Starting a new GTA Online profile from scratch in public servers is more thrilling than chasing any open-world platinum trophy

GTA Online The Criminal Enterprises
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

My primary GTA Online profile currently sits at level 162. When I first started playing in 2016, a year after the GTA 5 multiplayer offshoot landed on PC, I surrendered a lot of time to the streets of Los Santos and Blaine County. Determined to climb the criminal ladder as quickly as I could, I rose through the early ranks of Thug, Hustler, Soldier and Trigger in a blaze of elicit activity, murdering scores of like-minded ne'er do wells and unlocking new weapons, armor, cars and more in my wake. By the time I reached the higher echelons of the underworld's ranking ladder, I'd earned the scars, the fame, the fortune, and the right to call myself a Kingpin. And if you ever disagreed, you'd be promptly introduced to my pink tint-finished gatling gun, unlocked at level 150. 

Since hitting the highest defined rank in GTA Online, however, I've chilled somewhat. These days, I spend most of my time on the streets of San Andreas cutting shapes on the dancefloor of my nightclub. Quite often, I'll hop into my tricked-out flying Deluxo and sail through the skies as the sun sets over the Vinewood sign. Occasionally, I'll help out a fledgling crime lord by accepting an invite to one of the game's signature heists. And, other times, I might even lose myself for a few hours in the latest player-made FiveM roleplay server. 

That is, until I decided to start an entirely new GTA Online profile on PS5. Playing exclusively in the console sphere's perpetually-unhinged public servers, I now spend as much time staring listlessly at the Wasted screen with a twitching eye than I do any sort of rank-climbing. I curse aloud, and chase the bastard who scuppered my three-package Special Cargo run out of nothing but spite and boredom until they're face down in the mud and I've unlocked an SMG magazine into his motionless, already-respawned-elsewhere corpse. And you know what? I'm having a bloody good time.

Less money, more problems

GTA Online

(Image credit: Rockstar)

The thing is, revenge in my new save takes a totally different guise. At a paltry (but no less hard-earned) level 34, I don't have near-limitless disposable income. Besides my job-to-job Executive Office work, I have no real passive cash flow, no abundance of ammo, and certainly no flying DeLorean-like Deluxo equipped with dual-machine guns and homing missiles. Every Special Cargo collection and drop-off is vital, and I simply cannot afford to have any single run turn sour. 

Fuck with me when I'm on the grind, then, and I'll come for you with everything I've got. And you want to see me in action, with my Shooting skill barely poking over one segment full, my guns taking an absolute age to reload, recoiling like a bucking bronco and missing my target by a good several feet every time. It's less Taken, and more taking the piss.  Compare this to my maxed-out level 162 save, within which I'm a chiseled marksman who couldn't miss the spot if he tried. Here, however, I'm all over the shop – bringing a different level of challenge to GTA Online that I've never experienced before.  

You see, in my PC save, I've always kept myself to myself. Don't get me wrong, I've faced my fair share of griefers who want nothing more than ruin someone else's session; but the console spectrum – in my experience, at least – is a different beast entirely. Griefers are now pretty synonymous with GTA Online across all platforms, but I've found it to be total mayhem on PS5. Sure, you can still jump into a private server and plug away on your lonesome if you wish (at the expense of less money and RP), but I've no desire to: as much as I dislike being gunned down at random and without reason, I absolutely love seeking revenge in the most brutal ways possible. Moreover, while many of the PC scene's griefers do so via illegal hacking, that's less the case here – the most irritating console players I've faced off against were simply dicks, not cheaters. And that's fair game.

GTA online

(Image credit: Rockstar)

" In one instance, I kid you not, this saw one player face-off finish 31-30 in my opponent's favor"

The outcome of all of this means that leveling up in GTA Online this time has been tough, but far more rewarding than ever before. Not only am I tasked with overcoming the game's built-in hurdles – its missions, jobs, business ventures and AI-controlled baddies – but I'm also balancing risk versus reward in a server packed with trigger-happy terrors, whose sole purpose, it certainly seems, is to drive me up the wall. 

In practice, this has seen me cutting down supply runs in order to see deals over the line – successfully shipping two batches of stolen pharmaceuticals is better than having three batches ruined, right? – or settling the most stubborn of scores before embarking on the most involved (and therefore riskier) drug deals and illegal operations. 

I've also made a point of not simply quitting out and switching servers when up against particularly committed griefers, instead attempting to find some sort of mutual ground when the last body has fallen. In one instance, I kid you not, this saw one player face-off finish 31-30 in my opponent's favor. With little sign of it stopping, I bowed out gracefully in order to get some actual work done – a move acknowledged by my aggressor by them firing idle shots into the air from their firework launcher. 

With well over 2,000 hours of GTA Online under my belt, the above has been a welcomed change of pace for me. Who knows what the future holds for the game I've obsessed over for the best part of a decade – one whose first iteration landed two console generations ago in late 2013 – but the very fact that it's still pulling me back, for me, speaks volumes of its enduring appeal. GTA 6 will inevitably bring with it its own online multiplayer space within which I'm sure griefers will find a new home. Through the experience I've gleaned above, however, I'll be more than ready for them.  

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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.