Brought together by one aim—making money—PC Gamer (and Tom Hatfield) tackled the first of GTA Online’s excellent heist mission strands. What followed was a tale of avatars getting off their tits on bongs, bus-related disasters and trying to keep a getaway plane in the air.
GTA Online is something of an unstructured playground, without anything long-term to sink your teeth into. The heists, however, are a pleasing exception to this rule. They’re four-player continuous missions that function similarly to the campaign’s heist missions, in that they have several stages of planning and build-up before the job is pulled off.
We’d wanted to try one for a while on PC Gamer, so over the course of a few Saturday and Sunday evenings, we got together and decided to finally take a crack at it. To launch a heist, one player needs to be level 12, and to have an apartment with a heist room, which costs $200,000. Following a tutorial heist, we decided to document our playthrough of the first main one, The Prison Break. Here’s what happened.
Samuel: Phil, the most experienced player, became our heist daddy for this run. We’re in his apartment, which is much nicer than mine. I’m hoping this heist is how I’ll get my hands on some serious property.
Phil: It costs me $40,000 to set up this heist. That’s money I could be spending on silencers. These jerks had better not mess around.
Tom H: We immediately start messing around. After drinking a lot of Phil’s whiskey we discover the ‘point’ animation is especially hilarious when staggering around drunk.
Phil: I should probably try to corral these reprobates. Instead, I drink so much whiskey that I teleport into a ditch a few streets away. I run back to the apartment to find Samuel honking on my bong. Tom S is pointing at the TV. In all, it’s one of my better house parties.
MISSION 1: STEAL A PLANE
Phil: We need to go to a place, kill all the men and steal their plane. We all pile into a comfortably sized family hatchback, and drive to the airstrip. As expected, men are there. I hop out to shoot them, just as one of the team decides to reverse out of danger. I’m knocked over by our car’s door.
Tom H: Unfortunately most of us have only just started playing GTA Online, so we’re equipped with pea shooters and armour made of cardboard.
Phil: This is taking longer than expected. Eventually, we drive back the nameless thugs to the point where I have space to get in the plane and slowly inch it out of the hanger. I take off.
Samuel: That was outrageously hard with just a pistol. We died a lot and the AI is a lot tougher than in singleplayer.
Tom H: We get a tidy fifteen grand for completing this mission. Phil doesn’t get any though. He’s effectively paying our wages at this point, which makes me wish we were a little more competent.
MISSION 2: STEAL A BUS
Samuel: On the freeway out in the countryside, we have to neutralise the driver of a prison bus and steal it.
Phil: We get into a professional rhythm. I drive in front of the bus, we all jump out, and, as everyone sprints towards the bus, I stop to take down its guardian helicopter with a homing missile. Then, chaos. Only two people have made it to the bus as it drives off, leaving the rest of us to steal a car and escape under fire. We need to work on our escape.
Tom S: The first time I drove the bus I got stuck on a half-buried wheel. Attempts to accelerate off the wheel resulted in a massive bus-plosion that killed everyone. The second time I drove the bus I drove off with only one heist mate and left the rest to die. Regardless, I insist that I am the man for this job, and secure my position by being the first to reach the driver seat in the middle of the chaotic shootout.
Phil: Tom S takes the bus off road and into the mountains. Amazingly, this works. Occasionally we have to stop so I can bring down another helicopter, but mostly the police leave us alone. Eventually our wanted level is cleared, and we’re free to drive to our hideout.
Tom H: Abandoned by my fellows, I drive slowly into the mountains. I find a small farm where a redneck is growing what appears to be cannabis. The police don’t seem to be interested in me any more. Maybe I could start a new life here, put down some roots.
MISSION 3: STEAL A CAR
Phil: Tom S and I are disguised as cops. Our first job is to steal a police car. That done, we drive to the police station, steal the bus schedule, and – for some reason – set fire to the car.
Samuel: We pull up at a big old tanker. The objective is to steal a car somewhere onboard. There’re loads of enemies dotted around the ship. This feels like some Miami Vice shit.
Tom H: It’s actually a pretty good shootout, ducking between cargo containers on the boat deck. There’s even a little bit of platforming.
Samuel: Jumping between containers, I get into the fancy car with Tom and drive it off the ship, using the containers like a ramp. Oh yeah. That felt amazing.
Tom H: I have no idea why we wanted this car. It never features in the mission.
MISSION 4: ASSASSINS!
Phil: We have to kill guys for reasons.
Tom S: Sam and I snipe our targets in perfect unison, triggering a huge wave of police. Videogames have taught me that shooting the man in the head kills the man, but GTA V’s cops are different. As I flank I discover that it’s best to shoot their feet until they flop forwards and then empty an entire clip into the uniform. We make good progress, until Sam falls off a ladder and dies. The ladder proves more effective than the police, who are soon wiped out entirely.
Phil: Tom H and I are outside our target’s house. I’ve got a silenced sniper, and use it to thin the patrolling guards. Over the radio—er, Skype—Samuel and Tom S are getting excited about their synchronised kills. There seems to be a problem with a ladder. I keep getting spotted as I move into the compound, causing our target to flee.
Tom H: I’m wandering around the other side when Phil startles the target. I rush up to the wall to see him hop the fence and run across his neighbour’s yard, far away from his expensive security team. I shoot him in the back from 500 yards. Why are we killing this guy again?
THE FINALE: PRISON BREAK
Phil: This is it. We’ve got our roles, our equipment, and I’m down $40,000. It’s time to get paid. Tom S and Tom H head to the prison, while I go to the airport to collect our plane. It sounds like I’ve got the boring job, but then Samuel gets stuck in bus hell.
Samuel: I’m driving a bus in the middle of nowhere. How did I end up with the most boring job in the game? Because Tom H and S struggle in the prison, I end up stealing the same bus about ten times, driving me insane. They’re trying to liberate a guy called Rashkovsky—this is how we get our payout.
Tom S: I drive our bus carefully into the prison. Now it’s time to disembark with Tom, my pretend prisoner. We walk forward a few paces and a guard starts shouting. Prison officers are pulling guns. GTA guards can apparently smell guilt at fifty paces. We start blasting our way through the prison, mowing down dozens of guards. We make it onto a high gantry before being shot dead. On our second run we ditch the pretence and charge off the bus weapons drawn.
Tom H: At one point we fall victim to the dreaded ‘leaving mission area’ aneurysm for attempting to run directly to our objective instead of climbing over the roof like we’re supposed to.
Phil: I get distracted by a plate of sausages that has appeared next to my computer, and fly into a building. The one time I get my plane to its destination, I’m told that the army has scrambled jets to meet me. Well, fuck.
Samuel: Turns out all I had to do was drive the bus to the airfield and burn it down. The real reason I’m here is to kill two guys and steal a military chopper, providing cover for Phil, who waits to pick up Tom and Tom. Phil circles the skies, bringing harrier jets into my field of view, which I shoot down.
Tom H: It turns out our job is not to mastermind a cunning escape but to MURDER EVERYONE. We kill every single guard in the prison, then SWAT teams arrive and we kill them too. Four separate waves of them. We kill a hundred people just because this one dude doesn’t want to get on the bus.
Tom S: We finally make it to the prison entrance, where an empty armoured car waits. I instinctively drive it away at max speed, then realise the prisoner and Tom aren’t aboard. I reverse sheepishly under gunfire.
Phil: Despite Samuel’s heroics, I take a hit. One of my engines is down. I’m sure it’ll be fine. I land halfway up the airfield. The Toms are heading straight for me in a black SUV. They pile out and into the plane under a hail of bullets. We’re away! Er, why are we not away? With the missing engine we’re nowhere near fast enough to take off, and quickly running out of runway. In an act of desperation, I turn off the runway towards a small bump in the road. The plane lurches sickeningly, but the jolt gives us just enough momentum to remain airborne. But now there’s a police helicopter right on our tail. And then it blows up.
Samuel: I’m back, baby! I take the chopper out of the sky then several more like it, allowing my heist friends to escape by plane. This is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had in a game—my team is basically cheering for me at this point. I help escort the plane to safety before we split to lose the police.
Phil: At the destination, we jump out, and meet up at the beach. Heist done!
Samuel: Safely back at Phil’s, we celebrate our crimewave with a toast, and begin planning our next caper.