Let’s start off with a simple fact here; Grand Theft Auto 5 is awesome. A vast world that’s living and breathing, and ready for you to jump into and mess around as you see fit. With that simple but brilliant formula in mind, it would make sense that Grand Theft Auto Online would take this idea and crank the fun meter to maximum – After all, things can only get better when you throw a bunch of other players into the mix, right? Well, as it turns out, that’s actually wrong.
Weirdly, the main reason for this lack of fun doesn’t come down to the game itself. It’s a bit poorly designed and the connectivity issues in the first few weeks are pretty much well known to everyone who tried to play it, but it’s still pretty entertaining. Nope, the main thing that cripples the game is the players themselves, evidenced when you merely look at any forum and read about people’s experiences. You see, the second you ride up to pretty much anyone in the hope of teaming up for fun, 99% of the time they’re going to shoot you dead. Never mind whether you have anything worthwhile, whether you’re unarmed, or anything else in between, chances are you’re going to end up with a bullet between your eyes – and that instantly and crushingly limits what you can do.
I’ll admit there is some strange fun in warily edging up to someone and them doing the same, wondering who will be the first to fire a shot, but whatever the conclusion of this dance of death is, it doesn’t leave much satisfaction gameplay wise… Either you’re dead as per usual, or you will pass each other by, because it’s not worth trusting anyone with anything anyway. Even if you strike the one in a million shot and find someone who’s willing to put up with your presence for more than ten seconds, they’re probably not wearing a microphone anyway… And let’s be honest, even if they were, it’s hard to strike up a rapport with a total stranger as you work out fun stuff to do. And that’s not counting the fact people will place bounties on you, hunt you down, send muggers on you and so on – the list of ways for people to be jerks is endless.
The end result for me and many others, therefore, was a game trying to invoke a social experience turning out to be the more anti-social experience of them all. With the main highlight of multiplayer corrupted everything else limps behind – I tend to do missions on my own because other players tend to slow you down or simply do not co-operate. Races, likewise, see everyone shunt each other all over the place even when it’s stupid to do so. Only deathmatch modes survive with no harm as they encourage the killing, but they’re not the most exciting things either. In the end I abandoned any hope of a long lasting enjoyable experience, and wnet back to single player with my head hung low.
And then I played online with friends.
And goodness gracious me – does the whole thing transform into a thing of beauty. For about six straight hours me and two buddies just laughed constantly, effortlessly finding ourselves in weird situations and often dying in them in increasingly more hilarious manners. Suddenly, GTA Online went from being a soulless boring mess into the greatest fun I’ve had in multiplayer in a long time, all with only the addition of two friends. We stole fire trucks and fought the police, threw ourselves out of choppers in an effort to try and obtain the most satistfying crunch on the concrete below, and more besides… The transformation in how the game was played was immense, and though it is such a cliché line to say, it’s a night I won’t forget in a long time.
Finding more to Multiplayer
So you may be thinking “It’s more fun with friends, duh, what else is new.” – but it made me come to a realisation. You see, I’ve always been a bit more of a lone gamer. I’ve never been the one to go over to a friend’s house just to play games all day, and always play the role of the lone sneaky gunman when it comes to pretty much every multiplayer game that allows it. It’s all fun and entertaining, naturally, and it’s not like I’m complaining that I didn’t have people to play games with… But none of that really sticks in the mind or made me laugh as much as those few hours on GTA online. Then, when I came to think of it even more, I realised a lot of my strongest gaming memories came with playing with others – grabbing a multi-tap and playing WWF SMackdown 2 with three other all New Year’s Eve many years ago…. Desperately trying to record an awesome goal from Pro Evolution Soccer me and a friend got purely by chance… All stuff like that, that just makes me smile and think games are truly awesome.
So, with the Playstation 4 heading my way it’s release date in a mere couple of weeks, I thought it would be interesting to make a pact with myself, and hopefully have as much fun with the next generation of cnsoles as possible. The pact itself is simple;
I endeavour to play more games with friends or good online communities, and get more out of multiplayer than I have done in the past.
This isn’t a horribly serious pact, of course. In no way am I taking a blood oath and killing myself if I don’t keep to it, because after all, I do love being the sneaky lone gunman a lot of the time. It’s just an idea, a little experiment that will hopefully stir up as much entertainment as I have had recently. Perhaps my best efforts won’t even work – I presume the amount of times I get called a faggot will increase exponentially, at least. But who knows? Maybe great things will happen and I get sucked into an online community, having more fun with games than ever before…
I’ll keep the blog updated with how it goes, anyway. And you’re always welcome to come and join me…