Is GTA Online worth playing in 2022?

I don’t need to introduce you to Grand Theft Auto Online; It would be like asking someone if they’ve ever heard of a director named Steven Spielberg. “GTA” is a household name used by bored teenagers and concerned media pundits alike. We’re still a long way from official information on Rockstar’s next narrative campaign grand theft auto 6and as such, GTA Online serves as an easily accessible outlet for enjoying all things Grand Theft Auto.

Rockstar’s crime franchise has varied wildly in scope and tone over the years, from down-to-earth, petty drug heists to wild, wacky, satirical characters who love cocaine and murder. GTA Online does its best to offer Everyone of this. The player arrives first with a small fund, a car, and a mug shot. From there, they connect to the south side of town and work their way up to become a multi-millionaire mogul who commits high-end car thefts and celebrity heists.

Rockstar has developed a series of open-world activities and structured game modes that allow players to essentially choose their own flavor of Grand Theft Auto – at least once they’ve settled in and unlocked the different modes. If you remember the days of typing in cheat codes and equipping a rocket launcher to shoot at the poor citizens of San Andreas, or the scheming, cigar-smoke-hazy ’80s vibe of Vice City, you can totally relate .

GTA Online - A player sprints across the screen surrounded by explosions and gunfire. Your goal is to find and eliminate the Triad Lieutenants.

Image: Rockstar Games

In fact, the conceit of GTA Online is to offer a theme park that acts as a facsimile of the modern world. Your phone might ping with mission invites; A random event on the road could challenge players to deal the most property damage or smash into oncoming traffic without getting hit (for as long as possible). Nine years on from its launch, this San Andreas still feels like a vibrant open world – albeit a culturally dated one – and there’s always the simple joy of colliding with motorbikes on the freeway to watch NPCs hover over your supercar.

If you’re not interested in playing a boosted version of Hot Wheels in the Sky or having armored vehicles fight to the death in the Thunderdome, there’s more grounded content to try. When you’ve unlocked everything, it’s hard to get bored in GTA Online. I can play a mini-campaign around a heist at Diamond Casino or just mess around with my friends in a game mode that is basically Tron. The shops and businesses offer satisfying single-player loops, like filling up a warehouse with expensive cars or wielding guns around the state.

GTA Online - A sophisticated looking shopkeeper in aviator glasses and a white coat stands in the middle of his large warehouse.

Image: Rockstar Games

Some of Rockstar’s storytelling has matured in the sandbox, both compared to GTA5 and the earliest missions of GTA Online. Lester, a bit of character out GTA5‘s campaign, is one of the protagonists of GTA Online, and it’s nice to see that he gets his own love story in the multiplayer counterpart. In GTA Online, the silent protagonist deals with eccentric, deeply flawed people stuck on the treadmill of capitalism. They’ve usually identified a cool crime opportunity and either want you to do it on their behalf or stop their rival from ruining it her Operation. Regardless of the quality of the scripted characters, NPCs on the street are in dire need of an update — their kvetching via selfies, social media, and kale smoothies is pretty much on the wane in 2022.

There is also the problem of merely to get to all of this content. Leaping into GTA Online in 2022 means you’ll have to sift through an endless supply of unlockable upgrades, content to buy, and mission stages to unfold. Some of this is a natural occurrence for an essentially evolving platform, but regardless: so much of the good content is buried under an exorbitant amount of boring stepping stones.

As a gamer who’s been banging away since the Xbox 360 days, I can walk in with pockets full of in-game currency and pay for new expansions the day Rockstar releases them. If you want the hottest apartment, the coolest city, and the most exciting missions, you need to unlock resources and reinvest them in profitable businesses. There is also monetization. For example, if you don’t want to spend millions on fully-functional arcades with all their new gameplay features and quests, you could just… buy a Shark Card. Or you can purchase a monthly subscription for consoles.

All in all there is little Poorly say about the state of GTA Online in its current form, especially since many of the later campaigns ironed out problems and introduced sympathetic allies. The problem is that hell is other people and just existing in San Andreas exposes you to the rest of the game’s player base. While sessions are invite-only, the missions with enough risk and associated rewards require public sessions. At best, the other players leave you alone, but at worst, they can be bullies who ruin your day.

GTA Online - Two sports cars hurtle up against a wall of living graffiti, ready for an underground race

Image: Rockstar Games

At its deepest, a session in San Andreas can feel like the Stanford prison experiment, with players poised to spawn you endlessly, with tanks or orbital cannons ensuring there’s no escape other than completely shutting down the server leaving. On PC, other players don’t even need in-game tools to interfere. Sometimes I log in only to instantly appear in a cage, teleport into the sea, or watch dozens of spawned UAVs fall out of the sky via mod tools in a matter of minutes. In general, if you don’t already have a dedicated group of friends, I wouldn’t expect to find them in GTA Online.

But there’s a reason GTA Online is sticking around, constantly spawning memes on social media and supporting private RPG servers. It’s a theme park that’s not shy about handing out rewards, and it’s not particularly concerned with cultivating a sense of realism. The set pieces are excellent and the campaigns are exciting, cinematic romp. The company of fellow players may not be great, but the show was entertaining enough to keep me going for a decade. Is GTA Online worth playing in 2022?

Curtis Crabtree

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