GTA Online: GTANet Hands On Preview

Rockstar Games invited GTANet and other Grand Theft Auto fansites to New York City last week to experience Grand Theft Auto Online firsthand. The event took place at the Hotel on Rivington in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighbourhood. (This is the same venue where we had our first look at GTAIV in 2008.)

As pretty much everyone knows, GTA Online launches tomorrow (October 1st). Access is free for anyone with a copy of Grand Theft Auto V.

Grand Theft Auto Online Ain’t Just GTA V Multiplayer

The Rockstar team made it very clear to us that GTA Online is not just a ‘multiplayer mode’ for Grand Theft Auto V – it’s an entirely standalone experience.

Yes, you can access Online through the character select wheel in V, and yes, GTA Online takes place in Los Santos & Blaine County. But once you get into the thick of things, e.g. tackling missions with your friends or gunning through deathmatch-style competitions, it feels like that familiar GTAV setting is intended to act as a set of training wheels to get you off to a quick start.

Learning From The Past

Rockstar’s previous multiplayer efforts from Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption, and Max Payne 3 have been melded and refined for GTA Online.

Fans of RDR’s free-roam ‘lobby’ will be right at home in GTAO. The entirety of Los Santos & Blaine County is open for exploration. (Sadly we were unable to find any wildlife to mow down n’ skin!) Max Payne’s multiplayer gunplay comes through in deathmatch combat. And what would GTA be without the racing? Bicycles, cars, motorcycles – it’s all there, taking you through the city and countryside beyond.

Character Creation: Min-Max To Your Heart’s Content

The character creation tool goes into a crazy amount of detail: Your appearance is based on choosing maternal and paternal grandparents, and your base stats are dependent on a 24-hour schedule in which you allocate hours of your day to different activities. There are pros and cons to every choice, and we won’t be surprised when some players start fussing over creating the ‘perfect’ set of stats.

No Such Thing As A Free Ride

Money is the lifeblood of Grand Theft Auto Online. You need cash. Lots of cash. There are plenty of ways to get it — completing missions, mainly, but also through other activities like robbing stores — and plenty of ways to spend it.

Vehicle upgrades. Weapons & ammunition. Property purchases! We found ourselves blowing through funds pretty damn quickly. It was frustrating, but it made sense. In the world of GTA Online, we were just getting started. Of course we weren’t sitting on a fortune! If you want to make mad stacks of cash, you need to put the time and effort into it first.

Ranking Up: RP & JP

Completing missions and other activities earn you RP (Reputation Points). Accumulating RP allows you to rank up (level up), unlocking additional features and content – e.g. new activities, new weapons, clothing, tattoos, and other goodies become available to you.

We noticed another point system after successfully completing missions: JP. We don’t know the details on how JP will be used in GTAO, but from what we’ve experienced in other games, we suspect that these may be an additional type of stat — i.e. ‘Job Points’ — that will come in use for special activities like heists. (Keep in mind that this is just a theory on our part!)

Tackling Missions? Bring Your Friends!

Even with a crew of players communicating over voice, running-and-gunning isn’t enough. These missions are hard. You have limited lives and you need to use your head if you want to complete missions efficiently. Strategize, try different tactics, assign roles and responsibilities.

For example: In a few missions we assigned one person as the driver, and the passenger as the navigator. This kept our driver focused on the action while the navigator took care of plotting out waypoints. This ‘shared navigation’ feature between driver and passenger was a massive help.

A Brave New World

We tend to think of Rockstar titles as blockbuster entertainment pieces, with massive budgets and massive expectations. The games are developed over a period of years, polished to a shine, and released to much fanfare.

There may be some DLC afterwards, but for the most part, whatever was in the game at launch is what you’re still playing years down the road.

GTA Online is different. It’s a persistent world, one that will be evolving and improving over time. This is a massive undertaking for Rockstar, unlike anything they’ve done before.

We’ll All Help Shape Grand Theft Auto Online

This is the first time that Rockstar is releasing something that’s a work in progress, and we’ll need to keep that in mind through these first few months of GTA Online.

As mentioned in our coverage last week, Rockstar will be actively looking for community feedback, from the casual players to the most diehard of fans, to make GTA Online kick as much ass as humanly possible.

The ultimate shape of GTA Online will be determined as much by you, the player, as by the work we put in. What you like and don’t like, what you play and what you want will determine how the game develops and what it turns into.
– Rockstar Games

Be sure to check out the Multiplayer section on GTAForums for everything from general GTA Online discussion to crew recruitment and events.

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