'Grand Theft Auto Online' First Impressions - Is It Any Good?

Grand Theft Auto Online cover

Grand Theft Auto Online has been under a lot of heat since its "release" on October 1st. Rockstar Games recently addressed these issues, and they are currently being worked on to better serve the community. It's frustrating that many players - including a lot of the Game Rant team - cannot connect after several days but the multiplayer server issues are at least understandable considering the sheer player volume from selling over 15 million units in two weeks.

For the lucky few who have been able to consistently connect to the online feature, consider yourself fortunate. The servers were flooded the first few nights, and establishing a connection to anything online was nearly impossible unless you had time and patience. So, now that some of us have made it past the tutorial choke point and are our adventuring around online Los Santos, has the wait (and frustration) been worth it?

Right off the bat GTA Online allows players to create two separate characters (more slots can be unlocked later). After choosing a character slot, the next screen opens up character customization which uses ancestry to create a player. The appearance of your grandparents affect the appearance of your parents, and the appearance of your parents affect your character's appearance. The customization is fairly basic - with limited choices of faces for your grandparents/parents and sliders for how similar the next generation should appear. Other than choices for ethnicity and gender, the rest depends on the ancestry combinations.

There's also a lifestyle tab where players select what their chosen character does on a daily basis with 24 hours to spend. Some of these activities include; partying, doing illegal work, sitting on the couch, sleeping, etc. How often your character does each of these activities impacts their starting appearance and skills. Beyond the lifestyle tab is the appearance tab, which allows for fine-tuning customization: age, hair, beard, hat, glasses, and t-shirt style. After fully customizing your character, you may enter the world of Grand Theft Auto Online.

Grand Theft Auto 5 Campers

The experience begins with the player character arriving in Los Santos, greeted at the airport by none other than Lamar - Franklin's friend in the main storyline - kicking off the infamous online tutorial. This unfortunately, is where many players get stuck at an infinite loading screen due to Rockstar Games' server issues.

When the game actually works, at the conclusion of the cutscene the character is placed into a race with Lamar - and other online players. Winning the race means obtaining the first source of currency for your character; however, there are many other ways of earning money later. After the race the character is thrown into a world filled with non-playable characters as well as other online players. Here the character will finish the tutorial, and have the opportunity to accomplish other tasks before roaming free.

Whilst roaming free, the opportunity arises to buy clothing and weapons for the selected character. At this point you can now meet up with your gang -provided that you have one - and you can accomplish a variety of tasks around the open world. There is a lot of fun to be had with simply doing what you please with some friends, or random people that you meet online.  There is certain feeling of surrealism about being able to play a Grand Theft Auto game of this size and depth online.

In comparison to GTA IV's online multiplayer, the city of Los Santos is much more open and varied, with seemingly no limitations to how far you can travel. Perhaps its the sheer size of the world that created significant issues with environments often being slow to load, and some grey areas can be noticed on the screen at times where missing textures should be.

Players will often encounter unprovoked attacks by other online players, a problem that was prevalent in the disappointing - albeit hilariously fun at times - online mode of Red Dead Redemption. This can be pestering, especially when trying to complete the forced tutorial. Some issues may also arise with basic gameplay mechanics, namely the aiming auto-locks on occasion, and it can be obtrusive in the heat of a gun fight.

Some of the NPCs - the police especially - can make the online experience difficult as well. Accomplishing a task when practically everything your character does triggers the reaction of a cop is not simple. It may not be the most polished or impressive online multiplayer game - and there are some updates required - but Grand Theft Auto is quite simply, fun, especially when playing with friends.

Grand Theft Auto V Trevol Climbing Vinewood Sign

Delving more into the finer features of GTA Online, there are many jobs throughout the city for players to take on and progress their characters. For each successfully completed job, players earn money, job points, and reputation points. The purpose of the job points hasn't been made clear, but the reputation points help increase your rank.

Jobs and activities include many similar tasks from the singleplayer campaign, including races, capture the package, parachuting, and other more story-based missions. Capture the package is a lot of fun, pitting up to sixteen players against each other with the goal of retrieving the package and bringing it to an extraction point before the opposing team. There are also more traditional gametypes such as deathmatch.

Through the adversity of establishing a connection to the online servers, Grand Theft Auto Online seems to be worth the hardship. Once you get past the minor glitches and lag, there is a lot to discover in the online world of Los Santos, and they add an element of replay value that is hard to come by these days. A lot of online multiplayer games lose their luster after a few months. GTA Online however, appeals to the casual and competitive nature of gamers, but with a promise of constant growth via updates and DLC. Whether you're leveling up by successfully completing jobs or starting wars with random online players, the sky is clearly the limit with GTA Online.... when it's working.

Be sure to check out our singleplayer review for Grand Theft Auto V.

What has your experience been with Grand Theft Auto Online? Have you been able to connect to any servers? What are some of your favorite things to do in Los Santos?

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