Part 2: Started from the Bottom

Like a relationship with an attractive yet insecure partner, Grand Theft Auto V Online has only gotten more troubling over time. I was completely shut out the first few nights, had a difficult time connecting the first week, and when I finally got to experience it myself realized it was mostly shallow and overrated.

Grand Theft Auto Online, the online multiplayer component to the billion (BILLION) dollar Rockstar Games release Grand Theft Auto V, has unceremoniously faceplanted since its release on October 1st. I was personally unable to even log in to GTAO until four days after launch, and not without some big sacrifices. Having spent the first few days stuck on loading screens after creating characters that were repeatedly erased, I tried passing the time by settling back into the single player Grand Theft Auto V game only to find my game was glitched and no missions were appearing on my map.

In order to have an opportunity to get past the first training mission in GTAO and continue my single player game, I was forced to not just delete my title update but the entirety of my GTAV save data altogether. There are multiple speculations online as to what to do to fix this cluster of a mess, but none had worked for me. With a sour taste in my mouth after deleting weeks’ worth of progress, not to mention a huge chip on my shoulder, I finally got the chance to experience GTAO with my crew.

Once you get past the hype, Grand Theft Auto Online (in its current state) is not all it’s cracked up to be. There’s no real story to speak of aside from trying to make it out of the ‘hood, and once you do make it out of the slums you realize you’re just a hamster running in a wheel with nowhere to go. Players can participate in street races, games of golf, and a few “jobs” for one of Lamar’s contacts in Los Santos, but not without rather frustratingly unorganized mechanics.

Even if you’ve got a full crew of friends to participate in a GTAO job, there’s a chance that a random player in your lobby can slink into an open slot before everyone in your crew hits the appropriate buttons to begin. Once they do, there’s no way to kick a random person out of a job menu aside from directly (and hopefully politely) asking them to drop. While the whole concept of GTAO revolves around experiencing Rockstar’s massive world with others, it is infuriating to do so when a random player can cause your team to lose the limited number of lives in your shared pool to complete a mission. That’s a mechanic I’ve not seen in years, but I was able to adjust to it as soon as I got into a group of other likeminded players focused on the goal at hand.

Now once you do manage to get a few jobs under your belt and earn some cash, you’ll soon realize how ridiculously expensive everything is in GTAO. Robbing convenience stores and selling stolen cars to chop shops only gets you chump change, a few grand at a time at most if that. To make big bucks (and this goes for the single player experience as well), smart players know that investing in the stock market is where it’s at. Buying low and selling high is indeed general good advice, but there are legions of players who are currently working together to manipulate the online stock market in order to buy everything they’ve ever wanted in-game. Were this all real life some of them might be sitting pretty in a white collar prison, but as it stands now kids are buying up downtown apartments and multi-car garages like nobody’s business. Rockstar has already caught wind of these shenanigans and is taking action against them, so I’d do my research and buy up a few shares of the right stocks now while you can.

An avid player of MMOs in the past I asked myself what exactly there was to look forward to in Grand Theft Auto Online right now aside from amassing fortunes and grieving other players. The short answer, unfortunately, is not much. Stealing a car or two, shooting up a rival gang once getting kicked out of a few lobbies, taking part in a handful of jobs, and surviving some street races is the crux of where the GTAO experience (if you can log in to the overwhelmed servers) is at. Now though the game was nowhere near as commercially popular, Rockstar Games’ 2010 release Red Dead Redemption had a smoother and in my opinion more enjoyable multiplayer experience. I had hoped that GTAO’s lobbies would be as easy to navigate at RDR’s, but perhaps its commercial popularity is also the game’s curse. So many people are trying to log in at once that the servers can’t seem to handle the traffic.

IF you can log in and IF you can form a group of skilled friends to take on a few heists together, Grand Theft Auto Online can lead to some genuinely good times. Taking on the world solo though will soon reveal that the massive open world is merely a sandbox for twelve-year-olds who shouldn’t be playing the game in the first place to question your sexuality and make a few unflattering remarks about your parents. As soon as Rockstar releases a few more updates from their touted pool of ’45 years worth of ideas’ I might play a few more extended sessions online in Los Santos. As it stands right now, Grand Theft Auto Online is as fun to experience as Los Angeles if you had no money, influence, or good looks to get you by.

Grand Theft Auto Online is now available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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