I don't like going travelling on my own. I'm not saying that solo travel can't be fun at all, but just that in my general experience, I much prefer going along with a friend or partner. It's not a fear factor thing. I'm a large, imposing fellow; I can muddle through one or two European languages; and I have a relatively decent sense of direction. In short, I'm pretty confident I can handle myself if things go awry. No, it's more to do with anecdotes, camaraderie, and shared memories. It might say something about me on a psychological level, but I find there to be a greater solidity and validity in shared memories.
I say this because I seem to be having much more fun with the broken, botched, bloated beginnings of GTA Online than I had with the singleplayer game.
It doesn't really make a huge amount of sense. After all, there's actually currently less to do in GTA Online than there is in GTA V itself. There are huge chunks of promised gameplay bits and pieces -- *cough* heists -- that are completely absent, and the game gates off certain missions, activities, and interesting ways of making money until you've progressed up the ranks a bit.
But I'm finding that the simple matter of having a dozen other crazed vigilantes running around the city, smashing things up, ticking off the police, wrecking traffic, and spraying bullets everywhere is bringing Los Santos to life in a way that it never quite did for me when I was playing offline. I found the life of crime to be a lonely business, even with three protagonists vying for narrative attention. But now, each and every day, I'm scribbling little episodic vignettes of my own in a city filled with like-minded chums, many of whom I'm meeting for the first time.
So it was that getting stuck out in the desert after a mission ended up leading to a Mad Max-esque shootout with another player, complete with shotguns and battered, bruised muscle cars. The accidental killings of partners in crime during what should have been simple store robberies have led into city-wide manhunts for vengeance and the recouping of ludicrously inflated medical bills.
Flinging myself off of a mountain and parachuting onto a moving lorry is cool. But base jumping off of Mount Chiliad, and racing friends to designated location, only for someone to throw a spanner in the works by trying to assassinate their fellow competitors rather than racing honestly is better. Freed from Rockstar's narrative, we're now at liberty to make our own, even with flawed, incomplete tools. There's always been fun to be had from mucking about in Rockstar's systemic worlds, but now we have a chance to realise what we were trying to do with all of those PC mods years ago, and have lots of us playing about in many different ways.
The more minds there are concentrated on messing about with the rules of this online world, the more imaginative the results. I would never for a moment have even considered jet-ski jousting until the other night, jumping into a game with Carl to film some TAKE TO THE SEA! material, only to result in an epic showdown between the two of us -- two men, two jet-skis, one winner -- once we'd evaded the police. The amount of Top Gear-esque challenges that I've been a part of thus far has pleased me greatly. Even when the game matches you up in a city filled with people you've not met before, there's still a chance for random offbeat shenanigans, unscripted vendettas, and a chance for some virtual bonding. With guns.
I can take or leave some of the more traditional 'jobs' as they're called in GTAO. Even with marked improvements when it comes to the driving mechanics, I'm still not a huge fan of the races, unless they're off-road and involve scramblers. But I have enjoyed the swift nature of the deathmatches, and the focus of making that one life count, or all piling into a van and attempting to take out an enemy team before they know what's hit them. It'll be interesting to see the content creation tools when they eventually show up, and how varied and wacky we'll be able to make custom jobs.
There's a lot of work to be done, and Rockstar have alienated enormous portions of their audience by not being fully prepared for when they flicked the switch on GTAO. There are some investments that a cool half million simply won't fix. But as experiences go, I have to say that I've been having an absolute blast with GTA Online thus far, and much of that, for me at least, is undoubtedly down to the fact that Los Santos, when filled with sixteen crazy loons doing whatever they want, is a true indication of where the series is surely headed. That and the fact that some things are just better with friends.