A GTA retrospective – Los Santos Online, and a new dawn on PC

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The release of GTA V came and went in the later months of 2013, devoid of one crucial piece of content. GTA Online was missing from action, and the promise of a shared, persistent online slice of Los Santos to wreak havoc in with friends remained a distant dream. Only a few weeks later, and the gates to online multiplayer were flung wide open to all – but it would be a long time for the true promise of multiplayer to arrive. And even longer for a whole new market to get in on the action.

Online mayhem for the masses

GTA Online, although bundled with GTA V, was an entirely new game. Set in a small slice of Los Santos, up to 16 players per server could hop in and enjoy a different brand of GTA madness. The world and its rules were all still there, meaning cops would chase you, bikes would still be a reckless means of transportation and your friends could turn on you at a moment’s notice. Except this time, that shotgun in the back came from your close friend, instead of a vindictive AI nobody.

GTA Online offered the promise of living in a virtual Los Santos with your buddies, and partaking in all of its pleasures and vices. You could fire up a friend game of tennis, go skydiving together or bust some coke dealers and steal their stash. Impromptu street races, raids on rival hoods and deathmatches were all par for the course, while you and your crew could establish a foothold on the city and build your own empire from a comfy penthouse apartment. The true online version of GTA was everything it had promised, but it was still missing something that players were craving.

We all just want to rob a bank

Heists were the standout feature that made GTA Online get people up and listening, and they would be missing from the game for a long, long time. The re-release of GTA V on current-gen comes came and went in 2014, and still Heists were an elusive unicorn for the online sphere. Rockstar eventually delivered on a two year promise in March 2015, with a massive update bringing the bank robbing, jewellery store thieving modes to the dwindling number of online players. GTA Online was to be reinvigorated with its best content yet.

GTA Online Heists added a whole new dimension to the multiplayer experience, allowing you to join crews and tackle multilayered heist missions. Heists were organised by GTA V story staples Lester Crest, Ron Jakowski and a new character known only as Agent 14. Each heist boasted several type of approaches, requiring players to stay in close communication to accomplish different tasks – all required for a successful job. Sneak in and take out guards quietly and go guns blazing on the way out, or fire the door down for an all out assault from the word go. GTA Heists brought the most exciting parts of the single-player component, polished them up and threw them online with a healthy handful of new content – and fans ate it up.

But what about my PC port?

There was still, however, a group of fans waiting to start GTA V. Rockstar eventually announced a PC port of their blockbuster sequel in 2014, originally dating it for a February launch. February came, and the date slid into March, inevitably falling prey to the delays that have become commonplace in the industry. March quickly turned into April, and Rockstar held back the game yet again, promising players that their hard work on the PC version of the game would not be disappoint. On April 14th, GTA V finally launched on PC – with a suite of new features to cement it as the best version of the game yet.

Aside from launching with GTA Online and Heists on day one, the PC version of GTA V promised not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Launching with a robust menu of settings and options, GTA V scaled incredibly well with new and old hardware alike, and generally looked fantastic across a wide range of tiers. Add to that support for 4K resolutions, the fluidity of 60+ framerates and the incredible first-person mode, and GTA was set to truly feel like another, premium version of an already beloved game – rather than a sloppy port.

As an exclusive feature, Rockstar developed a brand new Director Mode for avid filmmakers in Los Santos. Players could capture footage from a  variety of camera angles, and use the robust video tools in game to create pieces of GTA art, hilarious compilations and more. This feature was exclusive to the PC version, and adds credibility to the thousands of videos spawned from adventures in GTA IV and Liberty City. And that’s before modders really get their hands dirty with the game in the months to come.

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A sleeper hit already?

It’s still too early to call sales figures, but there’s no doubt that Rockstar will ring in a hit with this port. It quickly became the biggest, non-Valve title on Steam, raking in a massive 301 000 concurrent players on April 14th. It knocked the likes of The Elder Scroll: Skyrim off its mighty perch with ease, with very few major launch day issues preventing players from hopping on and finally exploring the revamped, reinvigorated city of Los Santos.

And where to from here? There isn’t much for Rockstar to do with GTA V, so now begins the wait for the inevitable announcement of another sequel. There’s no doubt that it’s eventually coming, but Rockstar might choose to explore other endeavours before jumping on this train once again. Still, there’s more than enough going on in GTA V to keep you entertained until then.

Last Updated: April 17, 2015

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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