Grand Theft Auto Online is finally here, and despite the connection issues that come with any massive online launch, I've been able to play a fair amount of it.
Although I haven't spent as much time with Online as I have with Grand Theft Auto V's story mode, I've come across a few useful tips throughout my journey of killing hundreds of players and stealing hundreds of cars.
What is GTA Online exactly? Well, it's actually a tad more complicated than it sounds. Think of it as a 16-player multiplayer game that takes place in a giant lobby (the same city as GTA V -- Los Santos), with lots of instanced quests and multiplayer matches, as well as instanced player housing.
Finding yourself having lots of connection issues? Start the game up normally in Story mode, then press the pause menu, go to online, and start a solo session. Later on you can transition to online matches. Also try entering the game via the character selection wheel to see if it changes any online parameters, or mashing "A/X" at the initial loading screen to force-load Online -- randomly, all of the above methods worked for me at different intervals.
All of the activities that you choose in the character creation process affect your stats, so pay close attention to what you invest in before you jump into the world -- you won't get a chance to change this.
When you have the opportunity to steal your first car, make sure it's a good one, because this is your only chance to get a permanent car free of charge. If you hate it, you can always sell it later and install a tracker/get insurance for a brand new car.
Periodically, you can sell a stolen car to Los Santos Customs -- the average going price per car is at least a couple thousand dollars, which can help you earn early weapons and upgrades rather quickly.
Wear a mask when you rob stores -- that way, you won't be recognized if and when you return. To change into a mask, buy one (make a waypoint to the mask store on the pause menu map), then hold the Back/Select button to check out your costume options.
The best way to rob a store is to use your headset to yell at the cashier (he gives up the cash faster), wear a mask, and resist the urge to shoot them as you'll earn an extra star. Instead of fighting back, keep aiming at them before you exit the door so you don't get shot in the back.
Buy a garage as soon as you can. Although every other purchase is debatable, buying a garage will let you store all of your favorite vehicles in a safe place, and it's one of the most invaluable buys in the game.
Actually try to go for a perfect mission rating. Earning more RP will allow you to rank up, which in turn lets you unlock basically everything. I'm talking new guns, new armor, and new equipment, houses, and more.
Link your Rockstar Social account to get a free sawed-off shotgun, which is extremely useful for early game play since you normally only have a pistol on hand. It sounds self explanatory, but many of you probably won't bother to do it. If you have the Collector's Edition, redeem all of your codes now to unlock tons of free stuff like extra weapons and cars.
Want to ambush players and steal their cash in the safest way possible? Buy lots of remote or ignition bombs, and wait for a player to arrive on the scene.
Keep in mind that Rockstar has a "good behavior" scheme implemented in GTA Online. If you constantly curse out teammates or participate in lots of team killing, players will rank you poorly, forcing you to play with other badly ranked people. If you rank positively, Rockstar will reward you with periodic items and cash as a bonus. As a side note, attacking players that have red dots on the radar is always safe, as they have bounties on their heads.
Always be ready to hit up an ATM at a moment's notice, as the cash you deposit can't be stolen from your person if you die. Use the map screen to find the closest ATM and set up a waypoint. Or, you can deposit through your phone at the bank's website.
Are you sick of getting shot at? Hold the Back/Select button to open up the GTA Online menu and switch to "passive mode." Related to my earlier ATM tip, you need to have cash on hand to enact passive mode, so keep a small amount with you at all times.
In fact, just remembering that there is a special menu that you can access is helpful, as there are a ton of great shortcuts in there, like quick waypoints and other online options.
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destructoid's previous coverage: Grand Theft Auto Online