Rockstar has just whisked the wrappers off Grand Theft Auto Online, GTA 5's fearsomely ambitious multiplayer component. CVG's got the UK exclusive write-up, so you'll definitely want to take a gander at their first look, published a few moments ago. Here's a rundown of the key details from ourselves. Get the first screens here, or click one of the article images to open a gallery.
Grand Theft Auto Online is effectively a standalone online open world, which allows you to tour the city of Los Santos in groups of 16 players. You'll be able to do everything you can do in single player - play sports like tennis, participate in semi-random "ambient" world events such as hitchhiker encounters, steal from ATMs, etc - plus a bunch of other, dementedly cool-sounding stuff.
At the more pedestrian end of the scale, there are a bunch of competitive multiplayer options - team deathmatch (aka, Crew vs Crew), regular deathmatch and car races. More interestingly, you've got a multitude of opportunities for co-operative play. Players can team up to abduct shipments of high-end motorbikes from factories, rob banks and participate in full-blown heists - parachuting onto an airport in order to make off with a massive cargo plane, slaying legions of Merryweather security guards in the process.
Completing these missions earns you cash and Reputation Points (Rockstar has yet to explain what, exactly, you'll do with the latter). As in single player, cash can be spent on property - you might acquire yourself a penthouse with a functioning in-game CCTV system, a home TV setup that carries such shows as Weasel News and a 1930s animal detective show Moosehead Investigations, and a garage where you can store and view up to 10 customisable cars.
Eccentric as it sounds, there's actually an in-game car insurance system, so you can phone in a quick replacement if yours is destroyed. Leave one in an area for too long, and it may be impounded (meaning you'll have to pay to reclaim it).
Players will be able to customise a multiplayer avatar with unique gestures, and can share their resources with visiting players (who may then do a runner rather than participate in missions). You can interact with NPCs in the world via a headset - e.g. to order a store-owner to fill up a moneybag faster - and you'll see your character's lips move in synch when you do.
Among other things, co-op partners will be able to change the car radio channels while you drive. There's an in-game stock market, and it's possible to influence the performance of your stock by attacking the offices of listed companies. Sorry, this is all coming out in a bit of a rush, isn't it?
Finally, and frighteningly, players will be able to create their own missions in GTA Online, beginning with tools for deathmatch and racing mission types at launch. More mission creation tools will be made available over the months that follow release. Speaking of which, GTA Online won't be available at launch because Rockstar wants to give players time to bed in with single player.
More as we get it. Any initial thoughts?