GTA Online's wave of "experiential updates" have changed the game, and pave the way for GTA 6

GTA Online
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

GTA Online is in the throes of its annual Independence Day celebrations, which heralds the return of my least favorite 'weapon'. I hate to be a spoilsport, but the deafening, nails-down-a-blackboard shriek of a star-spangled flare as it tears through Legion Square just ain't for me. Especially when I'm trying to bring down a Special Cargo chopper, and mistakenly take aim with a pithy Firework Launcher and not my trusted Homing bazooka. 

I'm being flippant (mostly), but one of Grand Theft Auto's most comically-themed weeks is a nice way to frame how good the game's recent raft of quality of life upgrades are. Named by Rockstar as "experiential updates", GTA Online has quietly rolled out a glut of long-requested nips and tucks designed to improve the minute-to-minute action in Los Santos, away from the pizzazz of the latest showcase spectacle. 

In its bid to build on the lines of communication between the studio floor and players at home, Rockstar's dedication to such lower-profile improvements is commendable. When we caught up with design director Scott Butchard and lead designer Chris Bell earlier this year, the team's desire to be more community-facing than ever before was clear. 

Which is great, obviously. Any features that help improve the smoothness of our time in San Andreas are more than welcome. I still wish we could reduce the time it takes to get into the blooming game to enjoy them, granted, but this is a small gripe in the face of a behind the scenes perspective shift that clearly bodes well for GTA 6.   

Ultra boost

GTA Online

(Image credit: Rockstar)

The core of GTA Online's most game-changing additions arrived alongside its San Andreas Mercenaries update, but continue to impress. It's pretty amazing how much of a difference simple things like being able to claim the insurance on multiple destroyed cars at once makes; or how you can now register as a company boss from any computer (as opposed to via the menu screen), across all of your illegitimate endeavors at once. 

Another personal favorite is how map blips for properties now appear at far shorter ranges than before; and, in-tune with the latest updates, the fact that you can now re-request delivery of your Avenger, Terrorbyte and/or Mobile Operations Center to a location in closer proximity to wherever you are in Freemode is a godsend.  

My absolute favorites of the literally dozens of quality of life tweaks, however, are all tied to body armor. As opposed to clicking through body armor as multiple singular purchases, you can now simply 'Buy All' at Ammu-Nation. Moreover, the rank requirement for buying different tiers of body armor has now been canned, and when selecting body armor within the weapon wheel, you'll automatically be equipped with the most expensive (and therefore strongest) variant you own. 

And the coup de gras: whenever quick-restarting a mission out on the field, body armor can now be restocked to the same level you had when you first entered the lobby – meaning you can dive back in with a full complement. 


(Image credit: Rockstar)

Given GTA Online's size and enduring stature, these are small changes – but they make the world of difference at ground level. I've wanted those adjustments to armor supply and quick restarts for the longest time, and their introduction has suddenly made the process of failure (something which, even after over 2,000 hours, I'm still pretty good at) so much easier to deal with. 

The vast scope of GTA Online's map, and the wealth of content that exists within, is why it takes upwards of three minutes to actually access it – but given the fact this was once closer to 10 minutes before a fan-made fix cut that wait down drastically, I suppose where we are now isn't bad going. 

Given the stick Rockstar has received over the last decade for GTA Online's excessively long load times, on the other hand, you'd have to assume the utmost care will be taken to drop these down as much as possible by the time GTA 6 rolls around. When exactly that will be is still up for debate, but despite the absence of a GTA 6 trailer, May's Take Two earnings report all but confirmed the GTA 6 release window. Between that and a totally-reliable psychic reading, we're expecting something at some point during 2024. 

Whenever GTA 6 pokes its head from the trenches in an official capacity, though, the very fact that Rockstar is taking so much player feedback on board during what could be GTA Online's twilight years should hopefully help facilitate a smooth launch. With something so ambitious, you'd have to assume GTA 6's online offshoot, whatever form it takes, will have at least some teething issues. But by galvanizing community trust on this side of things, Rockstar is putting itself in the best position possible looking forward. 

When all of that in-development footage leaked last year, I said: ignore the GTA 6 leak, the full Rockstar reveal will be worth the wait. As we close in on a year since then, I feel even stronger about that sentiment now. Over the top Independence Day celebrations, dreaded Firework Launchers, and all. 

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.