“Does GTA Online still exist?” my girlfriend asks. His choice of words is telling, because while he often laments the time I spend avoiding chores to terrorize the imaginary streets of Los Santos and Blaine County, in this case he can’t quite tell who’s on screen in a play he’s been watching over my shoulder for a decade. “And this is Dr. Dre?” she asks again; surprised, almost in disbelief. I nod. “And this one is… oh, what’s its name? The bald man in the Netflix documentary.”
Despite quickly trivializing Jimmy Iovine’s entire career—especially as a music industry mogul and co-founder of Interscope Records—my girlfriend isn’t wrong. West coast rapper, lyrical genius and producer Dr. Dre and the guy from The Defiant Ones strut around a golf course in Grand Theft Auto Online. Not sure why any of these famous men are here, but that’s beside the point, because the game’s excellent The Contract update in December 2021 encapsulates just how far the multiplayer crime sim has come since its launch in 2013.
Today, GTA Online is so big that – along with its base game GTA 5 – it has become one of the best-selling entertainment products of all time, deserves billboards in Times Square in the heart of New York City, and features top-tier celebrity talent. It’s got a music library full of chart-busting artists, nightclubs populated by real-world superstar DJs, and a vehicle suite that reflects everything from high-end supercars to weaponized Apache helicopters, the Batmobile, and Back to the Future’s flying DeLorean. .
On its 10th birthday, it makes sense to ask: how is all this possible, and why have players flocked to the game’s so-called tilt in Los Angeles, California, for so long? The answer is quite simple. Because GTA Online is a very good game.
The city is more slippery
GTA Online design director “couldn’t have imagined” it would still be around 10 years later
GTA Online isn’t perfect, not at all, but no game is perfect – especially one that exists in the ever-evolving and ever-changing spectrum of live services. Now 10 years in, some of the game’s core mechanics haven’t aged brilliantly. For example, its controls are a bit heavy compared to its contemporaries. Loading times on PC are still very long, and the duck and cover system can be as unpredictable as an old supermarket trolley.
The game’s Shark Cards – a form of microtransactions that allow players to access in-game currency that can be used to buy better properties, cars, cosmetics, weapons and more by paying real money – have come under fire throughout their existence. PC gamers, myself included, have long complained about the omnipresent existence of hacking on countless servers, where griefers can ruin entire sessions in a matter of seconds. As someone who recently created a new profile on PS5, I can’t believe how many game-breaking trolls exist in the console’s public spaces.
All that aside, GTA Online is still one of my favorite video games of all time. Its latest iterations on PS5 and Xbox Series X are stunning by anyone’s standards, and its penchant for unintentional, player-driven chaos is second to none. The variety of clothing, apartments, workplaces, cosmetics, cars, vans, helicopters, planes, boats and even submarines is unparalleled, and the multitude of missions and jobs, both player-created and Rockstar-designed, present many different challenges that push the game’s boundaries in a variety of ways .
Thanks to the new Career Builder feature, you can build an entire criminal empire by stealing and selling illegal goods, producing and selling drugs, smuggling weapons, owning and operating a series of shady nightclubs, and/or joining a motorcycle gang. If racing is your thing, you can earn money on the streets with around 450 official races created by Rockstar and countless tracks prepared by players. And finally, the recently launched Community Series highlights a host of player-made enemy modes, survival, missions, and more.
I don’t want to sound like Rockstar’s PR department here, but I think the point of highlighting everything GTA Online has under the hood in 2023 is that, assuming you spend the money for the base game or pay the one-time standalone fee offered last year, this game will be available for 10 years thanks to free updates. It’s sometimes easy to forget how much changes over the years.
“AS THE POWER FANTASIES OF HEAT, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, TRAINING DAY, OCEAN’S ELEVEN AND/OR THE SOPRANOS, THESE MIC-DROPPING SPECTACLES ARE A HUGE PART OF GTA ONLINE’S ENDURING APPEAL AND CONTINUED SUCCESS.”
Of course, none of this even takes into account the blockbuster heists, which are the game’s highlight and the most fun I’ve ever had playing a video game. As the power fantasies of Heat, Goodfellas, Casino, Training Day, Ocean’s Eleven and/or The Sopranos, these mic-dropping spectacles are a big part of GTA Online’s enduring appeal and ongoing success. The game world itself – the fictional state of San Andreas, consisting of Los Santos to the south and Blaine County to the north – is a timeless masterpiece, about which you may have seen me waxing eloquent lately.
But beyond the structured activities the game offers, I’m constantly inspired by GTA Online’s performance culture, powered by Rockstar Editor. It’s hard not to be impressed by the high-flying stunt community – all hail the Ash Skyqueen. I lost hours in the fun and fascinating role-playing scene, where creative players and modders rewrote the rulebook and turned the familiar formula on its head. Lastly, Rockstar’s acquisition of FiveM bodes well for the future of the Grand Theft Auto series, and seeing job postings for FiveM’s development on Rockstar’s official careers website makes it clear that role-playing in GTA 6 is the end in any way shape or form. extremely exciting.
Who knows what GTA Online will be like when the next main game launches, and whether it will have the same staying power that has created such powerful conversations a decade later? But one thing is for sure, GTA Online has set the bar for success so high that GTA 6’s online component now has a mountain to climb. As an actor, this is both exciting and scary, but I think if anyone can do this, it’s Rockstar. Dr. I wonder which famous faces will join the ride after Dre and the other bald guy.
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