Escapism in video games is getting tougher and tougher to come by, and that now includes violent crime sandbox GTA Online. In The Criminal Enterprises update, coming July 26, “Gas prices have spiked to their highest levels in decades, retail supply chains are in turmoil, and to top it off a ferocious heatwave is gripping the state.”
This realistic nightmare doesn’t affect GTA Online characters the way it does us poor dopes in the real world—digital gangsters are all fabulously wealthy, they never have to gas up their cars, and the only time they suffer from heatstroke is when someone throws a molotov cocktail in their face. But the climate crisis and sky-high gas prices are at the center of new missions and expansions to your gangland empires in The Criminal Enterprises update.
“The profits from soaring gas prices all seem to be flowing one way into the pockets of the most notorious oil-rich dynasty in the Los Santos area,” says Rockstar. “The IAA smells a criminal conspiracy—Agent ULP will be in touch with the new Operation Paper Trail, commissioning 1–4 players as sworn-in agents to investigate the local petrochemical magnates, the Duggans, to see if they’re the invisible hand behind spiraling oil prices.”
Huh. Maybe that is a little escapism, actually, since it looks like at least someone in GTA Online’s version of the government cares enough that people are getting brutally gouged by gas companies to do something about it. Of course, hiring a bunch of psychotic crooks to investigate (blow everything up) might not be the most ethical route to take, but it’s better than nothing.
And no matter what kind of criminal you are—white-collar crook, motorcycle goon, weapons dealer, or shady club owner—the economic and climate crisis means the same thing: profit. Business prospects for the executives, bikers, gunrunners, and nightclub owner jobs have new side gigs, special cargo missions, clubhouse contracts, and resupply and management missions. And payouts across the board will be increased, which sounds to me like a welcome incentive for players to not simply grind the highest paying mission over and over but actually find the smaller jobs worth their time and effort. Being able to log in regularly to complete some minor tasks and earn extra scratch might actually bring me back to a game that’s largely felt like the only missions worth doing are the major ones.
There are some general improvements included in the update, too. All business activities, including sell missions, can now be undertaken in private sessions (away from the frequent hackers that show up in public servers), something players have been asking for. Club owners will be able to remove unwanted elements by throwing out drunk troublemakers or escorting passed-out VIPs to offsite locations, which not only sounds fun but could make bars and clubs feel like real establishments. And not unexpectedly, new vehicles are being added.
“Two new Imani Tech-eligible vehicles will be available to take advantage of special upgrades from F. Clinton and Partner’s expert hacker, including remote control, missile lock-on jammer, and more.” Even better, there will also be new showroom floors where you can inspect and test drive new cars before you buy them, which is an excellent improvement GTA Online players have wanted for a long time.
The update sounds like it could be a nice rebalance of GTA Online’s economy and activities. We’ll find out if it’s as good as it looks when it arrives on July 26.
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