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GTA Online: Fun Will Cost You

Grand Theft Auto 5 is chocked full of mundane, archaic, or otherwise ill conceived gameplay design. This is not a new or novel criticism of the game. The GTA series has long featured clunky mechanics and missions that we've tolerated in order to soak in the brilliance of the worlds Rockstar creates. We guide our likable yet usually completely schizophrenic and sociopathic heroes through a long phalanx of increasingly tiresome fetch quests and gangland hits to see their tales through. All the while, the world churns and pulses in the periphery, taunting with potential chaos as you nab yet another whip from yet another buster.

This is precisely why I was supremely excited about GTA Online. For the first time we were getting the chance to sink our nasty, sociopathic claws into a huge, breathtakingly realized world and tear to messy, delightfully chaotic pieces with our friends! Madcap shenanigans in a game never had more promise. I was eager to see how far I could launch a motorcycle off a mountain; to jump off of as many skyscrapers as I could; to throw sticky bombs on my friend's car, blowing it up just in time to watch the flaming wreck clear a bus stop full of pedestrians and crush a row of parked cars just beyond; to run headlong into traffic, jump at the last minute and watch gleefully as my blonde-corn-rowed absurdity of an avatar did so many rag dolled cartwheels right to St. Peter's pearly gates.

That'll be $1,000, please.
That'll be $1,000, please.

Imagine my disappointment when I found out that every death, every bullet fired, every mission failed to hijinks in GTA Online costs my denizen of Los Santos hard earned cash. Death penalties in the single player mode are expected and softened by the absurd mountains of cash thrown your way. Honestly, it's baffling more than anything else. Why punish players for the very style of freeform, chaotic gameplay your game is best at? This quandary is doubly baffling when you consider that the gameplay modes on offer you're rewarded for are a collection of unimaginative deathmatches and races that are serviceable at best and boring slogs at most probable. You're looking at wallowing away a few unrecoupable minutes of your life either racing around mostly dull chunks of the map where an unlucky bit of traffic can spell your doom or duking it out in a deathmatch shootout that is nestled in a broken system.

The deathmatch in GTA Online has a positive feedback loop built into the core weapon-unlock system. Don't let the happy name fool you, a positive feedback loop in this situation is a very bad thing. Players with more money can afford better weapons to start with, thus making it easier for them to earn more money by doing well in competitive modes, etc, ad nauseam. You can earn money by completing missions, of course, but the idiotic matchmaking system means that unless you're rolling with a crew willing to do them with you, your odds of matchmaking some teammates are essentially nil. This leaves you doing a bunch of simple missions for the some of the characters from the single player games, wondering why you're even bothering, especially when large chunks of your solitarily-earned dough will disappear like the wind when you return to free roam and the inevitable griefer comes to murder you time and again.

Cars you'll only afford by avoiding human contact.
Cars you'll only afford by avoiding human contact.

This free roam wallet drain turns what should be a fun an chaotic mosh pit into an exercise in traipsing carefully though the city, avoiding other players as much as you can. Let that sink in. A game/game mode with "online" right in the title in which most of the time it greatly behooves you to avoid people. If you ask me, this is Rockstar asking us to avoid fun and therefore I will be avoiding GTA Online until they realize they're standing on their game's neck.