Grand Theft Auto Online

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Grand Theft Auto Online
Grand Theft Auto Online.jpg
Developer(s)Rockstar North
Publisher(s)Rockstar Games
Director(s)Leslie Benzies
Producer(s)Andy Duthie
Designer(s)Leslie Benzies
  • Adam Fowler
  • Daniel Yelland
  • Robert Trickey
Artist(s)Aaron Garbut
SeriesGrand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto Online is an online multiplayer action-adventure game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 1 October 2013 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and on 18 November 2014 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and on 14 April 2015 for Microsoft Windows; PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions are scheduled for late 2021. The game is the online component of 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 an open countryside and the fictional city of Los Santos (based on Los Angeles). Players control a silent protagonist who arrives in Los Santos and aims to become the city's ultimate crime lord. Set months prior to the events of the single-player game (although later updates changed the time setting to a few years after the single-player campaign), Grand Theft Auto Online comprises cooperative missions where multiple players complete tasks to advance the narrative. The game also features numerous side missions and events, complex multi-stage missions called "Heists", and the ability to build a criminal empire by purchasing various businesses.

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 polarised reviewers, being criticised 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. The 2015 Heists update had been especially well received by the critics.[1]


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.[2] 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).[3] The Content Creator toolset lets players create their own parameters for custom jobs, like racetracks and deathmatch weapon spawn points.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] The player-characters are designed by a genetics-related process.[8] Greater control is given to the character's clothes and hairstyles. The protagonist 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.[8] 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.[8]

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 customisations, 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.[8]

Aside from the open world, there are three main types of set activities: racing (by car, bike, aircraft, 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 chase down cyclists (reminiscent of the truck/motorcycle chase in Terminator 2: Judgment 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.[9][10]

The game includes a content creation tool that lets players make automobile races and deathmatches.[7] 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".[11]


The player takes on the role of a silent protagonist who moves to Los Santos in search for new pursuits. Upon arrival, they meet with Lamar Davis, whom they befriended on Lifeinvader. After a street race against the player, Lamar introduces them to drug dealer Gerald and corrupt Armenian car salesman Simeon Yetarian for work. As the player begins to make a name of themselves in the city's criminal underworld by completing jobs for both Gerald and Simeon, they attract the attention of individuals like Trevor Philips, hacker Lester Crest, and Mexican drug lord Martin Madrazo, who also end up employing them.

The first update to introduce a new story chapter was 2015's Heists, wherein the player is offered a new series of jobs by Lester. In addition to carrying out several bank robberies, the player helps Lester's associate Agent 14 with a few illicit operations, and assists Trevor with a major drug deal by stealing the drugs he is going to sell from a number of gangs. In Lowriders, Lamar returns with his own series of missions, wherein the player sabotages rival gangs to help him rise to power. However, this only leads to Lamar falling out with his own gang, so he attempts to earn back their trust, with the player's help. With the addition of the updates Executives and Other Criminals and Bikers, the player can form or join a criminal organization and motorcycle club, respectively. They purchase an office and clubhouse to use as their main headquarters, and engage in various illegal activities to earn money, while expanding their criminal empire by buying new assets, such as drug labs and warehouses.

The game shifts to 2017 in Gunrunning,[12] wherein the player purchases a bunker and starts a gunrunning operation alongside Agent 14. In Smuggler's Run, the player also starts a smuggling operation with Trevor's former associate Ron Jakowski after the purchase of a hangar. In The Doomsday Heist, Lester contacts the player again and asks them to purchase an ex-government facility, whereupon he introduces them to billionaire Avon Hertz and his artificial intelligence network Cliffford, whom they assist in preventing a doomsday plot. Soon, the International Affairs Agency (IAA), including Agent 14, joins forces with them to help combat a rogue Russian special ops unit led by a man named Bogdan. However, upon eliminating them save for Bogdan himself, Avon and Cliffford betray the player, Lester, and the IAA, and reveal that they tricked them into helping them gain access to the state's defence system, which they intend to use to trigger a nuclear armageddon. Reluctantly joining forces with Bogdan, the group works to thwart Avon and Cliffford's plot, which they ultimately succeed in doing, after the player kills them both while raiding their hidden facility.

After Hours changes the time setting to 2018 and sees the player working with nightclub entrepreneur "Gay" Tony Prince to open a successful nightclub in Los Santos, doing missions to increase its popularity or to recruit various famous DJs. Additionally, the player can use the nightclub's warehouse for their illicit operations, and receive new jobs from Simeon and Lester's former assistant Paige Harris. In The Diamond Casino & Resort, set in 2019, the player buys a penthouse at the recently opened casino of the same name, only for its manager, Agatha Baker, to enlist their help with the various problems the casino is facing; most notably, Texan businessman Avery Duggan, who plans a hostile takeover. The player eventually kills Avery after receiving a tip from his nephew Thornton, who is also interested in buying the casino and promises the staff peace if they give him ownership. Following Avery's death, Thornton buys the casino and removes the troublesome staff. In The Diamond Casino Heist, Georgina Cheng, sister of former casino owner Tao, enlists the player and a retired Lester to rob the casino in retaliation for Thornton tricking Tao into selling it to him. The heist is carried out successfully, humiliating Thornton, while Lester enters a relationship with Georgina.

In Gerald's Last Play, set in 2020, the player is offered a new series of missions by Gerald, who is facing opposition from rival gangs and asks for their help in dealing with them. In Los Santos Summer Special, the player's personal yacht comes under attack from the Kkangpae. Under the coordination of the yacht's captain, Brendan Darcy, the player retaliates against the gang, ultimately killing their leader and ending the conflict.


Grand Theft Auto Online launched on 1 October 2013, two weeks after the release of Grand Theft Auto V.[13] 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.[14][15] Rockstar released a technical patch on 5 October in an effort to resolve the issues.[16] The microtransaction system, which allows players to purchase game content using real money, was also suspended as a fail-safe.[17] Problems persisted the second week following launch, and some players reported their player-character progress as having disappeared.[18] Another technical patch was released on 10 October combating the issues, and players experiencing issues were told not to recreate their multiplayer avatars.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22] A standalone version of Grand Theft Auto Online will be released for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X in late 2021; it will be free on the former for the first three months.[23]

Additional content[edit]

Post-release content is continually added to Grand Theft Auto Online through free title updates.


The Beach Bum update, released on 19 November 2013, added more beach-themed jobs and customisation content for players.[24] The Deathmatch & Race Creators update was released on 11 December and allowed players to create their own deathmatches and races.[25] The Capture Update was released on 17 December and added a new team-based capture the flag mode called Capture.[26] On 24 December, the Holiday Gifts update added Christmas-themed items, discounts to in-game vehicles, weapons, apartments and other items, and snowfall to the game world. All the features of this update were removed on 5 January 2014.[27]


Coinciding with the 2014 Valentine's Day, the Valentine's Day Massacre Special update was released on 13 February and added Bonnie and Clyde-themed content to the game for a limited time, until the end of February.[28] The Business Update, released on 4 March, added multiple business-themed items to the game.[29] 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.[30] The High Life Update, released on 13 May, added several new contact missions, new vehicles, clothing items, and weapons. It also added new apartments, the ability to own two properties at the same time, and the Mental State gameplay statistic that monitors player behaviour in-game.[31] The I'm Not a Hipster update was released on 17 June and added hipster-themed customisation items, and retro-themed vehicles and weapons.[32][33]

The Independence Day Special update was released on 1 July to celebrate the U.S. 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.[34] The San Andreas Flight School update, released on 19 August, added new features and vehicles related to the in-game flying school.[35] The Last Team Standing update was released on 2 October and added 10 new jobs, motorcycles, weapons and creator support for the Last Team Standing game mode.[36] On 18 December, the Festive Surprise update was released and added two new weapons, four holiday-themed vehicles and clothing items, which were made unavailable after 5 January 2015. The update also added the ability to buy a third property, and saw the return of snowfall to the game world.[37]


The Heists update was a highly anticipated feature of Grand Theft Auto Online, and added a new set of complex multi-stage missions that require four players to cooperate towards completing a task with a massive payout.[38][39] After numerous delays,[40][41] the update launched on 10 March 2015, suffering some initial technical difficulties due to the increased user load.[42] Ill-Gotten Gains Part 1, released on 10 June, added new 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.[43] Ill-Gotten Gains Part 2, released on 8 July, 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. This was also the final update for both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, citing hardware limitations.[44] The Freemode Events update launched on 15 September, and added new modes and activities. It also added the Rockstar Editor and Director Mode, previously exclusive to the Windows version of the game, to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions.[45]

Lowriders, released on 10 October, added a new set of story missions given by Lamar, new vehicles and vehicle upgrades, weapons (including the machete and machine-pistol), clothing items and Benny's Original Motor Works vehicle shop. The update gave players the ability to obtain and customise Lowriders, including upgrades such as interior customisation, hydraulics, and decals.[46] Halloween Surprise, released on 29 October, featured two new Halloween-themed vehicles, flashlight and additional masks and ornaments, along with slasher-themed Adversary Modes; the additional content featured in this update was only temporarily, and was removed on 16 November.[47] The Executives and Other Criminals update released on 15 December and added new customisable Penthouse Apartments, new vehicles, and a new game mode entitled Extraction.[48] The Festive Surprise update returned on 21 December. In addition to the items available in the prior year's update, it added new festive themed clothes, masks, and a car. It also included a new Adversary mode, which was released on 23 December.[49]


An update released on 28 January 2016 added a new Adversary mode called Drop Zone and two new sports cars.[50] The Be My Valentine update launched on 10 February and, in addition to the content featured in the previous Valentine's Day-themed update, added new outfits, cars, and couple-themed Adversary mode.[51] The Lowriders: Custom Classics update, released on 15 March, added three cars available for customisation along with new weapons, clothes and an Adversary mode called Sumo.[52] Further Adventures in Finance and Felony was released on 7 June, and gave players the ability to buy executive offices, hire criminal associates and become the CEO of a criminal organisation. It also added new missions, challenges, and purchasable cargo warehouses, available to all players who are part of a criminal organisation. The update also included new weapons vehicles, clothing items, weapon attachments, and a new Adversary mode called Trading Places.[53] The Cunning Stunts update, released on 12 July, added 13 new vehicles and 16 stunt races.[54]

The Bikers update, released on 4 October, introduced motorcycle clubs, which players can form or join, and clubhouses that can be purchased at several new locations across San Andreas. The update also added new clubhouse jobs given by Malc, who makes a return from Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned, and new bikes, weapons, tattoos, clothing items, businesses, and a new Aversary mode.[55] Released on 8 November, the Deadline added a new Adversary game mode based on the light cycle races from Disney's Tron film franchise, specifically those seen in the 2010 film, Tron: Legacy.[56] 13 December saw the release of both the Import/Export and Festive Surprise 2016 updates. The former serves as an expansion to the Finance and Felony update,[57] while the latter added more Christmas-themed content to the game.[58][59]


The Cunning Stunts: Special Vehicle Circuit, released on 14 March 2017, introduced special vehicle stunt races and 20 additional races.[60] The Gunrunning update was released on 13 June and introduced purchasable underground bunkers, which players can turn into illegal weaponry research, storage and production facilities. It also introduced new vehicles such as armoured personnel carriers and armed off-road cars, and the Mobile Operations Center (MOC), which allows players to customize their arsenal of weaponry and unlocks missions that give the player discounts for the other vehicles featured in this update.[61] The Smuggler's Run update, released on 29 August, allowed players to start their own smuggling business alongside Ron Jakowski. This is done by purchasing one of the several new large aircraft hangars, which can be used to store the player's aircraft. The update also added a new Adversary Mode job.[62]

The Doomsday Heist update, released on 12 December, saw the return of heists; while the update features only one heist, it is longer and more complex than all previous ones. Unlike previous heists, it can be played by a group of 2-4 players, and requires the purchase of an underground ex-military facility to be unlocked.[63] The update also added a large extent of military-grade vehicles and new properties. The facility allows players to store their vehicles and access the Orbital Cannon, a high-powered remote controlled weapon. Later that month, the Festive Surprise update returned with new holiday-themed items available for purchase.[64]


Released on 20 March 2018, the Southern San Andreas Super Sport Series introduced new races, vehicles, and game modes.[65] The After Hours update was released on 24 July and added a new nightlife business. The player can purchase a nightclub at one of several locations in Los Santos, and work with "Gay" Tony Prince, who makes a return from Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony, to transform it into a profitable business. Additionally, the nightclub's warehouse can be used to store the player's vehicles or illicit goods, which are then sold to buyers across San Andreas. The update also featured new contact missions, vehicles, and real life DJs Solomun, Tale Of Us, Dixon and The Black Madonna, who can be hired to work at the player's nightclub.[66] The Arena War update, released on 11 December, introduced new battle vehicles and the ability to purchase a garage at the Maze Bank Arena, where players can store and customise their already owned vehicles to be more suitable for the new death races that were also added with this update.[67]


The Diamond Casino & Resort update, released on 23 July 2019, introduced the eponymous casino, where players can participate in gambling minigames and purchase a penthouse that they can customise to their liking. It also introduced new vehicles, clothing items, cooperative missions, and other casino-related activities.[68] The in-game gambling activities are not available in certain regions, including a few US states, due to differing laws and regulations.[69] The Diamond Casino Heist, released on 12 December 2019, added a new heist, which features three different approaches and a more interactive mission design. The heist is unlocked after the purchase of an arcade, which the player can customise to their liking. The update also introduced 20 new vehicles, two weapons, several clothing items, minigames that can be played at the arcades, and an in-game radio station curated by Detroit rapper Danny Brown and British rapper Skepta.[70][71]


Gerald's Last Play is a series of six cooperative missions given by Gerald that were added on 23 April 2020, as part of The Diamond Casino Heist update.[72] The Los Santos Summer Special update was released on 11 August, and added new cooperative missions, vehicles, Adversary modes, and race tracks.[73] An update scheduled for late 2020 will feature "a take on Heists in an entirely new location".[74]


Aggregate score
Metacritic(PS3) 83/100[75]
(X360) 80/100[76]
Review scores
Digital Spy3/5 stars[81]

Many reviewers bemoaned their initial play experience as Grand Theft Auto Online suffered widespread technical issues at launch.[78] Destructoid's Chris Carter felt the "messy launch" should have been delayed[77] and IGN's Keza MacDonald lamented her "disastrous" play sessions.[82] Digital Spy's Liam Martin lost his character data and considered the technical issues dwarfed pre-launch anticipation.[81] Some reviewers generally praised the game's open-ended and dynamic content;[78][82]'s Jon Denton thought the gameplay's "endlessness" made up for its problems[80] and Digital Spy's Martin complimented the game's scope.[81]

Its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One re-release 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".[83] found progression more streamlined and balanced than before and thought the "grind of just doing PvP until co-op Jobs arrive with regularity" was lost. However, they noted frequent server disconnection, especially during load screens.[84] Game Informer's Andrew Reiner reported "minimal lag or issues in the expanded firefights and races".[85]

Other game aspects received similar criticism. The character creation system was panned as unintuitive with resulting unattractive avatars.[77][81][82] IGN's MacDonald thought the gameplay's "addictive rhythm" eventually faltered as errands became a monotony.[82] GameSpot's Carolyn Petit thought the game's early mission palette was marred by "bland last team standing deathmatches".[78] Eurogamer's Rich Stanton found cooperative gameplay repetitive as players completed the same menial objective cycle.[86] GameSpot's Mark Walton thought the frenetic action lacked direction, with PvP an "unending cycle of pointless slaughter". He considered the reputation system a weak deterrent against foul play and thought the unbalanced game economy was further hindered by low mission payouts.[87][88]

Reception has improved over time. VG247's Patrick Garratt felt the San Andreas Flight School update incentivised player engagement with the oft-neglected aircraft missions by offering more liberal reward payouts.[88] Digital Spy's Martin thought the Heists update encouraged teamwork and "pinpoint coordination",[9] while IGN's Ryan McCaffrey found high replay value in the heists' volatile action.[10] Eurogamer's Stanton enjoyed the strategic planning necessary to pull off a successful heist and thought players were required to think on their feet and adapt to changing scenarios. He further noted occasional gameplay pacing issues and technical hiccoughs such as mid-mission server disconnection.[86]

The game won Best Multiplayer at the 10th British Academy Games Awards[89] and from GameTrailers.[90] Game Revolution and Hardcore Gamer nominated it for Biggest Disappointment.[91][92] At the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards, the game was nominated for Still Playing[93] and won Best Game Expansion for The Diamond Casino & Resort.[94] 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.[95]


  1. ^ a b The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Grand Theft Auto Online allow up to 16 concurrent players,[3] while the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC versions allow up to 30 concurrent players.[4]
  2. ^ Carolyn Petit of GameSpot originally gave the game a score of 7/10 in her review from 11 October 2013,[78] but changed the score to 6/10 in her updated review from 6 May 2014.[79]


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