Grand Theft Auto 5 looks and feels like money. Rockstar’s attention is unparalleled. Every new open-world game released feels deeper, wider, and more complex than any other. Each game makes a statement once it launches: This shows what you can do today with just a thousand people and half a million dollars.
Grand Theft Auto Online is the multiplayer version of GTA 5. It makes a very different statement. I’ll now summarize it with a gif.
Grand Theft Auto Online has made incredible amounts of money seven years after its original release. GTA Online is a different experience than singleplayer Rockstar games. You can feel every penny of polish while playing it. GTA Online is so slow, confusing, full of cheaters, and rickety. Grand Theft Auto 2021 will be a fascinating game. It is essentially The Homer.
GTA Online was my first online game. I began playing it in December because I wanted to complete all the heists with my group. These are complex missions that require teamwork and, like Grand Theft Auto 5’s singleplayer campaign, are the best part of GTA Online. To get to the real action, you have to avoid cheaters, deal with not just one but three distinct menu systems, long load times, and other bullshit. This is a 2021 tour that shows you what you will have to endure in order to enjoy GTA Online.
GTA Online does have an anti-cheat system. However, it isn’t as effective as someone holding up signs that say “Don’t cheat. Please.” There’s a good chance that you will end up on a server where at least one person can blast you across the map. They might have a modified SMG that can fire rockets. They may spawn in tanks with the Nazi flag on them, as Morgan discovered. Or They latch onto you and ride you, while spawning clones.
Cheating hasn’t completely ruined my GTA Online experience because I don’t spend too much time playing in the open world. My friends and I spend more time on missions. You can’t do any of GTA Online’s “free roaming” activities like buying and selling drugs as a CEO or running a drug company, but you are at the mercy other players on your server.
One of my friends was chased down by a modder, who made collectibles fall from the sky and gave him a good chunk of RP (GTA Online experience points). He was able to level up 20 times in less than a minute and was not banned. Morgan’s servers were able to make a lot of money disappear for hours on several occasions. GTA Online is full of cheaters, but it’s often hilarious and amusing.
It took me three minutes and fifteen seconds. It took me three minutes and fifteen seconds to load into my GTA Online home from Windows. Steam opened the Rockstar launcher first, then took a brief lifetime loading me into an online session.
GTA Online’s kiddions trainer loading times can be quite frustrating for a Rockstar developer. It takes to load the game, but you’d find it easier to live with if you didn’t have to worry about loading more once you’re in. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It takes a while to load a mission. If you decide to go back to free roaming, it will take you another minute to load the mission. This is due to the slow mission system (more later), and connection problems that can cause you to be kicked out of a session. If you are playing with friends, you will have to wait 2-3 minutes for a session to load just to open the menu to join your friend’s session.
GTA Online’s loading times are amazing, despite the lengthy wait. Online sessions can be entered with between 20 and 30 other players. There is no visible strain on the server. It all happens invisibly. This design has many drawbacks. For example, it takes too much time to join friends or load in and out missions. It would be much more convenient to select a session to launch together, without having to endure an exhausting load. It is possible to launch the singleplayer and then create a private online session. However, you will still be faced with long loads.
Did you know that GTA Online has a hidden minigame? It’s called “Remember Which Menu” and it is horrible. Rockstar decided to divide all functionality of GTA Online across three menu systems. The overarching system menu (Esc), the Interaction Menu (M), and the smartphone (Up Arrow). Perhaps they felt it would be too cumbersome to have them all in the same menu system. Perhaps the Interaction menu was an added feature to give GTA Online more options than singleplayer. I’m not sure. However, I do know that they can be very frustrating.
GTA Online and more GTA 5
Smartphones are the worst because it is not clear what you can only do and how much functionality the phone has that isn’t just an extension of other menus. You can also pull up your contacts list to call NPCs and request jobs. Because that was so popular in GTA 4, they will also call you. You can launch missions from the main menu too, but it’s buried. Esc > Online> Jobs > Rockstar Created Missions You can still launch missions from the main menu, but you can also join them through your phone by accepting an invitation. There is a tab on the main menu dedicated to your friends.
Some activities can be confusingly scattered across multiple menus. You can register on Interaction to become a CEO, invite others to your company, and you will receive the invites on your phone in a specific app. The invites are quickly lost, so it’s easy to believe you’re searching for them in the wrong spot. It took me days for me to discover that there is an Interaction subsystem that allows you to equip spare body armor, eat snacks to replenish your health, or buy more ammo.
My favorite part of the WTF menu design is GTA Online telling you to deposit your money at an ATM to stop other players stealing it. You can locate an ATM by choosing it from the Auto GPS list under Interactions. You can also use the web browser to access the bank website from your smartphone. Although I can’t explain why the game recommends the slower and more complicated option, it’s very GTA Online.
Lobby system is too restrictive.
My friends and me don’t spend much time in GTA Online’s open-world. We are cheaters again, but mostly because it is easier to earn more money by working. I will choose one from the main menu and invite my friends to join me. We’ll then go through it together. It takes us to a lobby screen, where we can vote for what game to play next. This screen is clearly intended to be a matchmaking platform for people who don’t care as much about staying with their group or care as long as they’re playing something.
It only displays a handful of GTA Online missions out of hundreds. It only allows you to refresh the options once. After that, it loads completely different missions, including deathmatch, PvP, and boring parachuting. You can choose not to select from the available options. This will take about two minutes as you wait to rejoin the online session and then launch a new mission lobby. It is painfully slow.
It seems simple to ask me to choose from all the missions, while also hosting a lobby. Instead, we spend probably 3 minutes loading for every 10 minutes of playing.
GTA Online gives me the checkmark that says I have completed a mission at least half of the time. This is just bizarre.
- Text chat cannot be disabled
- The idea is that every player will experience some racism.
- There is a lot of driving time in missions
GTA Online’s snowy update made it even more difficult to drive to missions. Rockstar image credit
Many GTA and Red Dead missions begin with a long ride or drive to an objective, while an NPC speaks your ear off. You’re right, about 90% of them. GTA Online’s Heist Missions are the same, but they have stories attached. Although the random jobs that you choose from the menu don’t have to, they are full of long drives, sometimes halfway across the map, which makes it feel completely arbitrary.
Instead of having a set point that is near your goal, you can start wherever you are in the world. There’s no way to know where the objective will be when you choose a job from the menu. This means that you might find yourself in a situation where you need to drive five minutes to complete a task.
Perhaps the goal was to maintain immersion by not teleporting, but that was lost with the three menus. The quick retry option spawns you very close to if you fail a task. This means that Rockstar has determined spawn locations for each mission, but you still have to drive there. It’s a waste of your time.
The new player experience is overwhelming because of years of expansions.
I receive calls every time I log into GTA Online about the Doomsday Heist or the Casino Heist. Even though I’m still trying to complete the original set released in 2015, I receive notifications about Arena War, a demo derby, and vehicles that the game is asking me to purchase. I receive text messages regarding bounty targets and cars that I should steal.
These things are inexplicable and can’t be turned on. They will overwhelm every GTA Online player. Especially those who purchase the Criminal Enterprises starter package to skip the tedious grind to reach the heists. It feels exactly like that–years upon years of updates, with no adjustments made to seamlessly integrate them into the game’s progression.
This isn’t something other games haven’t done. Warframe created a new tutorial to reflect the many changes that have occurred over the years. Destiny 2 simplified its onboarding process last year by eliminating the entire vanilla campaign. Final Fantasy 14 streamlined its first campaign and made it shorter to make it easier for players to access the expansions. This was even discovered by TF2 years ago. GTA Online, one the most lucrative and successful games ever created, is stuck in 2013 and carries seven years worth of baggage.
Wes probably plays the most popular games from three years ago when he isn’t spending 50 hours on a JRPG. He is responsible for features and seeks out personal stories from the niche gaming communities. 50% pizza by volume.