Everything I need to know I learned from Rockstar’s Social Club

, | Games

If you’ve played Midnight Club: Los Angeles or Red Dead Redemption, you’ve probably got a Rockstar Social Club account. In Midnight Club: Los Angeles, the Social Club was a great way to admire your screenshots, and it also had some unlockables based on driving tests. Red Dead Redemption used a confusing but suitably atmospheric old-timey newspaper, The Blackwater Ledger, as a way to track achievements, challenges, unlockables, and events.

But with Max Payne 3, Rockstar is using the Social Club to lay groundwork for a persistent crew system that will carry over into Grand Theft Auto V. I’m sold.

After the jump, my clubhouse. Let me show you it.

The best thing about Max Payne 3 is the multiplayer, which is a natural progression from the multiplayer Rockstar was doing in Grand Theft Auto IV and then Red Dead Redemption. You get a whole mess of ways to play, from the usual deathmatch and team deathmatch, to a focused hunt mode in which two of the players are powerful hunters/huntees, to the dramatic choice of whether you’re going to use “soft lock” aiming, which is hardly aiming at all. If you jump into the free aim playlists, prepare to be punished.

My favorite way to play is Gang Wars, which is a round of five team matches played on the same map. I like this partly for how it’s not ping-ponging me around different maps. The maps in Max Payne 3 are big and they offer a lot of variety. Let me get used to one of them, for pete’s sake!

But I mainly like Gang Wars for the gameplay variation. The first four matches are randomly determined modes. It might be capture the flag, assassination, or an objective capture, some with nifty variations. For instance, the assassination missions require one team to get a certain number of kills in their favor before exposing the assassination target. That gives the meat shields some meaning in what would otherwise be a mad rush at the hapless objective players. The fifth match in a round of Gang Wars is a team deathmatch. A team gets a headstart based on how many of the previous matches it won. If it’s a 2-2 split, it all comes down to this. And if it’s a 4-0 shutout, well…the previously losing team could, theoretically, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Stranger things have happened.

What I also like about the variety in Gang Wars is how well it feeds into the variety in the character loadouts. Max Payne 3 uses a very Call of Duty style of character customization based on weapon selection, weapon attachments, perks, and surprisingly important inventory items. For instance, it’s going to be practically impossible to wean myself off the walkie talkie, which I keep in my inventory slot. This means enemies spotted by my teammates show up on my minimap. I can glance at the minimap and always tell where the action is. And since I’m so reliant on the walkie talkie, I’m probably not going to get to use another item until I reach level 16 and unlock a second item slot. At which point, I plan to equip ID cards considering how often I see people using the paranoia and sneaky powers. Which is why I use them so often myself.

The meta progression is also very Call of Duty, based on unlocking loadout options and improving weapons, with scads of achievements for experience point boosts. It even has its own monetary system based partly on looting bodies and placing bets during Gang Wars matches. The result is a sense of attachment and investment that lends itself to poring over pages of stats. This must be what the sports are like for you people who like the sports.

And here’s where I find myself once again loving what Rockstar has done with the Rockstar Social Club. It’s partly a great place to track your stats, with promised support coming for managing loadouts. For instance, here are the things I’ve learned from the Rockstar Social Club:

That about one out of every ten shots I take hits me in the groinal region.

That I hate the MINI-30.

That I should lie down and shoot four more dudes in the single-player to get a few more experience points applied to my multiplayer.

That I can quit any time I want.

But first let me take 230 more.

That I’m not very good at this game, but that I’m pretty sure I can move some of those needles over to the right a smidge.

The crew system works similarly to tags in Modern Warfare 3, where you’re not committing yourself to a single clan so much as joining social circles a la Google Plus. If you want to be a member of the Quarter to Three crew, that in no way precludes being a member of the IGN crew or the G4TV crew or the Poughkeepsie Toe Pickers crew.

What this means in the context of the game is that when you’re playing with members from your crew, it will attempt to put you on the same team. You will then trigger dynamic vendettas against other crews which are tracked onscreen as you play. A tag will appear over the heads of the other crew members, and your respective kills are tracked. The winner of the vendetta, I presume, gets either a cash or experience point bonus. I’ll let you know what this bonus is if I ever win a vendetta. But if there’s one thing Max Payne 3’s multiplayer isn’t wanting for, it’s that steady drip feed of goals, whether it’s leveling up, weapon upgrades, achievements for experience point bonuses, money from looting, and now crew vendettas.

Among the other things I’ve learned from the Rockstar Social Club is where to find the last piece of the golden G3S assault rifle so that I can run around in with a brightly glowing GS3 that supposedly has better stats.

Although having unlocked the brightly glowing RPD and MPK, these supposedly better stats aren’t indicated in the game’s actual, you know, stats. I smell a poorly documented collectibles boondoggle!

The Social Club suggests I can compare my stats to my friends’ stats.

I think it’s lying. As near as I can tell, there’s no way to see how my friends are doing other than comparing times on the single player score attacks using the ingame leaderboards. Furthermore, the default setting for accounts is to hide a player’s “wall”, which lists your ingame activity. I’d link to my own wall here, which is public, but apparently only public to my friends list.

I have also learned from the Rockstar Social Club that the mandatory four characters for a crew tag isn’t always mandatory. For instance, the crews associated with Rockstar games get to use tags with three characters. The largest crew so far is the Max Payne 3 crew and their tag is MP3.

There are also the Manhunt Executioners (MHE) and Red Dead Rustlers (RDR), which get to use three character tags.

As do certain media outlets.

But not others.

Please don’t look at those crew stats yet. I also learned that I suck at using paint programs.

Trust me that it looks better shrunk down to a patch on your chest. I’d post a screenshot, but Max Payne 3 doesn’t have Midnight Club’s awesome screenshot feature. Too few shooters let you take pictures.

I’ll definitely be sticking with Max Payne 3’s multiplayer game for a while, and if you’re playing, feel free to add “tomchick” to your own friends list. Furthermore, feel free to join the Quarter to Three crew, which you can find by searching for the name or the QTO3 tag. You’ll note that we’ve gotten pwned by some Gamestop employees from Kansas City and Dallas.

In other words, we need your help.