GTA Online is About to Get Better

By Keza MacDonald on at

There are some significant new free additions to GTA Online coming next week, among them Freemode Events, new optional events for everybody on the map to take part in together. They're an additional thing to do whilst roaming Los Santos with friends, and sit separately from the Jobs (or missions) and heists. They'll trigger every 12 minutes whilst you're out and about in GTA Online, and you can choose to join in or sit out.

At Rockstar this week, I played a good three hours' worth of Freemode Events ranging from Hunt the Beast, where one player is granted superpowers and everybody else must hunt them down before they can complete a tour of the map, to Penned In, a kind of mad vehicular wrestling match where every player is trying to stay inside an ever-diminishing circle on the map. It was a lot of fun. Some challenges are simple and don't require any co-ordination (like Criminal Damage, which just involves blowing up as much as possible within a time limit), whereas others require you to form ad-hoc teams and tactics (Kill List has you jumping inside a helicopter and destroying Merriweather vehicles and troops).

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Freemode Events are basically a way to have fun in GTA Online without waiting around in menus or lobbies for a Job. You'll get a wee on-screen notification when one is a few minutes away from starting, at which point you can drop a GPS marker to drive to where it starts or just press right on the D-pad to opt in for the non-location-specific ones. You're rewarded for taking part (and doing well) with both cash and RP (or experience).

The highlights for me were Penned In and Criminal Damage - both felt like classic Grand Theft Auto rampages. Hunt the Beast was entertaining as well, but it's easy to feel rather disconnected from what's going on, especially if you get stuck in some far corner of the map away from where the action is. It all depends on where you find yourself when the action's going down. During one round I got stuck down by the coast, unable to reach a road and find my vehicle, whilst everyone else enjoyed hunting the Beast; next time I was firing RPGs from rooftops into the midst of a massive firefight.

Here's a full list of the Freemode Events, courtesy of Rockstar:

  • Penned In – A vehicular free-for-all to stay inside an ever-shrinking and always-moving dome. If you’re caught outside the dome for more than a few seconds you’ll blow up and be eliminated from the competition.

  • Criminal Damage – Rack up the biggest property damage bill you can before time runs out. Equip your biggest weapons and go to town on anything and everything in sight.

  • Hunt The Beast – Players team up to track and kill the beast – a randomly selected player with superior speed and extra health – before it can collect 10 checkpoints scattered around the world within the time limit. The beast is invisible on the mini-map save for whenever it collects a checkpoint, which will cause it to blip for 10 seconds (and increasing in duration with each checkpoint collected).

  • Challenges - Longest jump; longest skydive; longest wheelie; most vehicles stolen; most near misses; lowest parachute deploy; longest bail from vehicle; furthest distance low flying; and more.

  • Moving Target - A vehicle is blipped on the map, the first player to deliver it to the marked destination wins.

  • Kill List - A vehicle is blipped on the map, once the requisite number of players enter they must take out as many waves of enemies as possible.

  • Kill List Competitive - Same as above, but multiple vehicles are blipped and players compete against each other to rack up the most kills in the given time limit.

  • Checkpoints - 120 checkpoints spawn in a quadrant of the map. Players compete to collect the most in the given time limit. This mode comes in two variants: land & sea checkpoints and air checkpoints.

  • Time Trial - A persistent blip on the map where players can try to beat the Rockstar par time and world record on a route that changes weekly.

  • Hold the Wheel - A target vehicle is blipped on the map for 5 minutes. Players compete to be the one in the vehicle when the timer expires.

  • Hot Property - Players compete to control possession of a blipped briefcase. The longer you have it, the more points you earn.

  • Dead Drop - A briefcase is blipped for players to collect and deliver to a location. Players compete for the chance to deliver the briefcase.

  • King of the Castle -The first player to a blipped location becomes King, and gain points as long as they remain King. Players compete to kill and become the King.

In addition, the Rockstar Editor will be coming to PS4 and Xbox One next week, having debuted on the PC version earlier this year. That's the video mode that lets people create and direct whatever the hell they want within GTA's world. People have made things like this for it:

Lastly, there are two new Adversary Modes that will be added: Cross the Line and Hunting Pack. Cross the Line is an on-foot mode where your entire team has to get across the enemy's lines to win, whereas Hunting Pack is vehicular competition where one player is driving a vehicle and others are trying to run it off the road or protect it. This last one ranged from super dramatic (forcing a fire truck off the side of a bridge) to amusingly anticlimactic (slowly forcing a camper van to a stop, then watching it blow up). I enjoyed Cross the Line - it's very tense, though it took me a couple of rounds to understand it.

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It's important to note that neither Freemode Events nor the Editor will be coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of GTA Online. Rockstar will continue to support those versions, but as for new content, from now on it'll only be coming to the PC, PS4 and Xbox One versions. There's more on that in this story.

All of this is rolling out next week, September 15th. It's been a while since I've played GTA Online regularly, but I'll be getting some friends together to try it all out.