So, Rockstar has revealed the multiplayer mode for Grand Theft Auto V, simply called Grand Theft Auto Online. The USgamer team is comprised of real, flesh-and-blood people who sometimes play games, so a few of us have feelings about multiplayer GTA. Will Grand Theft Auto Online be the best thing Rockstar has ever developed or is it a cheap multiplayer mode stapled onto a game that doesn't need it?
Yesterday, I posted my feelings on the latest Saints Row, but here are the Cliff Notes: Saints Row IV is awesome amalgam of the Saints Row series and Crackdown. So when Rockstar Games released their trailer for Grand Theft Auto Online, I expected to turn my nose up at them and recommend your effort and love go towards Saints Row. While the latter part of that sentence remains true, the former had actually changed by time I finished the trailer.
As I said when Rockstar released the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto V, the idea of planned heists was the only thing that intrigued me about the game. Grand Theft Auto IV convinced me that Rockstar's vision, while technically amazing, wasn't the kind of game that I was willing to play. While Saints Row has wholeheartedly embraced the craziness, GTA seemed to be trapped in-between open-world fun and a deep, serious tale of a former soldier's new start in a new country. I stopped playing one day and when I realized I hadn't touched the game in some time, I shrugged and never went back.
What pulls me in when it comes to Grand Theft Auto Online is the complete dropping of the story. A persistent online world, tons of vehicles, customization, player-created missions and races, team heists, buying apartments; these things all sounds amazing to me. As far as I can tell, there's nothing getting in the way of having fun. In fact, the only problem I have with Grand Theft Auto Online is I have to buy GTAV to play it, despite the fact that Rockstar wants to treat the online mode as a separate title.
"We want it to be known as a different entity, a separate thing, and it'll grow on its own. It'll be GTA Online; it's not part of GTA V. Obviously it's set in the GTA V engine, but it's going to grow and evolve into its own thing," Rockstar North president Lesie Benzies told CVG.
So, well done, Rockstar. In one three-minute video, you've convinced me to buy your new game.
I, too, loved Saints Row, as you'll know if you read our review that Mike linked above. I also love the experience of playing Saints Row cooperatively with a friend, though I've had far too few chances to enjoy that experience due to the challenges living in a different time zone to a lot of your friends brings. I also loved Crackdown and Crackdown 2's open-world multiplayer chaos. So it should be a given that GTAV's newly revealed online mode is something I'll be all over, right?
Hmm. To be honest, while I think the trailer makes it all look extremely cool -- that's its job, after all -- I find myself reacting more with caution than excitement. The reason for this is that the sheer scope of GTA Online on top of what GTAV is already offering makes me a little concerned that Rockstar might be spreading things too thinly. Will the development of the online mode have taken away from cool things that the single-player could have done, and vice versa? Will the online mode really have enough to do to keep people busy beyond a session or two, or will it just degenerate into groups wanting to do nothing but play deathmatches over and over? Why play one mode when the other is sitting there mocking you, urging you to play it?
It's that latter point that worries me the most, to be honest. I fear for the coherence of the experience when there's these two sort-of-related-but-not-really experiences present in the game package. I fear that while I'm playing single-player, I'll be interrupted by invites from my friends wanting to cause some chaos in multiplayer. I fear that an hour into a long cooperative heist session, I'll realize that single-player is more fun and feel guilty about leaving my partners in crime behind. I worry about the feeling of being tugged in two different directions at once, and this leading to that all too familiar feeling of "analysis paralysis" anyone who's got too many games on the go at once will be well familiar with. I sort of wish GTA Online would have been a completely separate product -- this would go a considerable distance to allaying this particular fear.
All these worries could well be completely unfounded, of course, and GTAV/Online could end up providing the perfect balance between a narrative-focused single-player experience and chaotic online multiplayer mayhem. I guess we'll have to wait and see how it turns out to find out for sure. For now, personally, I acknowledge it looks cool, but I'm more cautious about how accurate a picture of the complete package's experience that trailer really paints.
[Images Via CVG]