GTA Online: Bikers, the latest DLC for Grand Theft Auto Online, has officially launched. I spent a good chunk of the first half of my day hanging out in a Motorcycle Club and checking out the new content that Rockstar Games has put together for its online community, and I think I've got a good feel for the basics. The trailer that accompanied today's release gives a good quick overview, so give it a watch before we dig in.
Rockstar Games has put a few non-biker related additions into Grand Theft Auto Online so let's get some of those out of the way first.
To start, you can now sell the free vehicles that might be taking up space in your garage. You won't get any money for the vehicle itself but you will be able to recoup some of the costs from any mods you have done. This is a welcome change for anyone who is somehow tight on garage space. The "Non-Contact" option is finally available in Stunt Races which should reduce frustrating mid-race collisions on particularly tricky maps. Most interestingly, you can copy the rank of one character to a brand new character up to Rank 120. This will save a bunch of time in leveling up an alt if you don't want to do things the slow way.
There is much, much more detail in the patch notes for the GTA Online: Bikers update. If you're just looking for the raw data you're gonna want to take a peek at that link. Let's move on to my first impressions.
One of the biggest questions I saw prior to the release was how exactly missions within a Motorcycle Club would work. Essentially, it's CEO/VIP work of a different flavor. Motorcycle Clubs are analogous to Organizations and Businesses are analogous to Warehouses full of Crates. Although these two styles of gameplay are similar at a conceptual level, in terms of gameplay they are fundamentally different.
Motorcycle Clubs are much less transient organizations. The contributions of individual members are tracked across gameplay sessions. You can also fill in officer positions within your own Motorcycle Club, and each officer role has special powers above that of a regular member. You can essentially teleport players to your Clubhouse (much like your Office) and it has its fair share of amenities for M.C. members. Arguably, it has more amenities.
A Custom Bike Shop is an optional add-on for Clubhouses that allows members to tinker with their motorcycles. It's functionally identical to Los Santos Customs, so if you're just interested in modding your bikes you don't need it. However, there are over a dozen different locations for your motorcycle club and it may well be worth the price so you don't have to drive around to upgrade your bike.
The Businesses added in GTA Online: Bikers operate very differently from Warehouses. You'll need to own a Clubhouse to get one, and you can have one Business each of five different types. A Business requires Supply to make Product over time. When Supplies run low, you can either buy them or steal them from NPCs in a mini mission. In either case, once you have enough Product you can sell it in a mission similar to Crate Deliveries. Seeing as Businesses run automatically, you have the option to shut them down if you don't want to bother with Motorcycle Club activities at the moment. (After all, Grand Theft Auto Online has a lot of neat stuff to do!) If you decide to move a Business location you'll lose any progress so make sure to sell the product beforehand. There is also a rumor (which I've been unable to confirm) that shutting down a Business will also result in the loss of all Product.
Of course, there's plenty of moneymaking opportunities and activities. Club Presidents can start friendly challenges for the whole crew from the interaction menu as well as PvP-style missions. There's also Contracts which you can launch from the Clubhouse. In my opinion, Rockstar Games has delivered a much cooler version of VIP work with the Contract missions. If you're playing Grand Theft Auto Online and you're purely concerned with efficiency, my gut feeling says that VIP work will go much faster if only for the ability to quickly spawn a Buzzard. That said, the Contract work feels a bit more like interesting missions and I think it will be a lot less stale in longer sessions.
When Rockstar Games puts out a new DLC they'll often release new weapons, vehicles, and clothes. GTA Online: Bikers adds all of these things in varying quantities. There's a nice new variety of motorcycles, and despite cynical projections of multi-million dollar motorcycles by some people (myself included), not a one has a price tag higher than six figures. (In the interest of being pedantic, fully upgrading the Hakachou drag bike will cost over a million, but it's certainly not as expensive as some of the supercars in the game). There are dozens of new biker-themed clothing outfits for chopper aficionados as well as racing bike enthusiasts. The new weapons are the real game changer here.
The new weapons added into GTA Online: Bikers truly feel like they make motorcycles into a viable combat vehicle. A new handheld shotgun and the ability to use melee weapons on bikes increases the fighting power of bikers a good deal and the Pipe Bomb feels like a nice mix of a hand grenade and a molotov cocktail. The biggest game changer of all is arguably the Compact Grenade Launcher. It's much easier to land a hit with this little devil compared to using Sticky Bombs, and I truly think you'll need it to survive in Free Roam.
Even if you have no interest in Motorcycle Clubs, purchasing a Clubhouse is probably a worthwhile investment. They range in price from GTA$200,000 to GTA$500,000 and serve as garage exclusively for motorcycles with ten spaces. Clubhouses also act as spawn points from the jump - no need to buy an extra add-on here. You can get a Clubhouse with all the amenities for less than GTA$2,000,000. GTA Online: Bikers really feels like a more down-to-earth version of Organizations.
There's all sorts of other nice little touches that Rockstar Games has added to Grand Theft Auto Online. Motorcycles have new idling animations. Motorcycle Clubs riding in a formation will provide a sort of buff that heals friendly members and repairs bikes. There's also motorcycles for multiple different styles of riding, so if you want to trick out the new Faggio model and roll around as the Scooter Brothers you can go hog wild.
Mind, it's not all sunshine and lollipops. I think Rockstar Games seriously missed some opportunities with GTA Online: Bikers. Anyone in a crew is familiar with the ability to put your emblem on clothes and vehicles, but the only emblem that applies is that of your active crew. Insignia is hugely important to a Motorcycle Club, and while you can use your crew insignia for this purpose it feels like a really silly mistake to not allow players to make a custom logo for their new ventures.
There's also the issue with running missions. Some of them play exactly like VIP work, and it's incredibly frustrating to find that your 8-player Motorcycle Club can't start a Contract because someone else is running one. I really think that someone else running a mission shouldn't prevent other clubs from starting them. I understand that the idea might be to go mess with the guys running their mission, but that's hugely impractical when you're on the other side of the map.
In terms of the cosmetics, I feel a bit let down by the lack of neons and LEDs. I think it might be a newer phenomenon, but there are choppers out there that have more lights than a Christmas tree. For now, you'll have to be satisfied with a simple Headlight upgrade.
That's it for my first impressions. Please bear in mind that this is by no means all-inclusive - I've played the new DLC for about six cumulative hours on the PC version of the game and I feel like I've just scratched the surface. I've put a gallery of screenshots below showing some of the dozens of new things that have been added to Grand Theft Auto Online. Although it has some flaws, I think that GTA Online: Bikers will provide a lot of fun. I just hope that Rockstar Games decides to work out some of the kinks.
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Have you had a chance to play GTA Online: Bikers? What do you think of the new content that Rockstar Games has added to Grand Theft Auto Online? Do you feel like they missed adding anything particularly important with this new DLC? Let us know in the comments below!