When GTA V came out on PS3, I enjoyed it, like I do any other GTA game, they are inherently enjoyable games. (Apart from number 4 that was way too serious for my liking, especially after the chaos and cartoon-esque gameplay from San Andreas).
Although I did enjoy GTA V on my PS3 I kinda got bored of it pretty quick, it just felt like the same old same and wanted something new to do rather than being stuck following the exploits of the three main characters. I tried GTA Online too, but it was a lonely world out there, I had no friends or crew, and again that started getting a bit dull. It wasn’t helped by the teething problems and how hard it was to gain any reasonable amount of money.
So, when Sony announced that GTA V was coming to PS4 with updated graphics and the such, I was a little excited, especially with the beauty that was the trailer they showed. Little did I know that this HD remake (which generally I hate with a passion) was going to lead to some of the funniest moments I have witnessed in gaming history. And that’s a lot of years.
This time round one of my closest pals, who I’ve known since childhood bought a copy of GTA V, and this was the first time he had played the game and didn’t know what to expect. We quickly set up a crew and at the start, began robbing shops, shooting randoms, as you do in a GTA game and done a few missions.
In the main game, GTA has always been known for and excelled at the ability to do missions in any which way you like, there is no real set path and you only limit is your creativity. However, when in a crew and playing online with a friend that open-ended mission structure just goes off the scale.
One mission for example was to blow up a series of cop cars within a set time limit. On your own the mission is nigh on impossible, but when there are two of you, you can start planning, concocting a devious way to beat the game. So rather then just chase from way point to waypoint hoping we get there on time, We decided to tag team our way through the mission. My friend went to the first destination as I carried on to the second, he then laid some sticky bombs on the cars and drove off to the third destination, I then laid my bombs on the police truck and headed off to the fourth destination.
This is before the mission had even began.
Now this plan only worked because you can set of sticky mines from anywhere on the map, so with some well-timed coordination, my friend detonated his, the police scrabbled and went wild, and the mission started proper. I then detonate mine, followed quickly by my friends third bomb detonation. By this time I was well on the way to the fourth place, and soon my friend had caught up with me on his bike, which I have to say is brilliant when riding alone to see your pal pull up beside you ready for the final part of the mission. Once there, we had a bit of a fire fight with the cops, blew up the prison bus and it was mission over.
The point to all this is that I’m pretty sure that is not how Rockstar imagined or meant for the mission to be carried out, but the beauty of GTA Online is that it’s possible. And makes you wonder what other ways that mission could be completed. which leads to some great re-playability.
The other great thing about GTA Online is the sheer silliness of everything. Again, on a mission we had to get to a destination to trigger the next mission, I, in my wisdom thought I would take a short cut on a motor bike up the side of a vertical mountain. Fail. Bikes struggle up mountains, especially with two people on. My friend half way up fell from the bike for reasons unknown to me, but that lightened the load which meant I could get to the top. I got of the bike to see if I could see my friend, I could, he was struggling with the cliff face and gravity. But then, my bike started rolling back down the mountain. I was shouting at my pal, “grab the bike it’s rolling down towards you”. He didn’t grab it, instead it knocked him over and he fell back to the road. I could see the bike from my vantage point, but he couldn’t. I thought I would get my sniper riffle out and told my dude to follow the shots as they hit the ground, which he did, he found the bike and proceeded to drive up the mountain. I’ve never seen anyone struggle so much with gravity. It was funny. Eventually he made it, we took a deep breath and decided to launch ourselves off the mountain on the bike. There was some serious hang time and for some reason, by this time we were in tears of laughter, we landed, he died, I carried on. We were were then lost in the wilderness, until we found some cars, shot the inhabitants and continued on our way.
Again, there is a point to this. This was something so random that I doubt very much that anybody else has ever done, or experienced before, or will do. It’s our little moment of gaming joy. It is a prime example of why GTA Online is the ultimate sand box, toybox, what ever you want to call it. It’s something that previous GTA games have hinted at but never quite achieved thanks to the basic mission structure and you generally being on your own. Add a friend into the mix and suddenly a whole new world opens up, literally for you to explore and do with as you please. And the best thing of all, is that the mighty PS4 recorded all of it. In the highlight reel below, you’ll see me (NinjaToes) and my buddy Gary Phillips (GraGar) doing our best to complete missions or try to be clever, and generally having fun.
Gaming, by it’s very nature is a very rigid form of entertainment, generally speaking. The developers create a mission for you to complete and in most respects there is only one way of completing that mission, the only differential being potential high scores, money found or a trophy or two, but it’s still the same mission. And games haven’t really changed that much over the years. Get from point A to Point B. With the advent of open worlds and online play the constraints of games are widening. But even online games follow the same pattern as the single player game, only there are a team of you to help you achieve your mission. The utter beauty of GTA is the fact that if you can think of it, you can probably do it, even if the developers didn’t want you to, there’s probably a work around, if there isn’t, then you can resort to trial and error, until you achieve what you wanted (take the cop car bombing above for example, it took 5 or six goes to work out this is what we wanted to do) It’s a constantly evolving world that doesn’t want you to stop, no matter what.
It’s not just the online missions either, when you’re playing in the world of GTA, you and your friends can create your own games or challenges to keep you entertained. One prime example is the skydiving through the smallest gaps and landing without dying. I’m sure Rockstar didn’t mean for that to be a thing, but it is now, and that perfectly illustrates the beauty of an open world game when it goes online.
I have been playing games since the days of the ZX Spectrum, and enjoyed my 30 odd years of gaming. But nothing has quite blown my mind, or make me laugh as hard as GTA Online. It harks back to when me and my pal were kids, on our BMX’s (or Chopper in my case) where the world was your oyster, you felt you could go anywhere, climb anything, make anything. It felt fresh and new and ripe for exploring.
GTA Online bought back all those memories. I guess you had to have been there to really appreciate it.