Have You Played… Grand Theft Auto Online?

Holiday snap

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

My friends and I have three matching tattoos. One for each heist we pulled. The shooting, driving, rocket-launching and knife-criming sandbox of Grand Theft Auto Online is a jolly lark. But even the four player co-op heists have created fewer memories for me than the silliness of my friends when there’s no murdering to be done.

That’s the dirty soul of GTA Online. It is a game of dicking about. Once, we all got into tiny swim shorts and went to the beach for a day out. Driving jetskis, diving off the pier, riding the rollercoaster. More recently we’ve been stuffing our faces with free snacks from the receptionist’s desk in a pal’s underground hideout. Rockstar have always been good at making a detailed city and, unlike the single player, the online mode lets me enjoy that city with people I don’t actually despise from the bottom of my spleen.


  1. haldolium says:

    For a few hours. The concept of coop-heists that is not clickthepolicegrindfest Payday was awesome.

    Until today I can’t grasp how it *stayed* so popuplar, being one of the worst MP games I’ve played in my lifetime in terms of basic design flaws and the technical construct (or rather lack of) underneath GTA Online.

    The amount of technical issues and time involved to even get to the actual gameplay was (is? Never seen a changelog even remotely tackle the severe issues I and everyone else encountered) obnoxious. Setting up a heist and getting there took 20-30 minutes, and much longer if the connection dropped. Which used to happen frequently to pretty much all people I played with (which were around 20 at the time I think)

    I know 3 people who basically have GTA online on PS4 as their main (and only to some degree) leisure activity (1000+h I would assume) which up until today I can’t even remotely grasp the reason behind it. On PC, it was a technical disaster 1+ year after release.

    The very few times it worked it was mostly great (although some heists were a bit too long) when it came to coop with buddies, freeplay was usually completely annoying and I personally didn’t care about races or the “sillyness” since it got old rather quick and differed little to SP.

    • davebo says:

      There’s a ton of fun to be had in all the different game modes in GTA: Online, but you’re 100% right that the time it takes to actually organize friends into one lobby and then reorganize every time you finish something and start something else is insanely inefficient. Still, whenever I noticed there’s more than 4 of our group logged in, I’ll log in, then more of us see them online and log in, then on those rare occasions when we’ve got 8-16 people online at once it’s a ton of fun.

      • Anti-Skub says:

        The fact that you NEED to organise friends into a lobby is the games greatest failing and testament to how little of a shit Rockstar gives about it’s customers these days.

        After years of updates, where they endlessly add new things to try and convince you to buy in game cash for absurd amounts of real world money, they have still failed to address the 2 glaring issues with the game.

        1 – It’s FULL of cheaters.
        2 – The matchmaking doesn’t bloody work. You can’t play any of the game modes without organising people to play it with yourself.

        • DaisyRobinson says:

          I resigned my office-job and now I am getting paid £64 hourly. How? I work over internet! My old work was making me miserable, so I was forced to try something different, two years after…I can say my life is changed-completely for the better!

          Check it out what i do… Click Here And Start Work

    • Plake says:

      I stopped reading your baseless rant once i got to “technical issues me and everyone else had”. Must be the reason thousand of people still play it every day…

      • Asurmen says:

        Well, what an amazing counter argument. Something being popular isn’t exactly the same as it being good or flaw free.

        They were bang on the money. There’s some huge flaws in the setup of Online. Look at the rest of the posts in this article, and you’ll see the same issue again and again.

      • davebo says:

        The online works terribly. It’s just so fun when you can manage to actually get something good going that it’s usually worth the hassle. I play it in SPITE of the technical problems.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        Clearly you don’t play it every day, because you have no idea what you’re talking about. Put your fedora away for a second, and think about what state PUBG is in while millions of people are playing that game every day. Well GTA’s online is fucking shocking in comparison. I played several many-hour sessions over the course of two years with friends who rave about it, and every time I join them we’re constantly losing people, watching seemingly endless loading screens and sitting around in tedious lobbies. There is about a 3:7 ratio of gameplay to not gameplay, and it sucks a bag of dicks.

      • nottorp says:

        I don’t know about multiplayer, because I’m not going anywhere near something that sells ingame cash for real money.

        But I recently did buy GTA V on a random sale (yes, 4 years after launch) and went through a few single player missions. I ran into a progression preventing bug people were complaining about in 2013, and which still hasn’t been fixed. So any praise of GTA V’s technical quality sounds more like Stockholm Syndrome to me.

    • April March says:

      I know 3 people who basically have GTA online on PS4 as their main (and only to some degree) leisure activity (1000+h I would assume) which up until today I can’t even remotely grasp the reason behind it.

      Ok, let me help you grasp it.

      Imagine you are someone who’s not deeply into videogames, who doesn’t like writing long posts about why a videogame is good or why it is not. You don’t dislike games, you just don’t care deeply about them. You have some spending cash, so you buy a console and a game. Which game? One that has a lot of copies in the store, and that you might have heard about in advertisements: GTAV.

      Imagine you have three or so friends in the same situation as you. They all buy GTAV.

      You discover the game has an online mode and you start playing together. So, as far as you are concerned, the idea of videogames is synonymous with the idea of GTAV. You don’t think it’s better or worse than other titles (though you might assume it is so). It just is.

      Now imagine one day, you and your friends decides to vary your gaming regimen. Maybe she plays a little of Saint’s Row IV and thinks you all would like it. She tries to get you all to start playing it. But now, she’d need three other people to all agree to buy a brand new game! What if it doesn’t work? What if one of the other people does’t like a thing about the gameplay? What if it doesn’t have a thing you like in GTAV?

      Inertia wins out. This group will play GTAV until they get tired of it, at which point it’s quite possible GTAVI will be out.

  2. rootfs.ext2.gz says:

    I honestly tried but after waiting something like 10-15 minutes at a loading screen after the tutorial started, I gave up and never went back.

    I don’t think I can ever bring myself to stare down at a blurry view of San Andreas while the camera wobbles back and forth over and over again, even at the promise of wacky shenanigans.

    • Anti-Skub says:

      Pfft, you’ve just got no patience. You were only 20-30 minutes away from finishing loading. And 5 more minutes away from the next loading screen.

  3. Anti-Skub says:

    It’s a game about dicking about because the actual, designed content is a hot steaming pile of shit that has no respect for the players time or money.

    It’s a game that makes absolutely no efforts to protect you from cheaters, allowing them to run rampant for months at a time, ruining the experience you purchased, but should you join in, you will (eventually) have your character deleted. Meaning you can choose to either be fucked by the players or the game.

    It’s a game with regular content updates that, without fail, add new, fun things to play with, and then lock them behind hours, days and weeks of tedious grinding…or of course you can buy the absurdly priced shark cards (Hows £30 for a single vehicle sound). And then just for an extra gut punch of frustration it forces you to complete said grinding in an open session with the hackers I mentioned.

    And then there’s the absurd way in which lobbies and missions work. Loading you in and out of the open world every single time you try and do anything outside of pissing about in freeroam. With matchmaking that will fail to fill a lobby with more than 3 people despite having one of the largest player bases in history.

    It’s some of the best gameplay and level design available, with some of the worst content, worst value for money imaginable.

    Never has there been a game with so much potential wasted in the name of greed.

    • BeardyHat says:

      I put about 50 hours into GTA Online and had a lot of fun during that time. That said, a third of that time is probably sat looking at loading screens and is the reason I don’t play anymore.

      The hackers/cheaters can be beneficial. I never did actually grind for any money, I often would have hackers just pop into my location and start dropping bags of money. I managed to buy myself a nice apartment and several custom cars without ever trying to earn any money.

  4. Sandepande says:


  5. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    The loading screens absolutely killed the experience for me. Dropping from free roam into a lobby was a gamble that resulted in either sitting in a half-empty lobby until you jumped through another loading screen back to free roam (which often crashed you back to single-player, causing YET MORE LOADING SCREENS) or you’d get a few people in, start planning, then have planning crash because one person’s connection hiccuped.

    As bad as Overkill/Starbreeze were with DLC, Payday 2 was at least more conscious of how annoying lading screens were and made the process of joining heists streamlined and pain-free.

  6. Premium User Badge

    SminkyBazzA says:

    Nope, accidentally loaded into it with a ragdoll mod installed once (the only mod I’ve ever installed on GTA) and got immediately banned. I didn’t ever want to play it online, but despite all options set to the contrary, it would always start loading into GTA Online instead of the story mode.

  7. Romeric says:

    Aren’t we a cheerful bunch?

    Just thought I should say I rather like it. Yes, the loading screens are a pain but they really have added a lot of high quality content (for FREE) over the years. A lot of people mention connectivity issues but I’ve not been disconnected from anything in recent memory. It can be a bit slow but it definitely works.

    I think the GTA Online formula is pretty reasonable, considering the amount of money Rockstar have inevitably poured into it. For what it’s worth, I would actually prefer to pay for DLC rather than having to grind, but having something to work towards is part of the experience. Besides, now there’s so much to do, it’s just a fun game to play with a friend or two with some time to invest. It doesn’t feel like a grind if you don’t make it a grind.

    Agreed though – cheaters/hackers can ruin the experience, but there are ways to get into private(ish) sessions with friends…

  8. Rob Lang says:

    I play most Sundays with my friends and we have lots of connection issues. In a 3 hour sesh, we’ll lose people 3 or 4 times. If you’re in the middle of something and you lose the boss, it’s ruined. Loading times are a ludicrous side effect of stupid serverless design.

    What’s upsetting mostly is that a few small changes could fix a lot of p problems: foremost making all content available PvE. That would do away with hackers and overpowered griefers. Some nights I like the chaos, some nights I want to play the content without it. It would reduce the risk of running jobs but that risk is either 0 or 1; there is never a match. You’re either left alone or outgunned. With all the cool toys, I find that I’m outgunned more often than not these days.

    Until Rockstar make PvE available for all the content, I won’t get a shark card as I would be unable to enjoy its benefits.

  9. April March says:

    I haven’t. I’m waiting for the game to be dirt cheap. I might wait for a while. I’m not in a hurry.

    I suppose I’ll play nothing but Online when I finally get it, since what I like about the game is the grand environment, not the procession of stereotypes Rockstar thinks is a story.

  10. Vespa says:

    Yes, I have played GTA V Online… several times on two platforms. All of the experiences were disappointing. Why? Other humans.

  11. Polite Rude Boy says:

    I do indeed. It’s why I bought GTA V in the first place; never got more than 50% completion in single player. Warts and all, it’s one of my favorite multiplayer games. I like it so much, I’ve bought it three times, from 360 to PS4 to PC. I basically treat it like violent looney tunes, it’s really the best way to play.

    My friends and I have had a lot of great times playing over the years, from the first wave of modders dumping billions on everyone and giving us a taste of the high life, to all that modded money being taken away and having to sell our fancy cars to fund other pursuits, to frantically trying to escape a fighter jet in an ambulance, to playing dress up every time there’s a new DLC (and many many other times), to using muskets and driving sailboats and pretending to be pirates (beware the Scurvy Dirtbags, ya filthy landlubbers). It’s even a holiday tradition of ours to go to Rex’s Diner and cause massive pileups on the road and have snowball fights as the cops shoot at us.

    Yeah, the grind is annoying, matchmaking is nonfunctioning, loading is frequent and too long (though it used to be way worse), modders are a constant prescence, and freeroam lobbies can be excessively cutthroat, but there really isn’t any other game out there that offers the same kind of freedom.

  12. denzo says:

    How terribly, terribly sad that so many people can’t manage to have fun. :P Maybe it isn’t even that R* servers that are the problem? I haven’t had any disconnects in quite a while. I can always get in and idk it’s just never been a problem. As I said it’s just terribly, terribly sad. The modders are sometimes ooc but there is no monthly sub. fee so you can’t really expect R* to constanly watch evey second of every game. Please try to relax people it could always be worse.

    • Slazia says:

      If the best thing you can say about a game is ‘it could be worse’, that ‘s hardly a glowing recommendation.

  13. HoboDragon says:

    Online or offline – there is a lot of fun without the killing.
    I remember I let my kids three or four years ago (they were like 10 and 14) have at it because they loved they open-world where you could drive around and dork around. They looked up cheat codes (offline) for turning off gravity and stuff like that and had a blast. And since I usually was around or even participated, I didn’t feel a “omg! they are playing a brutal game at that age!”.
    Offline they and I didn’t enjoy too much because of loading screens and “restricted” fun, plus the usual not-wanting-to-deal-with-idiots-online-who-want-to-ruin-others-fun-to-have-fun-themselves

  14. Nosebeggar says:

    I seriously don’t understand the appeal of GTA V Online. I played my fair share of Multi Theft Auto San Andreas with 100s of people on one map and GTA:VO was just not fun and pretty bland in comparison. The map feels empty and not like there is anything to do.

    There is GTA San Andreas (i.e. the best GTA), online, with more players, 1000s of gamemodes and completely free of charge and yet people play GTA V online. It’s beyond me.

    • davebo says:

      I probably sunk 1,000 hours into an old SAMP roleplay server back in the day but be realistic, those graphics don’t really compare to GTA:V. Also there weren’t any NPC’s in that mode, so there were a lot more players but the cities definitely felt more empty. I do prefer the radio stations though.

      The wacky fun San Andreas server we played on (OJ chase ruled) was a lot of fun, but there’s also a lot of great user-created content for GTA:O that feels quite similar, like the Funnel Derby levels and even Rockstar’s own Hunting Pack.

  15. Kunstbanause says:

    I agree. GTAO is absolute trash for 12 year old russia boiis.

  16. Slazia says:

    I’ve worked extremely hard to enjoy this game – and I do mean work.

    I’ve experienced tons of hackers, trolls, infinite loading screens, empty lobbies, and countless other excruciatingly painful hours.

    But something inside me still wants to like this game. I really love what it could be, but not what it is. I love the idea of building up my corporation, collecting and customizing cars, working together with other players. However, every single mechanic in the game seems designed to stop you having any fun.

    The grind to buy things is insane, and it really shouldn’t be a grind. I should be enjoying my time in game, not playing because I want to buy something.

    I love the co-op missions. They are a lot of fun, but the loading time is insane. You have to sit in a lobby waiting for people to connect. Why even have that lobby? Just start the game directly from the free roam.

    I love stealing and delivering cars, but this is pretty much impossible unless you end up on an unpopulated server or if you don’t mind losing 99% of your deliveries to jets or hackers – each delivery takes around 5-20 minutes.

    I want to do the other game modes, but I am not prepared to sit through a lobby for 15 minutes waiting for a game only to have my team quit as soon as they start losing.

    I’ve had some fun out of it, but washing the dishes is more fun than some of the shitty times (and far less frustrating).

  17. Widjox says:

    “My friends and I have three matching tattoos. One for each heist we pulled”

    Get a life idiot, you think that’s cool, stupid kid.