Grand Theft Auto V’s online version of the title launched last night, and while only a few players could actually enjoy the title, the overall experience was (almost) what we expected.
GTA Online thrusts the player into the role of a user-created character in the massive city of Los Santos – where they can cause havoc by robbing banks and pulling of big heists, or just relax with friends on the golf course.
While games developer Rockstar Games anticipated massive amounts of players to log into the new service, the company’s servers however still couldn’t handle the strain and collapsed often during the night. Players were either greeted with messages of “Cloud Storage Unavailable”, or the title just froze on different loading screens. Surely if Rockstar knew the amount of copies sold during the last two weeks, they would try to cater for as many players online?
Once players manage to actually get onto a working server, creating a character is a fairly simple task- by selecting parents’ and grandparents’ appearance, which then directly affects the player’s character. The problem with the system is that the parentage pictures aren’t very clea, and the resulting player’s character more often than not looks like they have been on meth for many years.
During the course of the night, the servers kept on booting players out or was stuck in a perpetual cycle of loading the first (mandatory) race, going to a loading screen, and then restarting the sequence for the race.
Since there are no Escape or Quit options on any screen, players on Xbox were forced to quit to the dashboard and re-enter GTA Online, which presented another problem – created characters were never saved to the servers.
But server issues aside, there are a number of problems that will dog the online release. First is the inability to skip the opening cutscene. Having had to go through the painful process of quitting the game numerous times just to return, it turns out the opening cutscene is only interesting the first time, after which it becomes a chore.
The same can be said for most of the cutscenes, as the video that plays when a player dies for the first time was extremely laborious. An “angel” in a suit comes down towards the players and frankly we didn’t really care what he was babbling on about for what seemed like an eternity (maybe that is the point?), as all we wanted to do was get back into the game.
The biggest gripe that we have against the online version of the title, is the fact that it’s constantly inhabited by narcissistic millennials – it’s like being back in the free-roam section of Red Dead Redemption.
Sure, there is an option to go into passive mode so other players can’t shoot you, but why would someone purposefully try to kill another player that is innocently driving by or walking to a shop?
Missions and jobs
Serial killers and random murders aside, what the title offers when things calm down a bit, is the real attraction. The title has been built to ensure that players work for whatever they want – and things aren’t cheap.
Doing certain actions will reward players with Reputation Points (RP), which unlocks extra goodies for the player in the game. Money, of course, is essential to living in the fictional city of Los Santos. Cash can be earned in several ways – hard, honest work; illegal work and- robbing various establishments. Cash, naturally, is used to buy almost anything in the game. But it isn’t just one big free-roaming city. On the map players will see missions, jobs and other activities highlighted. Just by driving to a mission, players will enter that game mode and compete against other players in completing that mission. Players earn RP and money at the end of each round.
The title is very focussed on playing with friends, as players can join and create different crews to operate in. Crews lend more fire-power to individuals during missions, jobs and heists, and as the saying goes, there is always strength in numbers.
In terms of graphics, the title makes use of the same engine as the single player mode, so players can expect to see the same level of highly-detailed environments. In terms of controls, a few minor tweaks have been made, but they are easily remembered.
Although the time we spent attempting missions, driving around town and just taking in the scenery was fun, the effort to get to that point was just too much (albeit only through sheer determinations to play online).
Players might be better off waiting until Rockstar Games have sorted out their servers, which should allow everyone to enjoy the title as it was intended. And if players don’t want to be shot at and potentially killed by random players, it will also be to their benefit to play the title in the Closed Session or Invite-Only Session mode. But don’t get us wrong, as we absolutely loved the couple of hours that we spent on GTA Online, but eventually had to hard-quit the game as it froze during a loading screen.
Once the title is back on its feet, it will be really enjoyable to cruise through the city, but at the moment the server issues will cause more pain than its worth – and potentially not save any progress after hours of play.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor