GTA Online Week 2: Finally Works, Barely Justifies Existence

It’s A Boring Version Of GTA

Causing chaos in an open world is a fun way to pass the time in between real missions. Racing, activities or plain old mayhem are part of what makes a GTA game replayable after you’ve finished the story. But the thing is, it’s the story, or at least, the more focused aspects of living a pretend criminal life which move the plot along that brought you there in the first place. Heists, assassinations, even random encounters, not to mention the actual plot these things propel you through, they’re what make the open world feel like a world in the first place. And they’re almost entirely absent from GTA Online.

Though billed as a kind of hybrid version of an MMO, as it currently exists GTAO is essentially a standard-issue online multiplayer with tons more irrelevant space. When you begin the game, you’re introduced to GTA V supporting character Lamar, who shepherds your entrance into the Los Santos underworld via an underground race and an introduction to what is presented as a mission generating character. Later, you’ll meet another such character. These characters, so far anyway, have done nothing but deliver missions via text that are exclusively fetch quests or capture the flag. At least for the 15 hours or so I’ve been able to play GTA Online, that’s about it.

Meanwhile, there are “missions” scattered throughout the world, but they’re all variations on deathmatches, races, or fetch quests and capture the flag. There are also diversions, but they’re the same boring activities (unless you liked them) from GTA V. The result is you spend a lot of time feeling like you’re just going from one tedious thing to another without advancing whatever the story of GTA Online is supposed to be. It’s basically GTA V with all the cool stuff taken out of it.

GTA Online needs more than just filler to justify itself. We could have had deathmatches and races in the same multiplayer GTA IV had. I’m thinking heists for sure, but also some real mission-quest type things, reasons for the scripted characters to be there besides continuity nods to GTA V. This will surely change as Rockstar begins to roll out heists, but as it currently exists, it’s nothing more than a buffed up version of what a single-player GTA game is like after you’ve beaten it.

This is you for what feels like 25% of the game.

It Takes Too Long To Get Good


UPDATE Friday, October 11: Rockstar announced this morning that to make up for the technical problems plaguing GTA Online, all GTAO players who’ve logged in during the month of October will receive $500,000 in GTA money for their character to play with. This will go a long way to mitigating the game’s tedious grind. Read more about it here.


I’ve mentioned tedium a lot in this piece, for good reason. At so many points GTA Online seems to suck all the fun out of playing a GTA game. Races, deathmatches, what passes for missions, even something as simple as visiting a store to buy power-up snacks, all feel like chores rather than entertainment. And this is in large part because it takes so damned long to get your character remotely leveled up enough to be competitive against anyone but other noobs.

Obviously, providing access to all weapons or a fully leveled character too early would break an MMO, so it makes sense locking a lot of this content until you’ve leveled up enough. That’s fine, but the system needs a serious tweak. It currently takes what feels like an ice age to improve stats like stamina and strength. I’ve put in at least 15 hours and my character still begins to suffer health problems if I run for more than a couple of minutes. Likewise, no matter how many shootouts I’ve been in or races I’ve run, my shooting and driving stats have barely improved.

Even light armor is locked out for early level characters (you can buy it at the start of some missions), putting you at a serious disadvantage when you find yourself in a server full of people who’ve already reached levels approaching 20. It’s bad enough when you’re coming out of a store or just walking around. But it’s especially maddening in-mission, when you’ll unload an entire clip into an enemy who survives, and are then swiss-cheesed up because the other players have machine guns.

Making things worse, earning enough money to actually do anything is a Sisyphean undertaking. If you wish, you could keep doing races or death matches or petty robbery and, assuming you don’t end up smoked by higher-level players, grind your way to prosperity. But emphasis on “grind,” because the missions currently available – races, deathmatches, capture the flag, fetch quests and petty robbery – tend to dole out around $1000-$2,000 payouts. That isn’t so bad in the early stages of GTA V, where the three playable characters all start out with a safehouse and a a garage. But your GTA Online character starts the game with nothing, and must earn a minimum of $35,000 just to buy the cheapest two car garage available.

Clothing is also far more expensive in GTA Online, making the decision to customize your character beyond the painfully limited options at character creation suicidal. Not that price matters. So much purchasable content is locked for lower leveled characters that you’re faced with the tedious prospect of barely earning any money, and having nothing to spend what little you have on. There’s also the fact that you have to manually visit an ATM and deposit your GTA cash into your character’s bank account. NOTE: an astute reader has pointed out you can also deposit from your phone. This is still needlessly complicated, but better. Otherwise, you’re carrying all your cash on you, which can be stolen if you’re killed. Yes, slightly bigger payouts eventually start to pop up, but only after many long hours spent playing. All of this turns an open world crime fantasy into a chore on par with mowing the lawn.


The expectation going into GTA Online was that players would experience a constant sense of “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.” It’s actually more like “dammit, being a gangsta is boring.” If you’re a serious fan of competitive multiplayer as a thing by itself, then you’ll probably have a lot of fun in GTA Online as it currently exists. And we know that eventually, it’s probably going to be very good. But if you’re expecting Grand Theft Auto: The MMO, you’re going to be very disappointed. Best keep waiting until Rockstar finally rolls out real content.


Read more of Ross Lincoln’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.

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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.