The best and worst thing about Rockstar's games is that they’re different. As noted in our review, Grand Theft Auto V is an exceptional adventure, with the kind of attention to detail that you simply wouldn’t find in any other release. However, it’s also letdown – no matter how slightly – by the fact that it’s a bit of a pain to play. The combat mechanics are a mess, the controls are less intuitive than a MicroKorg without labels, and the game occasionally gets bogged down in its own city simulation aspirations. The same criticism is true of Grand Theft Auto Online’s character creation component, too.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s clever – but it’s also deeply flawed. Rather than offer an EA Sports-esque suite of sliders and presets, the game instead forces you to blend gene pools like a human fruit smoothie. You pick a set of grandparents from each side of your family, and these are fused to create your Frankenstein-esque hero. It’s a genius idea – the kind of thing that only Rockstar would dare to dabble with – but it just doesn’t work. We fiddled with the feature for several minutes, trying to come up with a character that looked even remotely appealing. During that time, the best we could come up with was an unfortunately disfigured female who looked like the kind of rendition of Liza Minnelli that you’d expect to find in a wheelie bin behind Madam Tussauds.
Fortunately, you can improve your character’s appearance by covering its face with a chunky set of sunglasses, or putting an exaggerated hat over much of its cardboard cut out hair. Other options include makeup, but the results still aren’t especially good. Compared to the amazing character customisation features in competing sandbox releases such as Saints Row IV – and even the aforementioned sports titles – it’s surprising that a studio typically so obsessive with attention to detail would construct such a restrictive system at all. It’s almost as if someone had a great idea, but no one had the heart to admit that it didn’t work.
And the skill assignment functionality is similarly ridiculous. Rather than merely apply attributes to specific slots – shooting, driving, etc – the game forces you to flesh out a personality test which asks how long you sleep, spend time performing criminal activities, and engage in sports. These alter your attributes appropriately – if you waste every waking hour on the pinch, then chances are you’ll know your way around a gun – but it’s needlessly convoluted, and confusingly approached. Again, it’s a brilliant idea, but it’s a step too far – and it ends up hurting the game.
Unfortunately, we had planned some more fleshed out impressions on Grand Theft Auto Online, but we couldn’t get past the introductory scene. Given that there are fully voiced cinematics in the mode, we get the distinct impression that this is not going to end up your average online affair. However, having spent some time with the character creation suite, we’re worried that Rockstar may have gone too far with the feature, and ended up constructing a component that’s clever, but a little awkward in practice.
What are your thoughts on Grand Theft Auto Online’s character creation suite? Are you comfortable with the feature, or has it got you concerned about the rest of the online mode? Let us know in the comments section below.