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Last week saw the launch of yet another Grand Theft Auto product to the general public. After waiting over four years for new content we get two GTA releases in the space of two weeks. Some would say it is like waiting for a bus. Anyways, trying to build upon the most successful game launch of all time with GTA V, Rockstar looked to wow everyone once again with GTA Online. But things didn't exactly go to plan.
Rockstar warned us previously that there could be teething problems with the servers as the game rolls out and those warnings turned out to be a self fulfilling prophecy. Most people couldn't access the game at all on launch day and the main problem seemed to be the tutorial which was broken and ultimately stopped anyone from accessing the game. It seems PS3 users suffered the most problems and some players even got their characters and money reset after already getting the game running.
Having finally got into the game on Xbox 360 late Tuesday night it has worked for me barring some connectivity issues of course. So server issues aside and if we assume the game will be running smoothly at some point, how is the game? Well first of all you must choose your character that will be causing havoc all over Los Santos.
The character creation system is a strange one. You chose the race of your parents and grandparents as well as assigning different skill points based on your characters daily routine and your characters face is created from these choices. As a collectors edition owner I got the choice to use Misty and Claude from GTA III and Niko from GTA IV as my parent options as well as John Marston from Red Dead Redemption for using the Social Club.
I went with Misty and Claude as parents and actually quite like the results. The nose and eyes in particular really look he's related to Claude and its a cool feature which should have included tons of different classic character options. Sadly this will probably be DLC down the line. Aside from this the creation system is unnecessarily complicated to hide the fact it's rather basic. It's totally fine but could have been way better with a few tweaks.
Once your character is ready you're good to go. After watching a few cinematics seeing our new character enter the city and the rather pointless tutorial ends you are given the freedom of the open world. You can rob stores, enter races or do jobs to earn cash. All of this can be done on your own or with friends (you get extra rewards for this especially if you are in the same crew) and plays out similarly to the main game.
So far the jobs are rather basic. It includes stealing cars for Simeon or simply interrupting a drug deal and stealing their money and merchandise before planning your getaway. I'll assume missions will get harder and slightly more complex as you progress as you also unlock access to more content the higher you rank such as the better weapons at Ammu-Nation.
Unfortunately what we all want to play is co-operative heists which aren't available right now. They will be coming at a later date as a free update and due to how advanced they are I guess it makes sense to ease players in with smaller missions to learn how online works first. This is what we are waiting for and hopefully will be worth the wait when it does arrive.
The overall layout and presentation of GTA Online is really poor. Everything is so hidden and hard to work out and generally could be so much easier. Just the basic level of understanding needed to play this game is rather high and will undoubtedly scare away many players. Being a hardcore Grand Theft Auto fan it isn't a problem, but if you aren't completely clued up and just play the game casually, don't expect to just jump into GTA Online and know exactly what you're doing for a very long time.
When the game works however there is definitely something special here. It is just a shame it is very well hidden. Exploring the world together with friends is just great and really does make the single player seem somewhat boring in comparison. The randomness that occurs when playing the game is what you will fall in love with rather than the scheduled jobs and missions which is really the essence of Grand Theft Auto and has definitely transferred well from the main game.
After really starting to enjoy my time and seemingly having the problems behind me, tragedy struck on Saturday. My character disappeared. I was rank 27 and I had bought an expensive apartment and still had $250K in the bank. This seems to be the worst problem right now and Rockstar have said they are currently working on trying to resolve the issue. I haven't made a new character in the small hope it gets recovered which means I can't play the game at all right now. I've decided to avoid it for the time being and hopefully come back when the issues are gone as the level of enjoyment to be had is outweighed by the frustrations at this point.
Overall the first week with GTA Online has been one of highs and lows. I expected issues especially on launch day and after the initial server issues it seemed to be going great. I played multiple jobs with my crew, started to build my empire complete with customized car and apartment and I really felt like I was seeing the start of something great. With my character now reset I'm left with the problem of waiting for an unlikely fix or trying to regain what I had achieved and then pray it doesn't happen again.
It is a risk I'm not willing to take and hopefully my faith in Rockstar will be repaid with these problems being fixed and then maybe in a month I can finally jump into this game and have an opinion, as right now there are just too many factors that make passing judgment on the game impossible right now. All I will say is you are better waiting currently as your experience of what could be a fantastic experience is probably going to be soured, which is a real shame.