GTA Online Week 2: Finally Works, Barely Justifies Existence

Just over a week into Grand Theft Auto Online, we can at last finally play the thing.

Yeah, some grueling errors persist, but the initial growing pains are subsiding. The problems with server connection, a lack of substantial things to do, and the ability to even get started are mostly gone. Finally, you can jump into the online version of GTA V’s Los Santos and blow the shit out of it until you puke.

Races are numerous, deathmatches are deadly, and you can do horrible things to random strangers all the livelong day. If all that sounds like fun, it can be, especially if you’re into traditional competitive multiplayer. But unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to make your time in GTA Online time well spent.

A broken character creation system, “missions” that are really more like filler, a painfully slow process of character leveling, and numerous busywork features have managed to turn the sociopathic whimsy of the GTA experience into a frustrating grind. It’s not a terminal illness – as Rockstar continues to update the game it will no doubt improve, and at least it’s free. But as it currently exists, it’s a hot mess that struggles to make playing it worth the effort.

Here are three reasons why.

Character Creation: The Worst

You know what would be awesome? A character creation system that makes everyone look like identical mannequins suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome.

Yeah, no one has ever said this. But I have to assume it’s the underlying philosophy at Rockstar HQ. It’s the only possible explanation for the aesthetic disaster that is the GTA Online character creation system. Perhaps the worst ever such system seen in a game like this, it’s both terribly unfunctional and a total waste of time.

It begins with a somewhat cool idea. Instead of a character editor that allows you to adjust everything from the shape of an avatar’s jawline to the depth of their eyebrows, you instead generate a largely random appearance by choosing your character’s genetic lineage. This means selecting from a range of possible grandparents and parents, then choosing how strong of a resemblance your character has to either their mother or father.

The problem is that a limited range of possible lineages makes it impossible to create a unique character. Dark or pale, emaciated or slightly skinny (there is no other range of body types), player characters are identical, and nearly identically ugly. It’s particularly bad with female avatars, which look pretty much like the male avatars, only with makeup. No really, here is your female default.

Worse, the system is bogged down by a physical trait selection process built around the allotment of “hours” in a 24 hour cycle your character spends doing certain things like sleeping, exercising, or chilling on the couch. It’s inscrutable, largely because the only noticeable changes you’ll see are clothing-related. After spending 20 minutes or more tinkering with your character to no good effect, the final result is either The Skinny Elephant Man, the Skinny Burn Victim, or the Skinny Terrible-At-Drag character.

Much has been made of the fact that Rockstar still hasn’t successfully fixed the problem of your characters being deleted but it seems to me the glitch is doing us a favor. It’s almost as if the game knows that these characters look terrible and the process of creating them is tedious.

What makes it even more maddening is that Saints Row and even APB (shudder) have already demonstrated you can do great character customization in an open world game. Why then would Rockstar just ignore those examples? I get that Rockstar, being Rockstar, wants to make its character creation system stand out from other developers. It’s too bad that their solution was to make it stand out by sucking.

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17 Comments on GTA Online Week 2: Finally Works, Barely Justifies Existence

Heru

On October 10, 2013 at 11:54 am

While i agree with most of that was written in the article, you do know that you can deposit your cash in the bank from your in-game cell phone? Just visit the maze-bank website from the phones browser.

Ross Lincoln

On October 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

Thanks Heru, I somehow missed that. I’ve updated this.

Tiagonal

On October 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Hey, Ross, you sound so old. :/

Pakesso

On October 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Wow, I can’t get over how badly this review is written. I’ve been on GTA Online since launch (with no problems) and have never had more fun on Xbox Live. It’s overflowing with “This game SHOULD entertain me more and it should give me more immediately! I want everything NOW! Grinding sucks!” Had you actually kept your ear to the ground you would have been in the loop about exploits that allowed you to make near-limitless amounts of money and RP. (Which I avoided. Because I like EARNING my keep in MMO’s) Instead, it seemed like you played this game and just hated it before even logging in. Everything is a chore? Really? You want to play online and have everything spoon fed to you? Calling up your phone to deposit your petty cash is a CHORE? LOL The good news is, with this harsh and badly founded review, we’ll probably never cross paths online. :-) I’m almost convinced you were menstruating for your whole 15 hours. Haha ;)

Mark Burnham

On October 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm

@Pakesso
Just to clarify, this is not a “review.” It is an impressions article sharing Ross’s opinion of GTA Online since launch. That’s why it doesn’t have a score.

“I’ve been on GTA Online since launch (with no problems)…”

That’s good, but that has most definitely not been everyone’s experience. Characters getting deleted, not being able to sign on, etc., GTA Online has had a pretty rough launch for what seems to be a lot of people.

Adam

On October 10, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Ohh wa wa wa I think you need to go back to hello kitty island adventure. I am surprised GameFront would let you put such a -fest on their page. Starting to 2nd guess Gamefront’s analytical insight on video games.

Marcos

On October 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm

U MAD BRO?

Now seriously, the first 2 days were definitely boring, with all the connection issues and just getting used to the game itself, but I’ve been having a ton fun since day 3.

I don’t like deathmatches nor roaming around the city killing other players, so I just turn passive mode on and do contact’s missions, races, parachuting, fetch missions and survivals. And it’s AWESOME.

I didn’t do any exploits for money and I bought a 2-garage tuesday and a 135k apartment today and I’m level 25. Rockstar Social Club says that I have 22 hours, so the “OMG GRIND” is super exaggerated.

Like Tiagonal said, you sound old dude.

stephen dunne

On October 11, 2013 at 1:55 am

You sound like a fool with no clue the fact you had to be told about cell phone banking within the game shows you barely played it and the time you spent on it was to nitt pick!

DirtMcGirt

On October 11, 2013 at 7:08 am

Could not have said it better myself. Something is seriously lacking in GTAVO. I’m not sure what it is, but I have sneaking suion “micro transactions” have a large part to play.

mark

On October 11, 2013 at 8:38 am

I dont know where to begin to explain how wrong you are about so many of your points. The game has many hiccups and bumps but so does any attempt at reaching greatness. If you dont like the long grind which is simulating a sense of “realism” then by all means go back to saints row. I respect some of the points you made but the truth is noone wants to hear someone complain about these problems when EVERYONE has to endure them. They are compensating us $500,000 so go buy your whack garrage just so me and everyone else can rape and pillage all your hard work that you had to “grind” for. In real life, there is a grind. In the life of crime, there is a grind. You dont just go rob a store or win a street race and win a million bucks. Get real dude and do everyone a favor of one or two things. One, switch back to saints row 19 or whatever number there at and have fun with a dumbed down gaming expernience with your cyber buddies. Or two, stop blogging or writing or documenting (whatever you wana call this B.F. of yours) about video games that get a perfect 10 score from IGN and start writing your negative comments about the tampa bay buccaneers who have alot to complain about, I know cause im a bucs fan.

Sincerly,
Mark

Dach

On October 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

The hell is wrong with this comments section?!?

He didn’t feel engaged by the game and gave some factual reasons as to why he found the game mechanics disagreeable. I concur on pretty much everything he had to say, there are flaws aplenty when it comes to the multiplayer of this game.

RockStar could have done a much better job launching and maintaining their multiplayer portion of GTA V. Then again the same issues were riddled throughout both GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption [except you could start playing those on the day the single-player launched]

The game is not perfect and unless you had a direct hand in creating the d@mn thing you commentators need to get your panties unbunched.

SeanD

On October 11, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Adam… Just stfu. I totally get where this article is coming from. And as good as GTA is, the online for me has been a dreadful experience so far. Lost 3 characters, couldn’t sign in for the first 4 days and since earning money without exploits is a slow experience, having two characters that had over 50k in the bank deleted was a nightmare! I truely trust R* will make it alot better as they patch, update and release new content. But as far as statements I hear from people stating things like “this is the best game ever”, they couldn’t be any more wrong! Well seeing it’s mainly 360 players that come away with such comments. Deprived from amazing PS3 and PC exclusives much!? Sad really…

gta v online is eww

On October 11, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Totally agree with Dach.

The ps3 is slow on its own. Gta v online and single player compounds that issue.

People talking on mics over the television is annoying. No intuitive mute all options.

Passive mode is useless while in a car.

Character creation and customization is stupid.

Bounties from stealling ai cars is outrageous.

Medical fees make earning money pointless and hardy possible in free mode.

Introductory missions are random and should have a skip option; especially if the game tag has already completed the tutorial.

Gta iv had a better online system imo.

James

On October 13, 2013 at 4:27 am

The author must not have any friends to play with. Whenever I’m online we usually get about 6 people together and have a ton of fun donking off. Everything from the races to deathmatches is amazing. Earlier, we jumped out of helicopters and the first ones on the ground tried to snipe the other people still skydiving down. Quit worrying about how much dress up you get to play and just have fun.

Tiagonal

On October 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

@DirtMcGirt So I was roaming in GTAV online wilderness again after a mission and suddenly noticed… There are no animals in GTAV online… lol… then the list of missing things went on and on… Bah, back to bounty hunting.

Warlock

On October 13, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I started playing GTAO after the server issues, and what “hot mess” it is! It’s technically flawed in many ways. I ran into a bug where the max speed on *any* vehicle I picked up was capped. I had to return to the dashboard and reload the game to fix it in the end. That’s just one example.

Trying to play with Crew or even XBL Party members is a chore. The game provides zero functionality to keep party or crew members together. I’ve tried to join a friend’s game a few times and after an “quitting” and “joining” loading screens, *then* it tells me that the game is full. So it makes me load a 3rd time. Shouldn’t it know that the game is full *before* it tries to join?

The loading times are painful. Griefing is encouraged. “Passive mode” actually makes you into a pacifist where you can’t even pull out a weapon to defend yourself from cops or angry drivers.

It’s just a complete f’n mess and the progression system is a disaster. For example, you have to WIN 9 races to unlock the lowest brake upgrade for a car. Win. Winning a race is really hard. That’s probably about 50 races you’d need to do in order to win 9. That’ll work out to probably 2 hours of loading screens. Ugh.

I love the concept of GTAO way more than Rockstar’s implementation. The 500k from Rockstar will help, but I might have moved on by the time it actually hits.

The game is a complete slop.

Benjamin

On November 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I made a pretty good female character (yes I play as female). She actually looks pretty above average compared to the other Lady Gaga man burn victims I’ve seen :P . If only I knew how to share the character appearance.