Grand Theft Auto Online allows up to sixteen players to join in with a persistent, online world, as it has been called by the developers. The online world is constantly updated and will change with how players choose to play the game. There is even more content available for players to experience in Grand Theft Auto Online than in the single player campaign of Grand Theft Auto V. Players have the option to complete missions, take place in a variety of different events from sports to robberies or simply enjoy exploring the open world with friends while interacting with random pedestrians. The entire map is available from the start of Grand Theft Auto Online, just like in the Grand Theft Auto V campaign, and it's completely up to the player to decide how to spend time in the world of Los Santos.
When a player boots up Grand Theft Auto Online for the first time, the first thing players will need to do is create an online character and fly to Los Santos. This process can be a lot of fun for players, as they designate specific traits for the character including the parents of the character, their lifestyle and other personality traits that will determine the starting statistics of the character. Stats can later be boosted as the character gains more reputation and levels, and of course, characters' appearance can be changed by adding tattoos, different hairstyles or purchasing some new clothes. One great new feature in Grand Theft Auto Online allows players to create female avatars, something the single player campaign has been criticized for and something other games sometimes overlook. Creating characters is a lot of fun, and Grand Theft Auto Online adds more depth to the process than any other Rockstar game before it. Players are able to customize their characters through appearance, lifestyle and heritage in order to create the perfect representation of yourself in the online world.
There are currently an impressive 500 missions available for players to experience in Grand Theft Auto Online. Many of the missions can be played in solo for players that enjoy gaming alone, but there are plenty more that require players to team up with friends or other gamers online to complete. Much like the missions from the campaign that required the use of all three protagonists, players will need to cooperate while each perform specific duties to be successful in these missions including missions that require a lookout while other players perform important tasks to the mission or a mission that may ask one player to drive safely out of harm's way while other players try to help clear the way with heavy firearms. Many of the characters featured in the game's single player campaign make their way into the storyline of Grand Theft Auto Online, since the mode is set before the events of the single player game, and completing some missions will unlock special abilities for players online based around the characters' abilities in the story. Though the narrative of missions isn't quite as strong this time around, players can be sure there is still some great dialogue and mission design featured in Grand Theft Auto Online.
Each mission in the game awards players with money and reputation points upon its completion. Cash can be used to purchase an apartment, garage and vehicles similar to the single player game, but money earned in Grand Theft Auto Online is exclusive to the online game and vice-versa. Players can further outfit themselves with better vehicles that can be insured and upgraded with the best parts the game has to offer. Additional weapons, clothes and other items are available to purchase as well. More items become unlocked in Grand Theft Auto Online as players continue to earn reputation points in missions. Grand Theft Auto Online currently allow players to level up and earn rewards until rank 100, so players will need to play online for hundreds of hours to reach the maximum rank and unlock all of the game's Achievements and content.
Grand Theft Auto Online will be free to download, and everything in the game will be accessible with no further purchases required. However, in-game purchases will be available for the game to allow players that don't have as much free time as others to use real life currency to purchase money in the game. This obviously allows players with disposable income to nab some cool unlocks for the game faster than others, but after Grand Theft Auto Online has been out for more than a few days, sessions shouldn't be affected at all. All of the unlocks in the game are accessible for every player, so the game is far from pay to win as some gamers may have first feared.
When players get downtime in Grand Theft Auto Online, there is still a lot of fun to be had in the game. Most anything a player can do in the single player campaign of Grand Theft Auto V can be performed in Grand Theft Auto Online including flying planes, heading underwater or parachuting from high buildings. Players can team up to rob convenience stores or knock over armored vehicles to earn some cash, and then visit a local ATM to deposit the money they've earned into their bank account. Other players may choose to team up and attack other players to rob them of their earnings or just ruin their day like previous Rockstar releases have allowed, but now, players have the option to put a bounty out on a player that has killed them to help discourage one experienced player from running a rampage on other people in the same game. It's a step in the right direction for online open world games, and luckily, Grand Theft Auto Online will attempt to match players with their friends before looking for players near the same skill level to join to help prevent bad matches from ever occurring.
Rockstar has already planned out several updates that will later be added to Grand Theft Auto Online, and all of the new features already announced to be coming to the online game will be available in free updates. The Content Creator will be one of the first updates for the game and will obviously allow players to make custom items to add to the game in various ways that will include deathmatch arenas and racetracks. Grand Theft Auto Online will also receive some cool new game modes that are currently being tweaked before release. Capture the Flag will take the classic match type to the open world of Los Santos with all new rules for the well known mode. Heists will become available later as well to allow players to team up and earn big bucks from large scale robberies. The mode will be very strategic and force players to allocate their team and resources in the best way possible to ensure a successful heist. Funds will then be delivered to each player depending on how much money was earned. One other scheduled content drop will add four new vehicles designed for the beach, over 300 leisure wear items and related clothing and two new weapons that have yet to be revealed. Grand Theft Auto Online may be great now, but it will continue to grow with the support of the Grand Theft Auto community and the development team behind the game.
Grand Theft Auto Online is crazy fun, and the game will only get better with plenty of free updates scheduled to bring content to the new title. Grand Theft Auto Online was well worth the wait for players that picked up Grand Theft Auto V at launch. Players can team up with friends in sessions for up to 16 players and enjoy the open world together while having the freedom to do whatever they want. The game supports a variety of online game modes including the typical deathmatch variants, Rally race modes where players team up to navigate the best routes to the finish line and Gang Attacks cooperative modes that are similar to the missions featured in Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption. Grand Theft Auto Online is the best online multiplayer world for the best game of 2013.
Update 10/2: Grand Theft Auto Online launched to the same issues that most all other popular franchises do which is server problems that cause some players to be unable to connect or receive annoying error messages. However, can you really punish a game for being so good that everyone wants to play it when it launches? Rockstar also previously warned fans that their servers may not be able to handle the traffic when it launched. The company sent out this information almost a week prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto Online which is a common courtesy not shown by many companies. It can be tedious to get in a game with the current issues, however, we kept trying until we were finally able to get in a match. Overall, we enjoyed our time with Grand Theft Auto Online after our time with the closed beta and the time with it after the official launch.
Grand Theft Auto Online is the perfect companion to the single player and will only get better with time. Rockstar is currently working on all of the reported issues to make the game better for all players in the future, and we have to not judge the FREE online portion too harshly due to server problems during week one. We found the best way to play Grand Theft Auto Online this week is to go online during non-peak hours (example: 4:00PM-8:00PM seem to be the worst hours) and the utilization of good old perseverance.
TIP 1: Many players are reporting problems with losing their saved character or completing the tutorial. During the initial installation of the game, we installed the content to our hard drive instead of cloud storage. While we do not know how this can impact online play, we have found that users who installed the game to cloud storage seem to be having the most problems. During our time with the game, we had no problems with completing the tutorial and have not had any of our characters deleted. Players can try re-downloading the Title Update if they are having problems getting into the Tutorial Race.
TIP 2: Due to long wait sessions during peak times, your internet connection can also have an impact on your gameplay. If you don't have a really good internet connection then you may be one of those who are getting "timed out" while waiting. We tested the game with an internet connection of 100mbps which resulted in a better online experience this week.
Update 10/3: We currently logged into Grand Theft Auto Online at 1:00 AM CST and everything seems to be playing fine. Currently encountering no problems. Yet again proving most of the problems occur due to just an overload of people trying to play at certain times. Our wait time for a random match to start lasted about 5 minutes before we were able to start playing and get to the important stuff..GTL! Gym, theft and laundering.
Update 10/5: Rockstar added a new title update for PS3 today with one for Xbox 360 users coming soon. The update fixed the server issue that was limiting the amount of possible concurrent users. This means that many players couldn't access GTA Online altogether and that is now resolved for PS3 users. Players not being able to access GTA Online on Xbox 360 will receive the new update soon.
Grand Theft Auto V is now available from all major retailers for the MSRP of $59.99 and can be purchased for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Grand Theft Auto V is rated M by the ESRB for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Nudity, Mature Humor, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content & Use of Drugs and Alcohol. For more information on the game, check out the official Grand Theft Auto V website.
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Release Date: October 1, 2013