Fail Like a Rockstar

Fail? Okay, that's a bit hyperbolic. If my failures were like Rockstar's, I'd be sipping umbrella drinks right now. Or recovering from same. But GTA Online is frustrating by any measure right from the get-go. Here's why.

Let me start off with the worship by stating that I'm a bona fide GTA devotee from the get-go; I used to play the original GTA at LAN parties under DOS using IPX. Only the Windows users ever had any significant problems with that configuration, but pretty much everyone still had a DOS partition back then because if you didn't, you couldn't play a lot of cool games at all. I've owned and beaten most of the games in the series from the beginning, and I haven't actually bought a new game in absolutely ages (since Reach, in fact) but I had to have GTA V.

I've complained before about how the single-player experience in GTA V was a bit underwhelming in some ways, notably the after-game. For example, I was hoping that the game would only expand on the available sports, but pool and bowling seem to have gone misisng. I was impressed with the depth of both of these simulations (as mini-games go) and it seems a shame to have to swap to my GTA IV disc. And it seems like even less buildings have a function in the single player game than they did in GTA IV. Some of these buildings have a purpose in GTA Online; you can stick up stores, for example.

Unfortunately, GTA Online is something of a mess. I've created two characters so far, in order to evaluate the beginning game experience. Both times I've been kicked from the game by other players, whatever that means. The first time it happened it was immediately after winning the (SPOILER ALERT) race which immediately follows the intro, which was a truly infuriating introduction to the world of GTA Online. Congratulations on your victory; I will now eject you from the universe and return you to the single-player game after a lengthy load time.

My second character gave a glimpse of what is possible in the world of GTA Online, however, and showed why your first experience should be with three friends in a private little world. I only came in second in the initial race, and afterwards I was bundled into a vehicle with three other players, with whom I sped off to the second mission. We collectively achieved a mission objective, after which I was promptly killed by one of my impromptu crew members. Then, during an unskippable cutscene, I was again kicked from the game by other players. Again, whatever that means.

I've also noted that "passive mode", which is supposed to prevent violent interactions with other players, does not work at all in vehicles and costs your character $100, to boot. You can turn it on and then someone can shoot you in the head. This is something of a major feature, without which the multiplayer game which is not limited to friends or crew members becomes a gigantic free for all carnage-fest in which no one can ever accomplish anything of note. How much time do you want to spend on foot? You can of course enter online mode by yourself, or only with friends. Then you get to leave online mode in order to get back in with the general populace.

It's nice that I don't need to pay for Live Gold. Now, if only this game were particularly playable.

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