I’ve played Grand Theft Auto Online a lot since the game originally came out in 2013. I played it back then on my Xbox 360, then on my PS4, and now I’m playing it on my PC. I’ve invested hundreds of hours in the game and seen everything it has to offer. So believe that it’s true when I say that as it is right now, GTA Online may be the most broken it’s ever been due to a number of long-standing issues.
If you’ve been playing the game as long as I have, you’re well-acquainted with these problems already. Since its launch, GTA Online has been far from perfect. But that hasn’t stopped players (myself included) from flocking to it. The game is flat-out good and developer Rockstar knows that. That’s why the game is now stand-alone and why the company is investing in it even further with a $6 monthly subscription service.
That kind of support isn’t what GTA Online needs though. If Rockstar really wants the game to balloon further, and potentially persist past the release of Grand Theft Auto 6, the studio has to address these key issues.
An hour in Los Santos
I hopped back into GTA Online yesterday, just for a bit. I was curious about how the game’s doing since it got an injection of new life thanks to its release on current-gen consoles. I wasn’t disappointed either; I found a ton of new players eager to explore all of the game’s content. It was a nice change of pace from the older, jaded players who just want to grind out the most effective methods of generating cash.
But behind those new characters is the same old broken game. Nearly nine years out from its release, GTA Online is still struggling with problems that have been around since it launched. Some of these issues are innocuous but annoying — issues like infinite loading screens that force you to restart the game or long load times. I’m playing on PC today (and running the game on a PCIe gen-4 NVMe SSD), but these problems are old, stretching all the way back to the game’s release. They’re the things that players have to learn to deal with if they want to play GTA Online.
Players shouldn’t have to deal with these long-standing issues though. For most games, infinite loading screens and long load times would be immediately addressed, not left for players to acclimate to over the course of years.
But that issue is small stacked up against GTA Online‘s most pervasive problem: Cheaters. Like infinite loading screens, players who want to bend GTA Online‘s rules aren’t anything new. They’ve been around forever, and in some cases, even made the game better. I remember lobbies where cheaters would drop millions of dollars for players to pick up or spawn in vehicles for others to try out. These Robin Hood characters were always offset by the cheaters that only wanted to grief everyone in a lobby, but they made a solid difference.
I didn’t encounter any of those players yesterday. Instead, I saw multiple people advertise Discord servers where players could, assumedly, purchase cheats for the game. These ads were spammed into the text chat, and anyone who (colorfully) told the spammers to give it a rest was promptly killed by an explosion in-game. Later on in one of those lobbies, I was killed multiple times by a player who was invisible. When I asked how they’d managed to do that, they simply responded “cheats.”
My experience yesterday wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t so blatant. GTA Online‘s cheaters don’t feel any need to hide, apparently. They can operate in plain daylight, advertising Discord servers as long as they want. It’s not clear what Rockstar is doing to fix these issues because they’ve always been around. The only difference is that now, these players seem like they aren’t afraid of any repercussions.
For GTA Online, which Rockstar eagerly pushed into the current generation of consoles, it’s a bad sign. The studio is clearly ready to support it with weekly content updates and a new subscription service. When it comes to upkeep though, the story changes. The people playing GTA Online don’t have any assurances that their time won’t be interrupted by technical issues or players who want more power than everyone else. All the content updates in the world don’t mean anything if players can’t enjoy the simplest experiences that the game has to offer.