GTA Online has changed a lot since 2013, thanks to an ever-growing list of new cars, guns and heists. Along the way, some parts of GTA have become forgotten or even removed. Let’s take a look back, shall we?
In a game that lets you buy car insurance, playing a “match” of arm wrestling is somehow one of the least fun things you can do in GTA Online. You arm wrestle by slamming the left stick left and right, over and over, as fast as you can—eventually, someone emerges a winner. After a few matches with my friends during the initial month GTA Online was released, we never touched arm wrestling again.
To give you an idea of how little people care about this feature, I entered a few sessions of GTA Online freemode and sent out invites to everyone in the session to come arm wrestle. No one wanted to join me. Welp.
If wiggling an analog stick isn’t your thing, you can always play darts. First, you’ll have to drive all the way out to middle of the Grand Senora Desert to a small bar. This is the only place in all of San Andreas where you can play darts, for whatever reason. No wonder nobody plays darts.
Darts is more of a mini-game than arm wrestling, but after a few matches I had my fill. The gameplay amounts to aiming a reticle at a part of the board and hitting a button. Exciting! You don’t even get any cool rewards for hitting a bunch of triple twenties, though there is an achievement you can get for playing both darts and arm wrestling, so that’s something at least.
The companion app
Like GTA Online, the iFruit app launched in a pretty rough state. But once it was working you were able to...um...get some discounts on in-game items by using Lifeinvader, an in-game Facebook parody? Sure.
You could also use the app to create a custom car, but picking up the car meant driving to an in-game garage. You might as well make the car in real time at the garage and not have to worry about your phone syncing to the Rockstar Cloud. The only interesting thing the app allowed was letting you create a custom license plate for your car.
You could use the app to pick up dog shit in small game where you are tasked with taking care of a virtual version of Chop. You would have to train him, feed him and clean up after him. Eventually, you could use the app to improve the actual Chop, as well as unlock new collars for chop to wear.
But the game was so bad that I don’t know anyone who played it for more than five minutes. Rockstar wanted to create a parody of the terrible free-to-play games that exist on mobile devices, but the act of playing it felt more like a joke on the player than a statement on mobile games.
Also, the dog in the game looks like he has seen something horrible and can never close his eyes again.
ATM machines are everywhere in GTA Online, and just like real life, you can use these machines to deposit money or take out cash. Most people I know just open their phones and do everything via the in-game interface instead of going up to a kiosk, though.
I actually visited areas with ATMs to see if I could spot any players making use of them. After 2 hours my count was 0. Given that ATMs are kinda useless, I wasn’t shocked.
Well, at least GTA Online ATMs have more functionality than ATMs in GTA IV. Those machines could only do one thing: show you your current balance, a number which is easily found in the top right corner of the GTA IV hud.
The annoying mechanic
The original idea: if a player needed a car, they could just call their mechanic and he would drive it out to the player’s location. The problem was it never seemed to work. Sometimes, the mechanic wouldn’t even respond. Sometimes he would tell you he was “too busy” to deliver your vehicle. But if the mechanic did pick up the phone, there wasn’t a guarantee you would get your car in one piece or even get it at all.
You see the mechanic was an AI character and like any other AI pedestrian he would sometimes act strangely. For example, the mechanic was known to drive up to you, stop, and then speed off. If you tried to pull him out of the car, he would become hostile. The mechanic was also a terrible driver. Numerous times I would call the mechanic and watch as he drove into traffic, or better, into a tree/off a cliff. Worst of all, the mechanic had only like 4 lines of dialogue—so after playing GTA Online for dozens of hours the phrase “I’m Johnny on the spot” began to feel like nails being hammered into my ears.
Rockstar got rid of the mechanic in Feb. 2014, and now if you request a vehicle the game just spawns it nearby. I kind of miss the mechanic and his awful driving now.
After driving through the desert or cruising through the muddy riverbanks near Fort Zancudo cars can end up looking like this:
Appropriately, GTA V has two car washes ready to clean any mess. In real life I actually enjoy car washes: there’s something about being surrounded by soap and suds in your watertight car that feels fun to me. I thought GTA V adding first person would make car washes slightly more interesting, maybe recreate that feeling. Nope! Even if you enter the car wash in first person the game shows you the same camera angle as before. Bummer.
I visited the car wash in GTA Online and hung around the area in a few different sessions. At one point it seemed liked somebody was coming over to get their car washed, but instead they were here to rob the nearby convenience store. Of course.
The roller coaster and the ferris wheel
These amusement rides are located on the Del Perro Pier, GTA V’s version of the Santa Monica Pier. The first time I saw them was in an early screenshot before GTA V’s release. I was intrigued. Would I be able to ride them? The answer was yes, but the real question was why?
The roller coaster or ferris wheel rides involve watching a cutscene of your GTA Online character. You can raise your hands on the roller coaster, but beyond that, you just watch as your in-game avatar has “fun.”
A friend summed it up best when after our first ride on the roller coaster in GTA Online he asked “Is that it?”
Most people I know make things exciting by riding dirt bikes on the roller coaster track instead of just watching the cutscenes. To be fair, dirt bikes make everything better.
The movie theaters
Dotted around Los Santos are a handful of theaters where players can go watch movies, either alone or with a friend.
Watching a movie in GTA Online is unfortunately really boring. The films are fine, but the theater is limited to only 3 shorts. It doesn’t take long to see everything, and you can’t even do silly things like throw popcorn or boo at the screen. Aww.
While some of these features and activities may seem useless in 2016, they all do serve a purpose: making the world feel real. I may never use some of these features, but I still like knowing that they’re there, too.
Zach Zwiezen is a a writer and critic currently living in Kansas City, Missouri. He has written for Gamecritics, Killscreen and Entertainment Fuse.