GTA Online's PUBG-style mode is not as good as PUBG

While Rockstar hasn't billed the new Motor Wars adversary mode in GTA Online as their take on battle royale, it definitely has some of the same ingredients: 4-28 players jump from a Cargobob helicopter in up to four teams, landing on a shrinking kill space that has weapons and armoured vehicles up for grabs. Everyone has one life. It's not quite GTA Online's version of PUBG, if that's what you were hoping for, but it's a fun knockabout vehicle combat mode, despite a few minor issues.

Rockstar has called Motor Wars a marriage of its existing Drop Zone and Penned In modes, and that's pretty accurate. Arriving from the sky, you're shown the locations of weapons and vehicles on the map (a significant difference from PUBG), so you can figure out the best region for your team to land. When you're not in a vehicle, you're invisible on the map. Once you're driving one, a moving icon shows up with the colour of your team, flagging your location to enemies. 

It's a mode about everyone piling into the best military vehicles possible, rather than sniping or stealth. But some of the same strategies from PUBG can apply—cowardice can often get your team to at least second place while you skirt the perimeter of the playing area, avoiding firefights—and GTA's systems add their own humour, like when teammates brain themselves while trying to parachute gracefully to the ground (this usually happens to at least one person per game). 

It reminded me of piling into a Warthog in the original Halo's Blood Gulch map and tumbling over the horizon towards the enemy.

You're not playing in the entirety of Los Santos, sadly, but in truncated little pockets of the landmass that have been cleared out for this mode. The maps based in the empty city are my favourites, since it's a nice and eerie space to be in while you're waiting for an enemy jeep to speed round the corner as you're sat on a turret.

Rounds last for no more than ten minutes, and you can play one round to win or two. Giving players this choice was an error, I think—Motor Wars should be a one-round mode, for a few reasons. If your team is the first to be eliminated in round one, it's not uncommon for people to just drop out, treating it like they're playing PUBG and leaving the rest of you to it. The host can set the game to auto-balance the team numbers if this happens, but this can be flawed depending on how many players are left: if every other team starts with four players and you have three, that puts you at an obvious disadvantage when the best armoured vehicles require two players to operate them effectively (one on the turret and one in the driver's seat).

Then there's the waiting. GTA Online's matchmaking always feels a bit sluggish to me, but it's the inconsistent pauses between rounds that I found a bit maddening here. In the second round of one game, the camera hung on the cargobob for over three minutes before the round began. During that time, my entire team left the game except me, leaving me to face a round alone against one team of four and another of two (I didn't win that one, unsurprisingly). If Motor Wars was a mandatory one-round mode, this wouldn't be a problem. 

That was a one-off, but I still had a couple of occasions where there there was a momentum-killing pause of just under a minute between rounds. It's tons better when the game's over after ten minutes or less. 

Shrinking city

The shrinking playing space works pretty well here, even if the maps are so small that you won't spend loads of time worrying about being outside of it. Motor Wars does spotlight how great GTA's vehicle combat can be, and it often reminded me of piling into a Warthog in the original Halo's Blood Gulch map and tumbling over the horizon towards the enemy. Team strategies actually work. Once everyone knows what the best vehicles are and you can co-ordinate attacks on individual enemy cars, you start to get a handle on how to win. Going it alone gets you nowhere here. 

I can't see myself playing hours more of Motor Wars, but if you're keen to see some of the basic elements of battle royale applied to GTA, it's definitely worth seeing the result. My guess is that this won't be Rockstar's only effort at this type of mode, and that a solo-focused version of is on the cards as well. Modes like Overtime Rumble and Overtime Shootout show how Rockstar is willing to experiment to get the best possible version out of a format, and I can see this being enormously popular just for its surface-level similarities to PUBG. 

I'd still love to see a 100-person version set on the entirety of Los Santos, with randomly placed vehicles and weapons that don't show up on the map, if such a thing is even possible on a technical level in GTA Online. Motor Wars gives you just a taste of what that might be like, but there's a lot of lingering potential here.

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.