Look, I get it. GTA Online is a milestone in online multiplayer gaming. It gives you unparalleled action, an incredible amount of game types, and the creative freedom to come up with some pretty spectacular moments of gameplay. It has been running strong for nearly six years now, and new content is still being added all of the time. Despite all of this, online gameplay is not Rockstar's best suit.
As one of the strongest and most consistent publishers in today's market, the company has always been infinitely better and often masterful at something completely different: telling a story. Proving it time and time again, the writers at Rockstar frequently deliver a narrative that can stand next to each year's best movies, and serve as an example as to why video games are just as capable at delivering an iconic story as any other medium. While both Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 have delivered on that front in recent years, Rockstar has all but completely abandoned something that they did better than anyone else: story DLC.
Story DLC provides Rockstar with the opportunity to build on the world of its stories, giving fans of its distinct narrative style a chance to dive even further into their favorite worlds, and return to their favorite games. Although online multiplayer certainly brings the opportunity to have an absolute blast with other players who love the same game, there is something special about experiencing the world of a story that you love from another point of view. When you're fully invested into a game's story, especially one from Rockstar, you'll be interested in hearing anything and everything that adds context to the narrative or builds upon the lore of that given world. It can often times become intoxicating, and like most intoxicating activities, you really want to experience it again once it goes away.
Red Dead Woes
Although GTA Online has been wildly successful, the same can't be said for its uglier, younger stepbrother, Red Dead Online. Although the online platform has moved on from a few of its growing pains, it clearly can't measure up to the undeniable success of its counterpart. Most of this is certainly due to the time period in which the Red Dead Redemption series takes place. The fact of the matter is, rocket launchers, airplanes, and sports cars provide for much more entertainment than Civil-War-era guns, horses, and fishing. With the wide range of vehicles and weapons at its disposal, it's no wonder why Rockstar's online layout works far better in the world of Grand Theft Auto. Despite that, Rockstar is giving it all of their effort to make Red Dead Online work. Effort that could quite possibly be put to better use if it were to be refocused on a DLC project that touched on the back stories of characters like Charles Smith, and Sean MacGuire, or better yet, Undead Nightmare 2, a would-be sequel to the original Red Dead Redemption's near perfect zombie-based story DLC.
Rockstar: Masters Of Story DLC
Undead Nightmare cleverly threw you into a timeline separate from the main story, in which you play as John Marston as he tries to find a cure for his family's... zombie curse. It was executed with humor and care, and despite merely being story DLC, it's probably the greatest open-world zombie game that we've seen. Think about that for a second. State of Decay and Dead Rising come to mind as distant seconds, and Days Gone might have been the skeleton of something resembling a great open-world zombie game, but we've yet to see one nearly as refined as Undead Nightmare. Rockstar has legitimately made classic games that are add-ons for other games, and for some reason they've decided to stop doing it.
Red Dead Redemption wasn't the only Rockstar game to receive excellent additions in story DLC. From LA Noire to Max Payne 3, Rockstar kept a habit of giving players quality story content on top of their original titles for years. The pinnacle of Rockstar's story DLC though, has to be from Grand Theft Auto IV. Like Red Dead 2 and GTA V, GTA IV has a story as good as any film, but Rockstar built upon that story in unique and imaginative ways through The Lost And Damned and The Ballad Of Gay Tony. While one installment has you playing as a biker struggling with the collapse of his gang, and the other a bodyguard for a celebrity night club owner, both run in parallel with GTA IV, adding depth to the story and life to Liberty City. GTA IV's story DLC fleshed out its world, creating an experience with more depth and character to it. The content was so good that it makes you wonder what Rockstar might have been able to come up with if they would had taken story DLC for GTA V seriously. Unfortunately, it seems like that window has come and gone, and the potential has faded.
A Missing Piece
Although there is much to be said about the gaming experience of GTA Online, not every gamer enjoys multiplayer games. Some might gravitate more towards solo experiences, looking to be moved by the story and gameplay on an intimate level without the distraction of other players. Unfortunately, when Rockstar made the decision to solely focus on the online components of their games, they've stopped giving these players new reasons to come back to the game. Obviously, there is a large handful of hours to be spent in Rockstar's single player stories alone, but narrative additions certainly add a good deal of value to a game, and players miss them. It's clear that focusing on an online platform is the most lucrative move for Rockstar in this day and age, but there is a lot to be said about the quality they used to bring to their story DLC, and it would be great to see them go back to it some day.