I'm a week into playing GTA Online. My character mysteriously had a sex change during one of the Social Club outages. She still never has arms when I log in, and changes clothes every time I look away. Somehow I ended up in a dogfight with a fighter jet and, some time before that, a $US9000 bounty on my head. I'm still not sure of what's happening, but I'm having fun figuring it out.
Playing the first week was more frustrating than fun, but fortunately things have been much more stable this second week. In an incredible turn of events, I was actually able to host a mission lobby and have people not only connect, but remain connected through multiple missions!
If that sounds overly harsh just remember that until this morning players have been greeted with a routine message on the load screen warning that hitting "retry" after failing to connect to a server might sacrifice their character completely. Thankfully, as of this morning, there's a title update on Xbox 360 and PS3 that supposedly fixes this issue. So let's talk about what kind of fun we've been having in GTA Online now that things seem to be working.
I've mostly been left to my own devices in Los Santos, playing with random virtual criminals as opposed to grouping up with people I know. So I spent a lot of time parading around other player's worlds, wreaking havoc while stealing weed, evidence and RVs in my favourite type of mission. It's basically Capture The Flag with a GTA twist. How it works is: two teams start at opposite points on the map, with an objective in between, and a whole bunch of muscle cars (Roadgame), motorcycles (Hippy Hunting) or other vehicles (Crooked Cop) at their disposal. In some of these missions, like Hippy Hunting and Crooked Cop, you'll respawn right in your vehicle when killed, so if anyone drops the package, the area instantly becomes a deathtrap of discarded and exploding cars and dead bodies. It's fantastic.
I've spent most of my GTA Online time this week participating in races, though, which seems to be where all the players are. The voting screen for each next activity always seems to be a race, though this could easily be that there are more races in general. Or maybe my theory that everyone's voting for races is true. Either way, I can't seem to get into vehicle deathmatches, like the one where you fly around with 8 other fighter jets. The one time I did was a fluke.
GTA Races are obviously the signature race event. Think Mario Kart but less cute and more, well, GTA. Think rockets, is what I mean to say.
I managed to squeeze in some time with Evan Narcisse at which point we ran into another great mission that's sadly underrepresented — Welcoming Party, where one team has to escort a businessman across the map, and the other team has to hunt him down and kill him. We ended up sitting in a lobby waiting for invites for 5 minutes before trying to go it on our own. Turns out this mode is no fun 1-on-1. The couple of times I've managed to get into a full match, it's been great, but those are few and far between.
So just like we do in GTA Online, let's get back to the races. The races are great. There are four types: Race, GTA Race, Team GTA Race, and Rally, with lap and point-to-point variations on each. Races are races, and the host gets to choose all the settings including what category of cars you'll be racing, from sedans to supers. GTA Races are obviously the signature race event. Think Mario Kart but less cute and more, well, GTA. Think rockets, is what I mean to say. The other power-up is a simple boost, but you can also use any weapons you're carrying. Obviously this means that 5 seconds into the race, 90% of racers have their tires shot out and one guy is happily booking it safely down the road. I'm a fan of these races since I tend to be that guy. The team version throws a partner into the passenger seat to help shoot tires more efficiently.
The best example of how a GTA race can go is in the first clip of the video up top. You're free to jump out at any time and start shooting people, so this sometimes means making sure nobody passes you when you crash, but it can also sometimes mean that the person in the lead decides to ambush everyone behind him instead of just winning the race.
Rally races. So strange. One player is driving, and can't see the map or checkpoints, the other player is sitting in the passenger seat navigating. Sounds like fun, and it is, but it doesn't really work when nobody has voice chat set up. Rockstar did plan for this, and the passenger can hit left or right on the D-pad to make an arrow come up on screen. I tried this with Evan, and he drove off a cliff. That was the wrong way.
I'm almost to level 15 which means next week I should be able to report back on some experiences with weapons larger than an Uzi, and I can choose some new colours for my car. I'm not sure what missions will unlock as I level up, but hopefully there'll be some more creative and cooperative opportunities. So far, even with all the problems, I love driving around Los Santos online and seeing other players causing mayhem that I can just calmly observe. Until they kill me, and then I spend an hour getting revenge. Obviously.
We'll have another log for you next week, hopefully with even less bugs and more murderous rampages.