Hey there, Joseph Phelps here with some thoughts, some style, and some updates. Let’s start with that last one. Book two is finished and off to the editor—which means I’ve earned myself a sweet little vacay—nope, kidding. I’m starting work on book three in the Blacklight Chronicles, and since everything that happens in the books is illegal and hard to experience in real time, it’s time for me to go back to the basics. Yep, time to immerse myself in crime lore, keep the appropriate vibe in place. Goodbye cowboy games and movies. Hello treasured classics like Heat and Payday 2. And Grand Theft Auto Online, of course. Time to get back into that old workhorse.
I spent thousands of hours on it back in the day, played it like I used to play WoW. I’d stolen and murdered my way across this city so many times that I got to know it instinctually. And my toybox had gotten large and full. I’ve heard tell of the game being populated mostly by new players, and old returning players are often treated as one might treat dangerous dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Their mistake. With this much loot, I was returning as a giant, a titan, Smaug the calamity himself.
So I sat down in my chair, dug through the tangled apps of yesteryear, found GTA and logged in. “Rockstar Game services are not available at this time.” I howled in nostalgia-laced frustration. Just like the good old days.
Once the game was functional, I logged into one of my various underground lairs and started refamiliarizing myself with the controls, menus, all that fun stuff. It is strange coming back to something so beloved years after the last time you played it. You’re filled with confusion and uncertainty. “Wait, which underground lair am I in again? I have so many.” But I realized quickly that didn’t matter. All I had to do was start it up and just get some grinding in. There’s plenty of that to be had in this game, and it usually ends up in an amusing fight when someone mistakes me for prey.
Or so it used to be.
After an hour, still nothing. No drive-bys, no flying cars with rockets, not even a scrub with a homing launcher picking me out of the air. Has Los Santos really changed after all this time away? Screw it, I can find my own fun, I’ll just go make some new friends.
I pulled up alongside someone sitting on their bike, presumably in menus. Gave him a little love tap, just a playful kick between buddies. You know, into traffic. Oh, don’t look at me like that, he was fine. Our avatars are absurdly tough; getting run over twice in a row didn’t even kill him. Did the trick though, we were off to the races after that. That age-old human aggression response kicked in and he was out for blood.
I love a good game of “chase me, chase me,” so I ran. Nothing infuriates a level 34 more than when a high-level just won’t fight back. He used a super car to get close, but he didn’t armor his tires, so I just popped ‘em and giggled as he crashed. He came at me in an attack helicopter, but his aim was garbage, so I used my heavy sniper to crack the rear rotor off for him and giggled as it spiraled into a fireball. He parachuted away, only to get his parachute shot to bits. He ended up crash landing on top of a skyscraper with no way down. Except to try and jump, hoping his chute respawned. Spoiler alert, it never does. Didn’t take long for the 1v1 deathmatch requests to start coming in, and then the aggressive messages. Just to drive in the point, I ordered an orbital strike on him. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. I have more money than sense (in game, at least).
It was good to see that nothing has fundamentally changed, you just need to go looking for trouble these days. Bored with that encounter, I made some more friends, dropping into a group of them with my parachute and berserker axe, wearing as little as possible, just a pair of white running shorts, expensive boating shoes, and a pair of aviator goggles.
They get really excitable after you kill the first one with a doofy melee weapon and suddenly gunshots don’t take you down anymore. Some amusing “conversations” over coms around that one, the speculations of my haxx were breathtaking and loud. I only encountered one other high-level player in my time online today, and we just peacefully cruised by each other on our ridiculous flying rocket bikes. I like to imagine we gave each other a lazy salute, by tipping our leathery wings at one another, and breathing little puffs of fire.
In summation, my return to GTA online was…well. It was something, I suppose. Fun, sure, but it’s not the same. There’s only so much appeal to playing as a dragon among mere mortals, after all. I’m sure I’ll enjoy my time in Los Santos with other players, but now it’s got me thinking that a replay of story mode is in order, and maybe a visit to Nico Bellic in the hallowed grounds of GTA 4. Branch out a little more this time around, add some seasoning that isn’t…this.
Joseph Phelps writes books. You should read them! Check him out at his author page at https://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Phelps/e/B07WZCJ39T/