Grand Theft Auto V

GTA Online – Three Weeks In

GrandTheftAutoV9 - GTA Online - Three Weeks In

I purchased GTAV about a month and a half ago, and played through the story mode. I haven't played an online game for over a decade, but the version of GTA I bought came with the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack, so I decided to try "owning" my own property in Los Santos. Here are the things I learned:

The CESP seems like "cheating"at first, but on reflection I believe it is fair. The first thing I understood when playing was that this game environment is very mature. Many add-ons and extras have been added since release, and the catalog of options can be overwhelming. The CESP gives a new player a good introduction to a lot of this content, while not really giving away the farm. You get some guns, some tattoos, and (most importantly) a million bucks. You also get properties and good array of vehicles.

GTA$ can be purchased at a rate of $100 for every 8M with a Whale Shark card, meaning GTA$ are worth about $1 for every 80K. Because of this, when is looking at the many things available in the game, one can put a real dollar value on all of it. In real dollars, the most expensive base property (Maze Bank Tower office) is worth about $50 retail. My goal when starting was that I would not buy anything in game with real money, so this became a challenge of making sound economic choices.

The properties and vehicles that come with CESP help you get a better understanding of certain concepts – many of which came after the initial release of the game, and are significantly different than the story mode counterparts. However, most of the items included with it get replaced with superior items over time. The Frogger helicopter is great, but the Buzzard is far more useful. The Route 68 cash factory and motorcycle club are good places to learn the MC mechanics, but their locations are remote and don't generate much cash. The only thing the office provides at base is the ability to register for VIP work and purchase a warehouse. In fact, the apartment in Vinewood and the Vortex motorcycle are the only items from the pack I still use regularly.

I spun up a character after all the bonuses were taken, just to play on "hard" mode. For two days I ran a character playing the "real" way, starting with no cash and abstaining from most of the CESP content (I did allow myself two guns and the Zombie chopper). The difference is stark. Making the first $470K to buy the Vinewood motorcycle club at retail took forever, and the multiplayer freeroam aspect is painful. Much of that money was made using VIP missions (opened at $50K in the bank) and lucking out with a good team in Motor Wars at 3x multiplier on payout. Running around with a pea shooter and stolen vehicles, your missions and global challenges are at the mercy of players with superior gear. Unprotected, your starter car will be destroyed so often it's not even worth calling the insurance company.

I've decided that rather than giving new players an unfair leg up, the CESP helps mitigate the fact that every new player is vastly outclassed by the bulk of the others in the same session. I did not play on "hard" for long, but I may come back to it after I understand the rest of the property types better.

A new player can make $1M in the first hour or two. Signing up for 2FA gives you $500K. Beating the revolver challenge gives you a $250K reward. Completing the hatchet rampage gives you another $250K. So even without the CESP, a new player can get a pretty good start.

There are a number of other high-reward one-time missions you can do. If you can get invited to a Doomsday Heist and see it through, there is a first-time bonus of $250K. Maud's bounties, if brought in without killing them, are worth $10K apiece for $50K. Flight school, if you can hack it, has good payouts for each gold medal.

Never pay retail. Every week there is a discount coupled with an earnings multiplier. In effect, this can mean up to a 4x bonus or better when used correctly. Factoring in the idea that there is an exchange rate, a 50% discount on a $4M property means about $25 in Shark Cards. If the way you are earning the money to pay for it is at a 2x multiplier, you are basically landing a $50 item for $12.50.

xXURMomSucks69Xx. You know who I am talking about. The guy lurking downtown with the clown mask or the skull helmet who's mission in life is to make yours miserable. Forget Merryweather, forget the cops – this is the guy you are on the lookout for. Your mission route goes near him? Yeah, find a detour.

Every bull market needs a bear, I suppose, and the game is about criminals after all. The maniacs provide an element of danger that gives the game a kick the NPCs don't. I've found that these guys are armed to the teeth and impossible to match head-on, but they often aren't too bright. They are why you use tunnels and train tracks, and fly your chopper through he canyons of buildings like a 'Nam pilot. Sometimes they are so focused on killing you that they don't notice the cargo you are carrying.

But that said…


The Oppressor MKII is a goddamned menace. I don't know what Rockstar was thinking with this vehicle. I don't own one, but I have spent some time spectating people with them. This vehicle renders the pilot almost unstoppable. There is no sense of gravity and barely any inertia, the pilot skipping from rooftop to rooftop like a deranged Mary Poppins. xXURMomSucks69Xx and his brethren lurk over the city wreaking havok below with impunity, their only threat being eachother.

Let me give you an example of what I feel GTAO should be about: I'm making a supply run to my bunker in an Insurgent, Merryweather on my ass. Another player with a Michael-Keaton-era-Batmobile passes me on the road, slams the e-brake and engages. Now I'm in the shit. But all is not lost! He has a street vehicle, and I have treads. So I take some sharp turns, head into the hills, dodge around on dirt roads. This other player is on me the whole time, but I'm making him work for it as I beeline to my bunker. I almost make it to the safe zone, but I hit a phone pole just outside and my opponent destroys me. That sucks! But it was an element of chase – of fox and hare – that made it an enjoyable experience even though I lost.

Now consider the Oppressor. In contrast, the experience is more akin to a boot and a bug. It's as if Zeus himself is casting thunderbolts at you – that's how helpless you are. You rarely even know you have an opponent before a missile destroys you. Even if you see it coming, all you can do is watch in dull horror as the icon traverses the minimap like a spider on a web, homing in on you smoothly in all three dimensions at once. You have no chance.

A tank can be outrun. A helicopter is difficult to control. A jet requires timing. A man with a rocket launcher can be run over or shot. But the Oppressor is so unbalanced that if I even see one on the map, I change the session. It renders the game that unenjoyable.

Other players can surprise you. One becomes so conditioned to expecting the worst that there can be pleasant turns. I've had other players just pull up alongside at my most vulnerable and simply honk, then cruise me around to the strip club or to show off their properties. I've flown around in public challenges and had the weapon lock alarm go off, only to have the excellent fellow not fire upon me and instead display sportsmanship in trying to beat me at the challenge. I've even had the rare occasion of making a supply run and be caught dead-to-rights by another player, only have them defend me from xXURMomSucks69Xx and his friends. In essence, you see a semi-anonymous crucible of humanity interacting in a wild kingdom devoid of civil consequence exhibiting much of the behavior you would expect. Chivalry exists in this world, but it has a price.

What I've purchased with the $11M I have made

  • Maze Bank Tower office, one floor of garage and the auto shop at 50% discount. I did not have enough time to purchase the other two floors before the discount ran out. If I had this to do over again, I might choose Lobmbank Tower for the views and the less heinous territory of downtown. The Del Perro / Morningwood area is so chock full of properties, you could play most of the game out of that one area.
  • Farmhouse Bunker, all upgrades including the business, 30% discount. If I had to do this over again, I might opt out of the decorative frills. However, this facility paid for itself quite rapidly, so I'm not too shaken up about it. It was a debate between this location and Chumash, but I liked the Farmhouse's accessibility better – plus I like the way the property looks. Downside is that it's tight landing for a helicopter.
  • Mobile Operations Center, command center and weapon + vehicle bay loadout, 40% discount. It's early to have purchased this vehicle because it's great purpose is to upgrade vehicles I don't have with weapons I haven't researched, but the opportunity presented itself this week.
  • A Buzzard attack chopper, 50% off. Easily a game changer; Headhunter missions are now doable, and I have some teeth against hostile players when taking to the air.
  • An Armored Kuruma, 50% discount. I did mod this car to the best I could at Level 70; brakes, spoiler, etc., some of which also on discount. I also splurged and painted it; pearlescent blue is pretty sweet. A little hard to handle, but great on Dispatch missions.
  • The Vinewood Clubhouse for my "alt". I'm starting to rethink this because it's the most expensive location (which seems to make it popular) and it is central to the PvP mayhem.
  • A number of weapons with full upgrades. On reflection, I didn't need many of these. My main weapons tend to be the micro-smg on drive-bys, the bullpup rifle for assaults and the compact grenade launcher for destroying vehicles. I break out the sniper rifle on rare occasion.
  • An outfit so Lamar wouldn't make fun of me.

Anyhow, that's my experience so far. I'm having a lot of fun, with a few annoying exceptions, and I find that I still want to keep playing and "own" a piece of the city. I suspect once one owns enough that the experience begins to lose it's luster (hence the clown masks and skull helmets), but that still seems to be a long ways off.

See you on the road!

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