The jobs and missions already provide a ton to do but the open world is where you'll really get lost. The world Rockstar has created is jaw-droppingly detailed in every way. As a recreation of Los Angeles, I'm told it is fantastic and I believe it because this is a game that embraces depth. That you can get in a car and drive from downtown Los Santos, to the ocean jet skis, to the pier rollercoaster, to the offroad buggies, to military base with its highly guarded attack helicopter, only to end the day at the peak of Mount Chiliad for sunset is astounding. Every step of the way, tiny details just shimmer. Maybe you just want to tow some cars or go scuba diving and explore undersea wrecks. Maybe you want to eavesdrop on a pedestrian's conversation and antagonize them into calling the police. Or maybe you just want to appreciate the little touches like the stellar texture work, and excellent sound design. Afterwards, you can lob a grenade and turn the whole serene experience into a five star car chase.
The community in this world is... well, it's developing. If you're playing online outside of a crew, expect to get harassed by players who just want to kill you. It can be frustrating but the “bad apples” are progressively being filtered into their own servers. For a small in-game fee, you can also enable passive mode which prevents you from using your weapons but also prevents other players from attacking you. It's a happy medium and can save some early-game frustration.
That said, some of the best moments in Online come from these unscripted encounters. Punching a player off of a roof. Hopping in a robbers getaway car and going train chasing. Robbing a bank only to find out that your partner intends to stiff you of your share. What do you do then other than kill him? One of my favorite things to do (since it was done to me) is to shoot out players' tires before they finish robbing a store and watch them slide down the road to get nailed by police while I giggle.
Grand Theft Auto: Online isn't an MMO but it is one heck of an online game. There is enough here to keep players entertained for hours on end and a whole lot of it pushes at the very things MMO players love: progression, cooperation, competition, and open world freedom. As a free pack in to Grand Theft Auto V, it seems likely that the game will eventually be available as a standalone client on PC. Just please, for the love of all things holy, don't play this game around your kids. It's more than a little sweary and the ladies of the night double as narrators. You've been warned.
Christopher Coke / Chris has been an online gamer since the days of MUDs. These days he doubles as the MMO Tourist and hosts the official podcast, Game On: ESP Edition. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight