are fun but, on the console version at least suffer from the kind of auto aim that makes it less about shooting skill and more about just seeing your opponent first and pressing the aim fast enough. Other than that there are air and sea races, another 4 player horde mode clone and a mix of specialist missions that involve new and mixed rule types such as Fighter jets vs Mopeds (much more fun than it sounds) and a mix of other modern FPS tropes that while cliche, are handed well and executed better than the majority of their peers. These are the real core of the game, the missions soon fall beside the wayside compared to just the dumb fun of the constant barrage of silly races and team vs team combat games all backed up by the matchmaking system that allows nearly instant action from anywhere in the game world. At least when it works.
Outside of the missions in the main game world you are offered a city of things to find and an armoury of guns and gear to unlock. While most cars can be bought from day one the weapon and clothing as well a some of the tanks and planes are mostly all unlocked via your level. This can be a long and grindy affair but the game offers more than enough was around it. While you will have to wait to buy tanks and fighter jets you dream of, you can usually just find them lying around the extensive overworld. The game never feels like its holding fun away from you, it just makes it easier to find that fun at higher levels with only a high class apartment being 100% necessary for the heist content.
Heists are as close to an end game as you will find in Grand Theft Auto Online. They feel much more like the single player missions then the mostly forgettable ones found usually, with much more varied tasks and moving narrative, they feel less like fetch quests and more like mini heist movies. While you need a high price apartment for to start them, you are free at any time to use the matchmaker system, meaning while it is advised to get 3 other friends together to play them, you can do them without. At least when it works.
And that is where we come to the second part of Grand Theft Auto Online, its freedom, players are given all the tools needed to create anything they want or feel is missing. From the main world every part of the map in unlocked from the start, and while more than a few time you will find yourself screaming bloody murder at the person who just shot you in the middle of stealing from an armored truck (you can play in a friends only lobby if you wish) you will often find yourself just wondering around the map doing whatever takes your fancy, I would recommend the aforementioned Helicopter tank combo. The missions also have the same freedom, Grand Theft Auto Online contains one of the best content creation tools in any game, even a novice like me was able to create what ever deathmatch, race or mission their mind could come up with. It never feels cheap or tacked on, the game has enough content as standard but with the added comunity gems it feels full almost to bursting with new ideas and content. At least when they work.
As I have been rather subtly hinting at, the real problem of Grand Theft Auto Online is in its instability, while the game has improved since day one the fact of the matter is at times, it just doesn’t work, recently myself and my brother decided to do the first set of heists and were met with over an hour of trying to get into the same game together, with invites just not appearing anymore. If this was a new game it would be a problem, but for a game that has been suffering from these problems since 2013 it can be a deal breaker for some.
Grand Theft Auto Online is less of a tacked on multiplayer and more and important part of the Grand Theft Auto 5 experience, a game of that lets players set the pace and dictate the fun.Iit is at the same time a pre designed Lego play set and a massive box of random Legos, never afraid to hand the experience over to the player or take them by the hand when they want it to. It’s only real weakness is its continued instability but even with that it is one of the best experiences on in recent years, and worth the purchase of Grand Theft Auto 5 alone. Its Dumb fun of the highest quality, so dumb that it can only be the work of a genius. Now if you excuse me I want to see if i can ride Jet ski down the side of a skyscraper.
Extensive Content Creator
Well Structured if you need it to be.
Still unstable and buggy at times
UI problems from the single player