Grand Theft Auto Online
|Grand Theft Auto Online|
|Series||Grand Theft Auto|
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
1 October 2013
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
18 November 2014
14 April 2015
Grand Theft Auto Online is a persistent, open world online multiplayer video game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 1 October 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and was released on 18 November 2014 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with a Microsoft Windows version on 14 April 2015. The game is the online multiplayer mode for Grand Theft Auto V. Set within the fictional state of San Andreas (based on Southern California), Grand Theft Auto Online allows up to 30 players[a] to explore the open world and engage in cooperative or competitive game matches. The open world design lets players freely roam San Andreas, which includes open countryside and the fictional city of Los Santos (based on Los Angeles).
Developed in tandem with the single-player mode, Grand Theft Auto Online was conceived as a separate experience, to be played in a continually evolving world. At launch, it suffered widespread technical issues resulting in the inability to play missions and loss of character data. It initially polarized reviewers, being criticized for its lack of direction and repetitive missions, with praise particularly directed at the scope and open-ended gameplay. It won divided year-end accolades, ranging from Biggest Disappointment to Best Multiplayer, from several gaming publications. The game receives frequent free updates that further expand on the game modes and content, which has improved critical reception.
Developed in tandem with Grand Theft Auto V, Grand Theft Auto Online was conceived as a separate experience to be played in a continually evolving world. Up to 30 players[a] freely roam across a re-creation of the single-player world and enter lobbies to complete jobs (story-driven competitive and cooperative modes). The Content Creator toolset lets players create their own parameters for custom jobs, like racetracks and deathmatch weapon spawn points. Players may band together in organised player teams called crews to complete jobs together. Rockstar Games Social Club extends crews formed in Max Payne 3's multiplayer mode to that of Grand Theft Auto Online. Players can create their own crews and join up to five total. Crews win multiplayer matches to earn experience points and climb online leaderboards.
In Grand Theft Auto Online, players create a new character specific to the online world, which shows on the screen's Switch Wheel alongside single-player characters Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. The player-characters are designed by a genetics-related process. Greater control is given to the character's clothes and hairstyles. The mute player-character online avatar arrives in Los Santos by plane and is picked up by Lamar Davis, who gives the character a gun and a car. An hour-long tutorial introduces the player to the various game modes, driving, fighting, and game progression mechanics. The story is not central in the multiplayer, though it serves as a prequel to the single-player story, where characters from the single-player are woven in.
Similar to single-player, players can level up their character's attributes such as driving and stamina. Exclusive to GTA Online is a system of earning experience, usually by successful completion of activities. Accumulating enough experience to level up unlocks weapons, clothing, car customizations, and more advanced activities (such as parachuting and aircraft). Once unlocked, items need to be purchased with in-game currency, which can be earned or purchased with real money. Players can circumvent an activity's level requirements by joining a game with others of a sufficient rank. There are options to play alone or with friends, and an option for "Passive Mode", which makes the player immune to other players while on foot.
Aside from the open world, there are three main types of set activities: racing (by car, bike, air or boat), Deathmatch (team or free-for-all), and objective-based Contact Missions (simplified single-player-like storyline jobs, usually cooperative). Online uses lock-on aim and emphasises stealth in firefights. "Adversary Mode" adds several asymmetric variations on these activities, including "Siege Mentality" where one team is besieged by another, and "Hasta La Vista" where truckers chases down cyclists (reminiscent of the truck/motorcycle chase in Terminator 2: Judgement Day). "Survival" pits a team of up to four players against ten waves of enemies, similar to the Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops. The Heists Update released on 10 March 2015 adds five co-op elaborate multi-part missions, each mission having several setup jobs leading up to the finale crime which is a high-profit job. The player who is the heist leader has to unlock each heist in order and pay the upfront costs, while receiving the largest payoff (at the end, if successfully completed) and getting their progress saved, while other players (the crew members) can join any setup/finale jobs without prerequisite and get paid a cut for each mission passed. The heists, all requiring four players except the first which is two-player, often assign specific roles to players such as driver, gunner, etc. and/or may split them apart, and a headset is recommended for communicating with other players.
The game includes a content creation tool that lets players make automobile races and deathmatches. Players can choose the location, start and spawn points, and weapon and vehicle drops in deathmatches, and the location, route, race type, and player count in air, land, or sea races. Creations have to be tested against computer-controlled players before the mode is available online. The creations can also be published for others to use. Rockstar tags what they deem to be the best as "Rockstar Verified".
Grand Theft Auto Online launched on 1 October 2013, two weeks after the release of Grand Theft Auto V. Many players reported that they had difficulties connecting to the game's servers and the Social Club web service, and others further reported that the game would freeze while loading early missions. Rockstar released a technical patch on 5 October in an effort to resolve the issues. The microtransaction system, which allows players to purchase game content using real money, was also suspended as a fail-safe. Problems persisted the second week following launch, and some players reported their player-character progress as having disappeared. Another technical patch was released on 10 October combating the issues, and players experiencing issues were told not to recreate their multiplayer avatars. As recompense for the technical issues, Rockstar offered a stimulus of GTA $500,000 (in-game currency) to the accounts of all players connected to Online since launch.
Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar's parent company, stated that by February 2014, 70 percent of players with Internet access had played Grand Theft Auto Online, and that the game's microtransactions system was the largest contributor to the company's digital revenue since the launch of Grand Theft Auto Online.
In December 2013, Rockstar announced that they planned to release downloadable content in 2014 that expands the single-player mode and creates new story for the lead characters, however as of 2016 no single-player expansions have been released. Rockstar announced in September 2015 that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the online mode will no longer receive any new additional content, due to limitation in the console capacity. This was criticised by Forbes writer Paul Tassi, who felt that Rockstar was "cutting out a lot of potential customers" who continued to play on the older systems, adding that the re-releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were lacking in additional content.
Post-release content is continually added to Grand Theft Auto Online and the single-player mode of Grand Theft Auto V through free title updates.
The Beach Bum update, released on 19 November 2013, added more beach-themed jobs and customisation content for players. In December, Rockstar announced that they plan to release downloadable content in 2014 that expands the single-player mode and creates new story for the lead characters; no further announcements have been made. The Deathmatch & Race Creators update was released on 11 December and lets players create their own deathmatches and races. The Capture Update was released on 17 December and adds a new team-based capture the flag mode called Capture. On 24 December, the Holiday Gifts update added Christmas-themed items to the online mode. It also gave players discounts on in-game vehicles, weapons, apartments and other items. The items and discounts were available until 5 January 2014. The update also added snowfall to the game world during Christmas.
Coinciding with the 2014 Valentine's Day, the Valentine's Day Massacre Special update released on 13 February added Bonnie and Clyde-themed content to the game for a limited time until the end of February. The Business Update, released on 4 March, added multiple business-themed items to the game. On 11 April, the Capture Creator Update was released that added the ability for players to create their own Capture jobs using the Content Creator. The High Life Update released on 13 May added new vehicles, clothes and weapons. It also added new apartments, the ability to purchase two properties at any one time and the Mental State gameplay statistic that monitors player behaviour in-game. The I'm Not a Hipster Update was released on 17 June and added hipster-themed customisation items, and retro-themed vehicles and weapons. The Independence Day Special update was released on 1 July to celebrate the US Independence Day and added patriotic-themed vehicles, weapons and customisation items for a limited time. The patch added new properties to Grand Theft Auto Online and the "On Call Matchmaking" feature that lets player accept a job invite and keep playing until the lobby is full. The San Andreas Flight School update, released on 19 August 2014, added new features and vehicles related to the in-game flying school. The Last Team Standing update was released on 2 October 2014. It added 10 new jobs for, new motorcycles, weapons and creator support for the Last Team Standing mode. On 18 December 2014, the Festive Surprise update was released, which added two new weapons, four holiday-themed vehicles and Christmas-themed apparel that was announced to be available until 5 January 2015. The update also added the ability to buy a third property.
The Online Heists update was a highly anticipated feature of Grand Theft Auto Online. After numerous delays, the update launched on 10 March 2015, suffering some initial technical difficulties due to the increased user load. Ill-Gotten Gains Part 1, released on 10 June 2015, added additional vehicles, clothing items and weapon decals. Some gameplay features were also affected, such as a redesign of the in-game car websites, the addition of a first-person vehicle hood camera in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, and the ability to cycle through targets when using lock-on missiles, among other minor changes. Ill-Gotten Gains Part 2, released on 8 July 2015, added vehicles and weapons. It also added the radio station The Lab, previously exclusive to the Windows version of the game, to all other versions. Lowriders, released on 10 October 2015, added additional vehicles, available vehicle upgrades, weapons, clothing items and Benny's Original Motor Works vehicle shop. The update gave players the ability to obtain and customize Lowriders, including upgrades such as interior customization, hydraulics, and decals. The update also introduced the machete and machine-pistol weapons. Halloween Surprise, released on 29 October 2015 for a limited time, featured two new Halloween-themed vehicles, flashlight and additional masks and ornaments, along with slasher-themed Adversary Modes. They were available until 16 November 2015. The Festive Surprise update returned on 21 December 2015. In addition to the items available in the previous iteration, the new iteration added new festive themed clothes, fifteen new masks and a new car. The update also added a new Adversary mode on 23 December 2015.
An update released on 28 January 2016 added a new Adversary mode called "Drop Zone" along with two new sports cars. Be My Valentine update launched on 10 February. The update included new outfits and cars as well as the content of the previous Valentine's Day themed-update. A couple-themed adversary mode was added by the update. The Lowriders: Custom Classics update released on 15 March added 3 cars available for customisation along with new weapons, clothes and an Adversary mode called "Sumo". Further Adventures in Finance and Felony was released on 7 June. The update allows the player character to buy executive offices, hire criminal associates and become CEO of a criminal organisation which allows the player to participate in new jobs and challenges. In addition the update adds new weapons, vehicles, attire, weapon attachments and a new Adversary mode called "Trading Places"  The Cunning Stunts update released on 12 July added 13 new vehicles and 16 stunt races. On 19 July 6 new stunt races and 3 new vehicles were added through an update to Cunning Stunts. Another one on 26 July added 5 new stunt races and 3 new vehicles.
|Grand Theft Auto Online reception|
Grand Theft Auto Online suffered widespread technical issues at launch, which prompted many reviewers to bemoan their experience the game. Chris Carter of Destructoid criticised the "messy launch" and felt that Rockstar should have delayed it. IGN's MacDonald considered her initial play sessions in Grand Theft Auto Online "disastrous", and Liam Martin of Digital Spy reported glitches including loss of his character data. While generally praising the scope of the experience, he considered Grand Theft Auto Online underwhelming as beholden to pre-launch anticipation let down by its technical issues. However, reviewers generally recognised the open-ended exploration and dynamic content as the strength of Grand Theft Auto Online. Jon Denton of VideoGamer.com was particularly enthusiastic, and wrote that the "endlessness" of the gameplay made up for the technical issues.
When Grand Theft Auto V was re-released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Grand Theft Auto Online received similar critical reactions. IGN's Dan Stapleton reported low player counts in matches, long wait times in lobbies, server disconnection and occasional crashes. "Because of that," he wrote, "I can't strongly recommend ... the multiplayer experience alone". VideoGamer.com found online character progression streamlined by comparison with the original version. According to them, the "grind of just doing PvP until co-op Jobs arrive with regularity" was lost, and newcomers would likely find multiplayer enjoyable and balanced. However, they wrote of frequent server disconnection, especially during load screens. Game Informer's Reiner reported "minimal lag or issues in the expanded firefights and races".
Besides technical issues, other aspects of Grand Theft Auto Online also received criticism. The character creation system was panned as unintuitive, who felt that the system only produced unattractive avatars. MacDonald of IGN noted an "addictive rhythm" to character progression and was enthusiastic about some of the job missions, although most eventually became monotonous. GameSpot's Petit agreed with MacDonald, writing that "early on, your mission options are dominated by bland last team standing deathmatches". Eurogamer's Rich Stanton said that the Contact Missions "tend to work like this: four of you clump up in one or two cars, drive somewhere, spill out and shoot people, drive away", while lacking a required co-op aspect such that some were possible to complete solo albeit with some difficulty. GameSpot's Mark Walton wrote that the online mode "suffers from a lack of direction" for its open-ended and frenetic gameplay, in contrast to the single-player story, encouraging player behavior where "you end up seeing any nearby players as threats and pull out your weapon, ready to gun them down before they gun you down", which created a distracting "unending cycle of pointless slaughter". Walton also noted that the game's reputation system was a weak deterrent against foul play; for instance you would go unpunished for killing another player as long as their vehicle wasn't destroyed. In addition, purchasing vehicles and weapons in-game was prohibitively expensive (especially compared to the single-player mode), which was further exacerbated by low mission payouts, with some suggested that Rockstar was pushing online players towards using real money to buy in-game currency.
Critical reception of GTA Online has improved over time. The San Andreas Flight School update created incentives for players to try the previously neglected aircraft missions and take advantage of the game's "sensational" flight modelling, while also more fairly balancing mission payouts relative to their difficulty. The Heists update was also well-received: Liam Martin of Digital Spy wrote that the update "strike[s] a great balance between the team and the individual", praising the update for encouraging "pinpoint coordination", while IGN's Ryan McCaffrey applauded the replayability and unpredictability. Eurogamer's Rich Stanton praised the four-player Heists for testing co-ordination as a group by "forcing players to adopt different starting positions" which "add[s] a layer of strategy that wasn't there before" which is important since the death of one player often forces the team to restart, which was lacking in the Contact Missions. There has been some criticism of the Heists for poorly-placed or absent mission checkpoints, the unnecessary long drives at the start of missions, and frequent technical issues that caused long waiting periods and mid-mission server disconnections.
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