Having played Grand Theft Auto Online for nearly a decade, I don’t think it will shock you to learn that I’ve recently felt…done with the game. While I’ve enjoyed some of the recent updates and events, my desire to sink hours of my life into GTA Online has mostly vanished. So I wasn’t sure what to expect with the new PS5 and Xbox Series X/S ports released today. Would it really change how I feel all these years later?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes. For the first time in a long time, I’m hyped to play more GTA Online. And it’s not just because it loads faster and looks nicer…though it does!
But first, let’s just get this out of the way now: Yes, it’s annoying that Rockstar hasn’t released a new mainline GTA game in nearly a decade. And yes, it’s wild, perhaps even hard to believe, that I’m still writing about GTA Online in 2022, on a new generation of consoles. Also: If you don’t like the way GTA Online plays on the old consoles, the community that exists around it, or the way it handles multiplayer missions, this new version of the game doesn’t fundamentally alter any of that. It’s still mostly, for better and for worse, GTA Online.
However, that’s not to say Rockstar simply upped GTA Online’s resolution (4K) and framerate (60fps) and called it day. (I mean that is part of this new package, but there’s more to it than that.) Instead, it’s prodded and tweaked GTA Online into being a more modern-feeling live-service game experience, with refreshed menus helpfully funneling new players into the blood-soaked streets of Los Santos in the most friction-free manner. For perhaps the first time in its long existence, GTA Online actually feels like it wants you to play it.
The biggest and most helpful addition for new players, or returning folks who want a fresh start, is the career builder. Right from the start of the character creation process you get $4 million. With that, you jump into the career builder, a sort of guided tour through key slices of the content GTA Online has to offer. When starting a new character, Rockstar now presents you with four career options: executive, nightclub owner, gunrunner, or biker. Handsome and informative menus walk you through buying a property related to your chosen career, purchasing some guns, and getting a vehicle too.
Read More: Grand Theft Auto Online: The Kotaku Review
The end result is you start GTA Online not just with a crappy pistol and a few dollars, but with a sensible career path to follow. For example, if you pick nightclub owner, you’ll be given an assortment of missions and activities that will help you set up your club, get people visiting, and eventually lead you to a point where your venue becomes a fun and self-sustaining way to generate income and let you branch off into trying other aspects of the game. Compared to the older GTA Online experience, which just dumped you into the world with basically nothing and then bombarded you with texts and missions with no clear goal or plan, this is a much better way to keep new players from feeling overwhelmed.
The other big reason I found myself enjoying this new port of GTA Online is the performance improvements. Yes, GTA V and GTA Online have been playable at 60fps on PC for years. I’ve played GTA V over there, and it was nice. But having my long-running GTA Online character, on my big TV, at a nicer framerate with better visuals and faster loading times was incredible.
And let’s really stop and appreciate those faster loading times. In both single-player and online or when transitioning between the two modes, GTA V previously struggled to load anything in a reasonable amount of time. Now, thanks to the SSDs inside the current-generation machines and their general performance bump, GTA V and GTA Online feel more like modern games than ever before.
There are still loading times, but being able to boot up the game in seconds instead of minutes is such a relief. Literally, hours of my life have been wasted watching clouds slowly drift as the game loads and loads and loads. And while GTA Online still has some waiting issues when trying to play less popular modes, the overall experience is more stable and snappy. As someone who basically plays this game for a living, thank god for that.
I’ll need to spend more time with this new version of GTA V and its multiplayer to see if it starts to break down in some areas, of course, but for now, I’m honestly excited to just play GTA Online. Not even checking out a new update or anything like that…I’m just pumped to load it up and drive around and hang out with folks.
I didn’t expect this new port to change my feelings around GTA Online so much, but here we are. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some stunt races to do.