The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a write-off, with unexpected circumstances preventing anything substantial from being posted. I’ve also been dropping in and out of different games in that time, thanks to a new group of friends with a hugely varied Steam library between us.
A lot of time has been spent in the impressively criminal state of San Andreas, where up to 30 maniacs armed to the teeth can cause havoc across the city of Los Santos (and surrounding areas). For the longest time, I’d created a guy who looked scarily similar to me and took after my greatest trait: staying inside for fear of being murdered. However, with the occasional support of a group of slightly less insane people, I’ve ventured into the world and committed a whole lot of crime.
GTA Online was developed alongside GTA V, but is a separate experience to the single player campaign. After choosing your grandparents and making some minor adjustments to a model, you can re-enter San Andreas as a mute on a mission to get paid by any means necessary.
You are given access to the full world of GTA V, minus North Yankton, to explore in the online experience. A few of the characters even make an appearance, including Lamar, Trevor (plus goons) and Lester. Rockstar have also put a lot of time and effort into various free updates since 2013, that have added new modes and events for players to take part in. The customisation leaves a bit to be desired, but there’s a good selection of everything to keep you satisfied.
In general, a lot of the markers on your map will be for races or death-matches, pitting you against random criminals from across the world. If you’re feeling lucky, you could try have a drive around the city – you might just be snipered or blown up by a rocket launcher for your trouble though. In some situations, feuds arise from nowhere and the server can become a bloody mess as players hunt and gun each other down in the street. Depending on the size of their wallet, that could be from the turret of an Apache helicopter.
There are some more story-driven missions hidden through the map, which can be quite fun to complete – you will still need a team to do them, unless you can place your faith in murderous teenagers. A highly anticipated feature, that was repeatedly delayed until March 2015, were the Heists – probably the best bit of the single player campaign.
Following the same model as the main game, you and a few friends can club together to complete Heist Setup missions, collecting bits and pieces for a big event; a bus here, a mountain of drugs there… As long as the leader is level 12 (a bit of a slog, but not too horrible) and has plenty of cash to finance the operation.
Unfortunately, the host will be putting a lot of money out upfront for the setup missions, with little to nothing in return. They will get a good payday from the actual heist, but it can put them on the back foot until then. I’ve only performed a few heists and setups, but I can’t imagine grouping with random people from the internet for them; with the group chatting on Skype, we were able to react to the situation and plan ahead – something I don’t think is easy with the ‘chat’ feature in-game.
Another fun addition are the Organisations, which can be set up by one player who can invite any- and everyone to it. It’s an ad-hoc coalition, the group will be disbanded once the CEO disconnects. From the office a CEO can organise to collect and sell goods, which are hectic experiences: a CEO will buy some special goods, which will appear somewhere on the map. They and their associates will journey out to collect the goods, maybe fighting off a few mooks, and deliver them to a warehouse. However, not long after the goods are collected, the entire server will be pinged the location of the goods.
Depending on your luck, they might ignore it. Or, they might decide to steal or destroy your special goods. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get back to safety quickly because it can cost a lot for a CEO to buy such high quality merchandise and anything destroyed is lost for good.
As you complete missions, whatever they may be, you earn experience to your level – with each new level, you get some new stuff; new vehicular mods, haircuts, clothes, weapons and more. This can be topped up simply by cruising with other players, or by being around a CEO. It’s a little annoying not to have access to a sniper rifle and a high spot from day 1, but it’s definitely something you can manage.
Once you’ve saved up enough cash, you can splurge on property across Los Santos; a high-end apartment in the city costing at least $1mil, while a shack in Sandy Shores will only put you back a couple hundred thousand. There are also a number of garages across the map that you can use to store your fleet of vehicles. Or you could treat yourself to a luxury supercar, to wrap around the near lamppost at your earliest convenience.
In general, GTA Online was a lot less chaotic that I’d imagined. I mean, at times, it’s manic and you need to jump servers quickly before Sir Super-Jet blows up your car for the 30th time – but you’ll probably see a lot less of that. It’s a good idea to find a group of friends to roam San Andreas with, especially if one of them is playing Jared Leto’s Joker…