Rockstar North have come a long way since their days of being a tiny studio in Edinburgh. The first Grand Theft Auto games were top-down chaos simulators with a small amount of story and massive amounts of freedom. Grand Theft Auto V, for all its sophistication and massive scale still manages to retain some of the original GTA’s personality.
How to Make a Heist Game
The heists in GTA V are brilliant. There’s no two ways about it. Everything from the stories surrounding them (the first one starts because Michael pulled a gangster’s expenopesive house down a hill with a pickup truck) to the preparation and execution are top notch – and that’s doubly impressive for a game where they’re not really the main attraction.
Each heist you embark on requires preparation. You might need to steal a certain type of vehicle a couple of days in advance, or improve your marksmanship. Sometimes you’ll have to scope out the place you’re going to do the job on with Leister’s high-tech glasses. For all the zany stuff that happens in the city of Los Santos, Rockstar North have managed to make everything just real enough to create an almost unparalleled level of immersion.
For the first heist, I found myself attempting to drive the stolen exterminator’s van properly - obeying stop signs and red lights, which is almost unheard of for me in GTA games. I even got ridiculously tense as I pulled up behind a police car at one of the traffic lights.
The next part of the preparation had me stealing some gas canisters. On the way, I came across an unfortunate worker trapped in a burning truck after having some industrial pipes drop on his vehicl. I was able to move the pipes with a nearby bulldozer just before the truck exploded. The worker thanked me profusely and left. I then went into the back of the truck and retrieved the gas canisters like nothing had happened. It’s moments like that that make a game special.
With everything collected, it’s time to pick your crew and decide how you’re going to go about the task at hand. You’ll have a couple of options for each heist, usually a sneakier one and a more direct one. There are a couple of ways to pick your crew – go with the inexperienced who will take less of the cut but are more likely to screw things up, go with the more reliable but more expensive experts, or take a mixture of both. If you decide to take the inexperienced members, they will improve with each heist – if they make it.
Each member has a fleshed out backstory and personality. Your choices have a real effect on how the mission proceeds. Choose a bad getaway driver and you’ll be stuck with the wrong type of vehicle and lead by someone who isn’t completely sure of the getaway route.
It’s GTA’s ability to know when to turn the volume up to eleven that’s perhaps its greatest strength. While the actual act of breaking into somewhere and smashing cabinets in order to get to the loot is almost mundane and realistic enough, it quickly picks up when you have to steal a plane to get away, or drive motorbikes through under construction sewer tunnels to get away from the police – only to have them waiting for you as you race down the side of a canal.
Release Date: 24/03/2015
Available on: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Windows, PC, PC Download
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It Only Escalates from There
Each heist counts as one of the game’s missions – and as such you will be scored on it. In order to reach the gold achievement for each one, you’ll have to meet certain objectives – whether it’s getting a certain number of headshots or reaching a threshold of loot stolen.
By the time you get to the final heist, you’ll have been all over Los Santos, you’ll have met up with old friends, pulled off some completely insane stunts – and you still won’t be done yet. In the last heist, you’ll be going up against a gang of mercenaries known as the Merryweather group. Franklin will be manipulating traffic signals, while you’ll be getting into a massive shootout and driving away in a bright-pink muscle car.
Making a City Feel Like an Entire World
Once you’ve managed to successfully evade law enforcement, the world is your oyster. Now that you have some cash, you can do almost anything with it. You can steal a cool car, take it to a garage and customise it however you see fit. You can go into a high-end clothes store and find the best suit money can buy. You can even get on your phone and invest in the stock market.
If you can see it, you can steal it. That’s always been GTA’s core strength when it comes to stealing cars. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a plane, an airliner, a bulldozer, a tank, a supercar or a fire truck. Rockstar North play into this brilliantly by giving your characters attributes that relate to both driving and flying – as well as building an achievements system around the airborne vehicles – so if you do accidently stumble across something in the far corner of the map, there’s more to do than just take a joyride for the fun of it. You’ll be given something to work towards. An achievement for flying under bridges, or the amount of time you can spend flying upside down without crashing horrifically onto a freeway, for instance.
GTA V is a fantastic game. If you’re looking for one of the best heist experiences, you shouldn’t really look anywhere else. For me, GTA V even betters dedicated heist games like Payday and Payday 2. The story, character development and mission design are unparalleled. If heists are what you’re after, step into Los Santos. Immediately.
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Grand Theft Auto 5 is developed by Rockstar North .