GTA Online Will Never Be As Fun As GTA 4’s Multiplayer Mayhem

Rockstar Games’ online modes have been talked about a lot recently, from the untimely demise of Red Dead Online before it even had a chance to get started, to some long-requested changes being made to GTA Online that are apparently enough to bring jaded fans back on board.

I wish I could say I particularly cared about either of these, but the sad fact is that Rockstar’s online outings simply haven’t been on my radar for years. I used to adore playing GTA Online with my friends when it first released, but in recent years I haven’t given it another glance. I’m sure when GTA 6 is revealed I’ll have Vice City tattooed across my face before the first trailer’s even finished, being the IP simp that I am, but anything to do with GTA Online or Red Dead Online simply doesn’t do it for me anymore.

My main problem with Rockstar’s latest online games is that they’re incredibly overcomplicated and noisy. Jump into a lobby and you’ll get two challenge notifications, 20 phone calls, five random players trying to kill you, and one major headache all within the first couple of minutes. It’s way too much when you just want to jump online and play through some missions with some friends.

That seems like it's being fixed somewhat with this latest update, but for my money, it doesn’t matter because GTA Online simply can’t match up to the simplistic mayhem of GTA 4’s multiplayer.

Let me take you back in time. The year is 2010, two years after GTA 4 released because hey, you’re young and you had to argue your case even to be allowed to play the world’s most violent game in the first place. You load up as Niko and immediately jump into the menu to play online (which loads far faster than GTA 5 but we won’t talk about that because it will ruin the time travel metaphor).

You load back into Liberty City, this time joined by some random NPC you couldn’t care about, and a unique colour for your player’s name (damn, orange again?). A quick glance at the map shows other players just messing around with pretty much no goal besides having fun. There are no jet bikes, no air strikes, no calls from Lester, and certainly no pipe bombs on a car you’ve just bought without insurance. Life is good.

As clunky and dated as GTA 4 feels in comparison to more recent Rockstar games, its online mode was so simple and focused that it let you do what every GTA player wants to do – mess around with friends, drive cars off ramps, shoot players with RPGs that you got lucky enough to find instead of buying, and generally not have a care in the world.

There was one part of GTA 4’s online mode that showed this better than anywhere else – brace yourself GTA fans because these three words will instantly make you so nostalgic you’ll cry – Francis International Airport. Every single GTA 4 player knew that this was the best spot on the map to find other players and there was nothing like loading in and seeing everyone crowded in that one area, all fighting for the helicopter that occasionally spawned.

I’ve got some great memories playing GTA Online with my friends, but I don’t think it ever quite matched up to the pure joy of running around that airport with complete strangers as we all tried to avoid that one player with the RPG. The fact that this was all outside of a traditional deathmatch mode and was just something that players always played of their own accord, simply because it was so fun, still blows my mind to this day.

That’s what made GTA 4 so special – it really was just a big sandbox multiplayer experience. All you had was Liberty City, some other players, and the tools to do whatever you wanted with them. There wasn’t a goal, a point, or something greater to aim for, you just played and did what you wanted because you wanted to.

Looking at it critically, GTA Online is better than GTA 4 In almost every way. It has more to do, better gunplay, better driving, more rewarding content, and a more interesting map, but none of that actually matters when the missions and phone calls only serve to distract you from the fun you could be having. Modern online games simply don’t get that that’s all we want to do like GTA 4 did, and I don’t think we’ll ever see anything quite like it again.

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