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Grand Theft Auto Online Impressions

17:2320/10/2013Posted by D+PAD Staff15 Comments

Grand Theft Auto Online launched two weeks after Grand Theft Auto V. Unlike GTA V’s record smashing release, it’s fair to say that GTA Online’s launch hasn’t been quite so smooth, with gamers reporting issues ranging from being unable to access the game, to losing their character and all attendant progress. And GTA Online is acknowledged to be a work in progress, with new features due to be added in the coming weeks and months. But despite this, D+PAD’s Sean and Chris have both put some time into GTA Online, and here are their thoughts on the game as it stands.

    Chris Braithwaite’s Impressions

Set within the full map of GTAV’s San Andreas, the scale of the world of GTA Online is greater than that of any online game outside MMORPGs. The world is slightly stripped down in the online version, with fewer cars and pedestrians populating the street, and the emergent events from the single player version completely removed.

The removed features are replaced by up to 15 other players populating your version of San Andreas, all free to act in whatever manner they choose. In the main, this meaning acting the way folks normally act online: in the most annoying way possible. It’s not uncommon to be the victim of random and persistent violence when you’re going about your day. But then given the size of the game world, it’s also pretty easy to avoid people if you so choose.

The meat of online isn’t in knocking around Los Santos creating (or avoiding) mayhem, but in competing or cooperating in missions, deathmatches, races and the like. The missions are probably the most fun, offering plenty of variety, from simple car collections, to more creative team games. An early highlight is a mission called “Top Fun”, which has one team attempting to drive through the city on dirt bikes, while the other team attempts to stop them while piloting fighter jets. Others feature multiple teams attempting to secure a single truck, or competing to be the first to kill a particular NPC and nab his briefcase.

The sheer size of the map helps with pretty much every game mode. Even simple deathmatches have huge variety, due to there being hundreds of potential locations throughout the city and outlying countryside. Races can go anywhere across the map by land, air or sea. And this is set to expand in GTA Online’s future, with the upcoming release of a content creator, which will allow players to create games that can, we’re promised, take place literally anywhere they fancy in San Andreas.

Variety is what can keep you coming back to GTA Online. It’s possible to spend hours running through a variety of games and never come close to experiencing the same thing twice. This isn’t Call of Duty or FIFA, where despite variety in game modes the core experience remains the same. In Grand Theft Auto Online the core experience changes every few minutes.

So far, this may sound great. And GTA Online is great. When it works. But the problem is that it works all too rarely. And this doesn’t just mean difficulties with connections or losing characters. The unreliability pervades the entire experience. There are great missions, deathmatches and races to play, but getting to them is often a chore. If you want to play a deathmatch on a specific map you need to drive to the location of that game (which can take a fair amount of time, given the size of the map and possible players intent on attacking you), then start a game, send out invites and hope that you get enough people joining the game to make it worthwhile.

The in-game mobile is a useful shortcut, as you can use it to quickly join random games, but it’s pretty unreliable. And there’s also currently no way to actively join a game that your friends are in: they can invite you, if they’re hosting, and if there’s space, and if you aren’t in a game at the moment, and if and if and if.

“If” essentially sums up GTA Online: if it all comes together, it is a genuinely fantastic experience. But it comes together so rarely at the moment that more regularly it’s an exercise in frustration.

Continue over the page for Sean Evans’ thoughts on GTA Online.

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