Launched on 1 October, about two weeks after the launch of GTA V, GTA Online (GTAO) received an overwhelming response. The only way of accessing GTAO is to launch from the GTA V in-game menu, but despite the outstanding sales and record-breaking performance of GTA V within three days of release, it appears that the servers could not keep up with the thousands or millions of players attempting to join in.
Those who were able to get in encountered a couple of hiccups, ranging from lengthy loading times, lost data, server kickouts to missing stored value. To their credit, Rockstar did warn us about possible problems for some of their users, and three weeks since its launch, there has been about three instances of patch updates. However, not all glitches have been addressed.
That aside, those who managed to get in would have a great time hosting and joining game sessions with their peers. You start off with setting up the ethnicity of your ancestors and dominance between your parents to determine your ‘look’. (You can even set John Marston of Red Dead Redemption to be your dad). This is followed by setting certain habits of your online character which will determine the starting outfit and basic statistics such of driving, shooting, stamina and strength. These doesn’t seem to matter as you can always improve them from your playing. Unfortunately, there’s no way to change or influence your player’s body size.
In the beginning, minimal customization can be made with basic hairstyles and clothing. More styles and apparel are unlocked as the player ranks up. This is done through completing jobs, one at a time, acquired from the many familiar personalities from GTA V. The types of jobs are also similar to the one received in Story Mode. From Simeon, it is always about repossessing vehicles; Gerald will tell you to steal coke from someplace; Lester will offer assistance on top of challenging you to take on some difficult teamwork-based missions; and so on. Other than that, the map is littered with activity points that let you race, engage in deathmatches or survive waves of shoot-outs.
Missions evolve as the player levels up, but as of this stage, we are still missing the unreleased Heists missions, a map editor and possibly more content and updates. And there’s still some nagging issues yet to be fixed (eg. Why am I labeled a Bad Sport as a result of being kicked out?)
With almost three weeks since its launch at the time of writing this, GTA Online remains a potential that has not been fully realised. Rocktar can turn this around but it’s best if this can be initiated before the other blockbuster titles of 2013 are released and starts draining players’ dedication and attention.
Apart from working on patches to resolve the issues, Rockstar will also drop a Stimulus package to those who have played GTAO in October. A total of $500,000 will be paid out over two instalments. It appears that as of the morning of 24 Oct, there is still no firm update on when the reward will be paid out. I’m also looking forward to getting back my $400,000 apartment which I bought using cash top-up from Xbox Games Store.
Problems aside, what do I think missing from the game? Customised body size. I recall this was possible in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Furthermore, we already have NPCs of various sizes in the game. If this is in the pipeline in future updates, I say bring it on. Nothing makes the player avatar becomes more personal than being able to look exactly like what we are.
[Review score postponed pending complete fix of current issues in GTA Online]