Grand Theft Auto Online's Heists finally arrived last week (10th March), much to the relief of myself, and millions of other players. I've been dabbling with the mode a little since release and I'm here to write about what I have experienced so far, and answer the all-important question: Were GTA Online's Heists worth the wait?
I haven't played through all of the missions, and my experience has been, initially, quite frustrating. However, in short so far, yes, Heists mode has definitely been worth the long wait developers Rockstar Games put everyone through.
Before I get onto why Heists were worth the wait, a brief history lesson, for context, is in order. Grand Theft Auto V was originally released back in September 2013, for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game smashed sales records at the time and, as expected, turned out to be one of the franchises' best additions. With the arrival of GTA V came GTA Online, a fully online multiplayer experience which allows players to create their own characters, hone their skills, and most-importantly haul in some serious digital dollars, with all of the game's sprawling locale at their finger tips.
GTA Online promised regular updates with new content, and also the coveted Heists mode, which would allow players to team up, plan, and execute heists just like in GTA V's single player story. Unfortunately the heists were promised about a year and a half too early, as delay after delay of the mode was announced by Rockstar. But, those delays didn't stop everyone speculating on when the exciting new mode would arrive, and what would be included.
I believe this is a shot from 'The Fleeca Job'. I haven't taken the 'driller' role yet, I was the getaway driver when we did this job. Depending on which role you take you will see the heists from very different perspectives compared to your friends. Copyright Rockstar Games.
Now that heists are here, let me tell you of my experience so far. When the game was updated with the new content I didn't have my own luxury apartment in GTA Online, which is needed to actually lead your own heists with other players. I was above level 12, however (another heist hosting requirement), so I was part way there.
As soon as I logged into GTA Online I was immediately inundated with Heist mission invites from plenty of random players. I picked an invite and joined a randomer for my first step into the new mode.
Luckily it turned out my first foray into heists would actually be on the first heist available - the two-player 'Fleeca Job'. It was a simple setup mission - drive out to the Fleeca Bank, scope it out, and drive back. I did the driving while Lester talked my newly-met partner and I through how the actual heist would go down. We completed the job no problem, and then it ended. I was awarded a nice chunk of cash and returned to free mode.
I continued to join random heist invites I was receiving, but this is where frustration began to set in. I've not been a great fan of GTA Online - previously playing it a little on Xbox 360, and now on PS4 - as it always tended to be unstable for me, often crashing on the loading screen, or generally being incredibly laggy. My connection with other games is flawless 99% of the time, honest. My PS4 experience has been much better however, but by no means perfect. My problems this time around tend to be with actual players more than anything. Mostly people griefing when we are trying to complete heist missions. How do these people even have fun playing the game? That's another potential article subject, I'm sure.
Luckily I did get to complete a few heist setup missions, such as the delivery of the EMP at the Humane Labs, stealthily taking out the guards with my team mates while we communicated over our mics. I was also the pilot on the Prison Break finale, which was great fun, and tense too, although I couldn't shake the 5-star wanted level at the end, which I feel may have been due to a glitch, not my terrible flying.
Heists truly showed off what it's all about a couple of nights ago when I grouped up with some friends, in a pre-made party. We hopped online to begin our own heists career, as I had saved up enough cash doing the random heist missions to buy my own luxury apartment, and lead my own heists. The Fleeca Job was first, a two-man bank heist, which we completed quite quickly and with little effort, but it was a nice introduction to what we'd be facing later on. It also kept a huge grin on my face the entire time, as it feels great to pull off a series of jobs with a friend and constantly talk to each other, even with a slight shudder of nervousness in your voices as you try to make sure you're not 'that guy' who messes up and ruins the job.
Eventually we formed a four-man crew and set our sights on the second job - the Prison Break. This is quite a big step up from the introductory Fleeca Job, it's much more involved and makes you feel like you're part of a Hollywood action movie.
Stealing the prison bus wasn't so difficult, but getting away from the cops proved to be more trouble than we first thought. Copyright Rockstar Games.
The job was simple - 'break a professor out of prison' - but, first we needed to complete four setup jobs which included stealing a plane and prison bus, among other requirements. Our newly-formed crew had trouble working together at first as we kept dying at the airfield where the plane was to be hijacked from, but we eventually formed a solid plan and pulled off the setup mission without much trouble.
This is where GTA Online, and Heists truly shine - when you're working with people you know or have a pre-formed group with, each with the same intention of actually working together. If you join random players on these missions you'll find much less willingness to work together, and could struggle to learn exactly what you need to be doing. My advice - grab some friends, talk to each other constantly, and ultimately just have fun.
Our rag-tag crew slowly, but surely, worked our way through the setup missions, failing each the first few times, but we would always chat about strategies before our next attempt, eventually getting the job done in the end. I guess it depends who you're grouping with, but I have to say our time tackling the heists has been the most fun I've ever had on GTA Online. Firstly because our crew, when stood together in the cutscenes, couldn't have been further away from the stereotypical bank job crew Hollywood depicts, and secondly because of the ridiculous mistakes and troubles we had doing some of the missions. For example, when we had to steal the prison bus we picked up some heat from the cops, of course. I drove the bus, trying to get rid of the heat, as my friend sat in the back enjoying the bumpy journey. It wasn't too long before we were safe and could drop the bus at the designated location. However, our other two heist colleagues had a bit of trouble losing their heat, so it was a 10 minute hilarious shout-fest down the mics as they struggled to avoid the cops at every turn. Now and again we would see our friends speeding past us as a convoy of police vehicles trailed behind them. It was quite a sight.
Unfortunately one of our crew had to stop playing just before the Prison Break finale, but the three of us remaining carried on with a random player we picked up.
My existing crew members did well - myself and one other went in on the ground, posing as a prison officer and prisoner to infiltrate the prison in the bus we stole earlier, and bust out the professor. Another friend took out the real prison transport so our decoy one could enter the prison compound safely, and he then proceeded to steal an attack helicopter to provide air cover once we were ready to head to the plane and fly out of there.
Unfortunately we had a rusty cog in our somewhat well-oiled machine - our random player. I designated him to be our pilot as I had been in the same role some days earlier with other random players. I felt it wasn't too tough a task - pick up the plane, fly to the airfield near to the prison, avoid some fighter jets, land, pick the other crew members up, and fly away. The only trouble I had when I did it was with losing the cops. However, our random player appeared to be having trouble with one aspect of his job - landing the plane.
Here is the plane in question - this screenshot shows the setup where your crew steals it from some Vagos gangsters. Copyright Rockstar Games.
Each time we attempted the finale our pilot found a new way to blow up our ticket out of there. First he tried to land across the runway, ending up stacking into a boulder and subsequently blowing up. And secondly he looked like he landed at the far end of the runway, which was fine, but as I got closer in our armoured getaway van I noticed he had wedged the plane between a cactus and some rocks. The plane was on fire too, and blew up, again.
While we were all disappointed that we didn't get to finish the heist we started, as it was late by the time of the second plane explosion and we all logged off, we all had a great time. Like I said earlier, heists is best enjoyed with friends, or at the very least folks you can communicate with to coordinate your movements.
Our original four man crew is hopefully going to attempt the Prison Break finale this weekend, and then we'll move onto bigger and better scores. So, if you're yet to try out GTA Online's heists make sure you do yourself and favour and get involved with them, they were definitely worth the wait for us so far.
Heists has also added in a bunch of new vehicles, such as armoured cars, a new helicopter, fighter jet, and more. A flare gun has also been added, along with a bunch of new clothing items so you can make sure your heist crew looks as professional, or ridiculous as you like. Our crew preferred to wear the Princess Robot Bubblegum masks in particular, you know, because we're professionals.