Right, let’s get this bit over with first, It didn’t work for a few days, lots of people moaned and shouted, Rockstar bought servers or Fairy Dust or put 50p in the meter or whatever it was they did, but now it works, well more or less works and we’ve had a couple of updates so fingers crossed, I will be writing a bit about let downs and online outrage shortly but that’s enough for now.
So, online then, an MMO of the Grand Theft Auto universe, stealing cars, killing fools, robbing everyone from cash laden security vans to relieving drug dealers of their hard-earned drugs, guns and cash. So it’s not a game for kids then, you’d think that but judging by the squeaky voices online there are still some parents who think it’s okay for their offspring to play this sort of mayhem, I don’t but again that’s another story.
The online version allows you to create a character and, with a neat little twist, allows you to select the look of your character by his or her grandparents and parents giving you a more unique look to the usual “white male 2” etc. Once you’ve selected your character you’ll be thrown into a long cut scene in which Lamal from the Story mode meets you at the airport and drives you to the tutorial start. Now online came out two full weeks after the game was released so why they put a forced tutorial in is anyone’s guess but they did and there isn’t much you can do about it. So you have a little race, shoot a bit and all the usual stuff and then you’re thrown into the world and here’s where the good stuff begins.
On your own it’s a blast, you can even go into a “passive” mode where no other “real” player can kill you, it gives you a feel for the locations of the various shops and bars littered throughout the county and allows you get your head around a live moving city with other real people smashing into each other all over the place. You will rob shops and change clothes but soon enough you’re getting calls from various crooks and gangsters offering you work which you can either take on your own or invite buddies or random players to help with; these range from stealing cars or trucks to gang attacks through races and of course the obligatory deathmatch and it’s this co-op where the game ranks alongside anything anyone has ever done in cooperative gaming.
You need to work together – run off and you’re on a hiding to nothing, take on missions alone and you’ll be out gunned and the game only gives you one or two lives so you’ve no little to no chance of getting that all important reputation which allows you get better cars, better guns and different hairstyles and tattoos should you wish to indulge, you can even buy a house with a garage to put all your flashy yellow cars with carbon fibre bonnets (oh is that just me then?) in.
Co-op works here, it’s a beautiful thing to stand and watch your mates try to move a blown up truck out of the way of the massive cargo plane you’re stealing (I was almost crying with laughter at this) before getting fed up and seeing what happened if you just drove the plane over the top of the bloody thing (you can guess what happened) or the moment you stop your car and hold up the cops so your buddy can escape and get the prize, which is shared anyway, but there are a few problems, there almost always will be.
I can’t leave you with such a glowing report it just wouldn’t be like to me to be full of praise without any criticism at all and so here goes, just like the campaign, the MMO is just too big, some missions have you driving for half an hour or more for ten seconds of fun before another twenty minutes of driving, often with nothing else happening, no bad guys, no cops, nothing, just driving for miles and all for a thousand bucks and a hundred RP and guess what? No one can be bothered doing them as it’s just not worth it, you can steal cars or rob shops and get more cash and rep so often you’re given a mission, you sign up for it then invite the other players in your server and more often than not you sit there forever, some missions require more than a couple of players to stand any real chance so if there is only a couple of you in your party you’re going to miss out on a lot of missions and that’s a shame, but to be honest it’s a minor niggle in what is otherwise a brilliant attempt at an MMO and hopefully one that can go on for years to come and with clever DLC I don’t see why it won’t.