In many ways Rockstar’s GTA 5 is a remarkable game. At eight years old it still looks good and, for the most part, plays quite well and it’s certainly a technical achievement that many games don’t manage. The vast map, with sea, air and land vehicles is certainly not an easy thing to manage for any developer. I've got 900 hours in this thing, but many of them may have been waiting for the online bit to load.
Online has, in general, become an absolute disaster. The most recent large update brought with it a new mission, The Cayo Perico Heist, which promises massive in-game wealth. The reality was a lot of frustration and the need to spend vast sums of in-game money.
Attempting the heist with friends it was obvious that it was going to be very annoying, especially as doing it requires players spend a minimum of $2.2 million of hard-earned in-game cash. The rewards for finishing the heist alone would be roughly $1 million, but can increase to more than $3 million if you do literally everything.
During the heist we had one of our three-person crew drop out due to an internet glitch, he was then unable to re-join our party until we’d finished that phase of the set-up. That put us at a disadvantage and meant we wrapped it up more quickly than we should have done, leaving us with less in-game loot to collect.
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The set-up in general is poorly explained. Some of the missions are time-limited and you need to get from the submarine, back to land, to blow some stuff up. But unless you sprang for the expensive helicopter, which lives inside the ship, that’s a tall order. We missed a couple of targets and you can’t repeat the set-up phase so that translated to a harder grind when we got the main section of the heist.
Cayo Perico is, without doubt, one of the things that Rockstar should be doing with this game. It’s an ambitious addition and something to get people back to playing again. But it feels more like an effort to take in-game currency off players and keep the internal economy going. It’s no secret that GTA 5 has become a revenue monster for Rockstar. The decision to give the game away on the Epic Store last year was predicted to increase microtransactions by 75% and could result in the company bringing in as much as $550 million this year. That’s staggering for a game of this age, and it’s having a big impact on the quality.
After all, why is Rockstar ever going to fix the game when it’s this profitable. If it’s anything like other games the code base for it is likely an absolute nightmare at this point. There will be patches all over the place and making new content must be incredibly hard, something I think shows in the recent heist.
So I really want GTA 6 now. And the rumour mill has been pumping out all manner of excitement about the next version of the game for some time now. For me, if they could fix the ridiculous load times, the griefers who constantly attack other players and the hackers then that would be an amazing improvement. But then, with the amount of money this game is making in its fifth iteration, is it really much to ask for them to sort out some of these problems in the existing game.
Anyway, we did finish the heist and I got $1 million from it. I’d spent more than $4 million on the setup and my friend got some tiny sum for helping me. That was in spite of me setting his share to 40%, so even that bit of the game is broken. By that point though, I think we were just glad it was all over.