This diary first appeared in PC Gamer magazine issue 357 in 2021. We do one every month, taking on new challenges and approaching our favourite games from entirely new angles – and letting you know how we got on.
When I last grappled with Grand Theft Auto 5's Chaos Mod, which throws random events into the game like a rogue barista pouring hot sauce and spider eggs into your skinny caramel latte, Michael had just been teleported into Los Santos' military base. As you can imagine, the famously congenial US Military doesn't take too kindly to a murderous middle-aged thief appearing in their top-secret compound (at least, not one who isn't wearing his uniform, oh-ho!) and soon the base is lit up like 17th century London after a certain baker left a certain oven on.
A solid cliffhanger, if I say so myself, neatly set-up for me to begin this entry with a daring escape from one of Los Santos' most secure locations. It would be a shame if, say, Michael got annihilated the moment a khaki-clad army type came into view. Good thing this isn't exactly what happened, then! Ahaha. Aha. Ugh.
Just a phase
Emerging from the hospital after his massive lead overdose, Michael drives across town for a rendezvous with his FIB handler Dave Norton. Furious that Michael has leapt back into the armed robbery game (placing his cover story and Dave's career in jeopardy) Norton opts to turn the situation to his advantage, tasking Michael with sneaking into a hospital to identify whether a body there belongs to an FIB source. This requires Michael to appear dead, which Dave carefully arranges by clubbing Michael in the back of the head.
Now back in hospital again, Michael leaps out of a body-bag and commences his search for the errant corpse. For some reason the morgue is guarded, and while I manage to knock out the first guard and steal his pistol, the second spots me and begins to shoot. Naturally, I shoot back, whereupon Michael clips through the floor and plummets into the grey abyss beneath Los Santos.
At this point, I expect one of two things to happen, either Michael will fall forever, or he'll die and the mission will restart. Instead, somehow Michael respawns outside the hospital. In theory, this means I can continue the mission, but I can't see a way back inside. Frustrated, I take a potshot at a passing car. Next thing I know, I'm inside the car. I see what's going on here. The Chaos Mod is making me teleport to the end location of any bullet I fire. I use this ability to access the hospital rooftop, where the objective icon is. There's no entrance here either, but I don't have to work the problem any further, as a UFO spawns right where Michael stands and kills him dead.
Respawning back in the morgue, I now attempt to escape the hospital in the specific manner GTA 5 wants me to. But the teleportation effect makes combat next to impossible, as each bullet fired exposes Michael to enemy gunfire, traps him in the game geometry, or simply catapults him out of the world entirely. I fight in vain until the effect expires, whereupon the Chaos Mod turns all the NPCs into spinning ragdoll horrors and I'm able to complete the mission with minimal obstruction.
Returning home, Michael treats himself to some well-earned TV time. But a confrontation with his wife leads him into an impromptu yoga session with Amanda and her guru Fabien. The yoga mission is one of the worst examples of GTA 5's restrictive attitude toward progression. It would be entirely in-character for Michael to be rubbish at yoga because he's an overweight late-40s layabout. But no, Michael failing at yoga also fails the mission, because GTA 5 is so obsessed with its own narrative grandeur it leaves no room for player agency.
Luckily, the Chaos Mod comes to the rescue. I'm not entirely sure what it does, but the result is that both Amanda and Fabien run off, while a bunch of random NPCs wander into Michael's back yard and begin hurling profanities at him. "You fucking shit!" a man yells as Michael's struggles with the 'Warrior II' pose. "Why don't you blow me?" spits a scarfed ginger fellow as Michael attempts the 'Dancer'. "Eat my ass!" growls a woman as Michael assumes the plank, his calming exercises now accompanied by the sound of distant explosions.
After the world's least relaxing yoga session, Michael accompanies his son Jimmy to buy drugs. Sampling their purchase together, the mandatory 'trip sequence' ensues, with Michael flying in his underwear over a rainbow-coloured Los Santos. When Michael returns to Earth, not only has Jimmy stolen his car, but Michael is also half his normal size. Initially I mistake it for part of the sequence, as Michael rides an inexplicably massive bicycle home. But it transpires the Chaos Mod has shrunk all the NPCs in the game, demonstrated by a hilarious meeting between Michael, Dave Norton, and two other FIB agents, who trade insults and cutting remarks with one another in Munchkin voices.
The Lollipop Guild tasks Michael with a mission to extract an informant from his interrogation by the IAA. I look forward to seeing how the Chaos Mod is going to improve/ruin it. But it passes without incident, as do the next few missions.
This is a growing problem. There's still much of the Chaos Mod I haven't seen, but because the effects are random, with every new one I see, the chance of the next being a repeat increases. It's still capable of delivering absurd scenarios, highlighted by a cutscene outside Franklin's home where the house suddenly explodes, instantly killing Franklin's Aunt, his friend Lamar, and his dog. Not only does the cutscene continue, with Franklin now arguing with three corpses, but both the fire-brigade and the ambulance service turn up, bumbling through the cutscene like stage technicians who forgot to wear black. But it's an island of daftness in an ocean of either uninteresting effects or stuff I've seen before. I'm beginning to fear the Chaos Mod is running out of steam.
The four jurors
Later, a new mission gives me an idea. While he waits around for Michael to put together another heist, Franklin has taken up a spot of hired murder for the group's fixer Lester. In the mission, Franklin has to assassinate four jurors involved in a case with Redwood Cigarettes. But there's a twist. He only has eight minutes to kill them.
This seems like prime Chaos Mod territory, but on the current settings, I'll only see one or two effects within those eight minutes, while there's a good chance I'll have seen them before. So I head into the Chaos Mod's settings and reduce the interval between effects from five minutes to thirty seconds. That should sort things out. Boy, did it.
The Chaos Mod first uses its newfound power to deploy a helicopter to attack Franklin while he races to the first target. It looks like Franklin's career as a hitman will be short-lived, when the helicopter is obliterated by the next effect—doomsday. Franklin's car is tossed about like an empty crisp packet in a hurricane, and it's only through a last minute leap from the driver's seat that he isn't blown up.
Armageddon dies down as quickly as it had started, while Franklin commandeers another car. He races to Vespucci beach where the first target is located, leaps out of the car and starts shooting... without me pressing the left mouse button. Yep, the Chaos Mod has set my weapons to fire constantly. If there's one thing that marks out a skilled assassin, it's wild, indiscriminate gunfire.
The target takes off, disappearing into a crowd of beachgoers. With no way to pull Franklin's finger off the trigger, I have to mow down everyone on the pathway.
One target down. Three to go. Five minutes remaining. To claw back time, I race straight across Vespucci beach. The second target is on a yacht out to sea, easily sniped by Franklin from pier. Two down. Four minutes to go.
I hop back in the car and start up the highway, when the Chaos Mod activates cinematic camera mode, constantly changing the camera angle while I drive in real-time. This makes my race against time look incredibly cool, but also makes it phenomenally difficult to drive. It takes me 90 precious seconds to reach the third target, who is again easily sniped from Franklin's lofty position on a window cleaner's lift.
Three down, two-and-a-half minutes to go. The final target is on a moped somewhere in the Vinewood hills. A difficult area to drive around at the best of times, but it's especially tough when it suddenly starts raining asteroids. One such space rock almost completely blocks the road leading up into Vinewood, leaving a tiny gap which I squeeze through. I kill the final target with seconds remaining. That's more like it, Chaos Mod. In fact, Franklin versus the jurors wouldn't make a bad conclusion to this diary.
But I think we can do one better.
Trevor versus everything
One final battle. One last stand. The Chaos Mod against GTA V's King of Chaos. I've dropped the interval timer to ten seconds, with all effects lasting half a minute. Before we start though, I must prepare. Well, try to. I'd planned to kit Trevor out with weapons and armour. But prior to deciding to do this, the Chaos Mod depleted my bank account, as if it knew what was coming.
That said, I can at least choose a location for the final showdown. After fair amount of deliberation, I settle on Legion Square, the architecturally abstract park in downtown Los Santos. It's close enough to roads for vehicle-effects to play a role, but it also has enough cover to offer me protection from the Chaos Mod's shenanigans. I select my starting position at the park's main entrance, and set the Chaos Mod rolling.
The sky darkens. The tyres blow out on all the nearby vehicles. Then those vehicles catch fire. Then they turn pink. It's like a storm's approaching. The impending signs of the Chaos Mod's oncoming apocalypse, mischief and mayhem all rolled into one.
Suddenly Trevor hits the ground, sideswiped by a speeding moped. I've been surrounded by a swarm of fuchsia mods, intent on ramming me to death like a pod of bottlenose dolphins. I whip out my pistol and start shooting. The fact my gun fires cats barely registers.
I successfully clear the gang when something astonishingly loud bursts nearby. I whirl around to spy a figure across the park. I can't see him clearly because the Chaos Mod has draped the park in a thick fog, but a blueish blur narrowly misses Trevor's head. Some kind of force gun. I dash behind cover and take the figure down.
Now the Chaos Mod unleashes its full fury, slapping me with a five-star wanted level. It also starts raining whales again. I retreat deeper into the park, dodging cetacean carcasses as I go. Bullets begin flying my way. I blast a trio of cops encroaching on my position, then whip out my grenade launcher and bring down a helicopter that's been hovering above me. But there's another approaching, while the minimap is thick with flashing dots. It's really only a matter of time.
And then the Chaos Mod gives me a reprieve, teleporting me to some woodland town in the farthest reaches of San Andreas. I run along the road, watching for any oncoming threat. But there is only silence, and the stars, and the distant headlights of vehicles, which the Chaos Mod has turned kaleidoscopic in hue.
After 30 seconds of bizarre tranquillity, the Chaos Mod teleports Trevor again—this time to the helipad atop the tallest building in Los Santos. Many of the Chaos Mod's effects won't be able to reach me here, but I've also no clear method of descent. Then I spy a window cleaner's lift dangling a few feet away from the building's rooftop. It's a tricky jump, but I'm fairly certain that I can make it.
I don't make it.
In the end, it isn't any of the Chaos Mod's effects that kill Trevor. It's gravity. Trevor plummets to his death, dressed as a mad scientist, because the Chaos Mod had to get one last joke in. So long Chaos Mod. It's been unreal.