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GTA 5 Online is the worst game ever and I can’t stop playing it

GTA 5 Online heists
(Image credit: Rockstar)

The high of robbing a casino is really quite remarkable, as long as you follow the instructions. Enter through the rear-facing staff entrance and make sure to disable the metal detectors with a stun gun, then shoot the two staff members inside while they’re engrossed in thought. Thankfully, one of my accomplices remembered to take out the security camera before I fired my suppressed handgun. 

Grand Theft Auto 5 Online has the distinction of being one of the games I hate the most, while simultaneously loving so much of it. Rockstar has done an amazing job with this game, both with the single-player campaign and the online portion. As it rushes toward it’s ninth birthday, I remain impressed by the design of the map which accommodates as many as 30 people in a session and can be traversed by both car, helicopter and flying jet bike. Or, if you have infinite patience, circumnavigated in a boat of some kind. 

GTA Online is one step away from gaming perfection. But the problem with it, and the reason I spend so much time cross while I play, is that that remaining step is really a gargantuan leap. 

For one thing, hackers have continued annoy and cheat their way since the game's inception. No one who plays this game now believes that Rockstar has any intention of doing anything about the people who can change weather, time of day or make a school bus hurtle through the sky at will. Cheats in GTA are significant, in that it can make pulling off a heist a miserable experience. Whenever I'm able to get through a heist sans cheaters, it's either a laugh-a-minute, or absolute hell. 

GTA online hackers joined this session with a flying fire engine and a man disguised as a pig

In this screenshot of a hacker-filled server, there's a flying fire engine and a man disguised as a pig. And shortly after, someone dropped $200,000 in cash for players to collect (Rockstar always manages to reclaim this cash if you pick it up).  (Image credit: Rockstar/Future)

I’ve had hackers dump huge piles of money in front of me, and I’ve had them murder me endlessly until I either rage quit or jump servers. 

But the biggest failure has to be the inconsistency with heists. Many are so often hampered by bugs, or the need to do things precisely as they were designed, that it can make completing one a chore. The casino robbery I undertook is a classic example. If you do it exactly as the game expects, it’s a thrill ride that’s challenging, fun and ultimately rewarding. If you deviate, even within what the game seems to encourage, it simply falls apart. 

It took my friends and I a long time to get it just right. And If I’m honest, we ended up looking up a walkthrough as we simply couldn’t work out what we were doing wrong. A big part of this problem is that Rockstar seems to have recorded lines of dialogue for one method and nothing else. We know you can enter through the waste disposal area, but we simply can’t do it without triggering alarms and leaving us to shoot our way through the game. 

Look, a flying fire engine

Here's a flying fire engine. Rockstar seems to do little to curb a multitude of hacks in GTA 5 Online. (Image credit: Rockstar/Future)

These bugs are even more severe in the Doomsday Heist, which has been my most recent nemesis. This one is so bad that the friend and I who play together have lost contact with two of the people we started it with. It has been left as unfinished progress for the last four years or so. Firstly, it’s challenging, but part of that comes down to character leveling, and I have no problem with that. 

But as we approached one of the Act 2 missions in Doomsday, things fell apart. We had to try and rescue this one non-playable character, and try as we might, we couldn’t not persuade that bunch of pixels to get up and leave. Several hours were spent dying as we attacked helicopters and hidden henchmen in a process that grew more and more aggravating. Nothing we did worked, and as the time approached midnight, I was ready to go to bed and forget about it forever. 

But the problem with GTA 5 Online is that you can’t forget about it. The mix of map design, the grindy-but-still-enjoyable profitable missions that reward getting a heist right just pull me back in. The only problem I have now is the certainty that Rockstar isn’t likely to invest much time in this game if GTA 6 is on the horizon. GTA 5 is still a cash-cow, but I very much suspect the team’s efforts are now being put into the new game. I can’t wait to play it, although I bet it will drive me mad too. 

A tech journalist with many years of experience, Ian got his start writing about the battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray. Technology might have moved on, but there's still plenty of skirmishes to report on.