I burst through the steel gates of the Los Santos International Airport service entrance at a rate of knots. I'm absolutely gunning it, thundering past screaming workmen in hi-vis vests and white helmets, my lighting blue SUV vibrating ever so slightly as it climbs to maximum speed. With a cavalcade of LSPD's finest hugging my back like a shadow, I pull a hard right, a hand-brake turn, and the screech of my burning tires momentarily drowns out the incessant whir of sirens and cries from police radios all around.
The concrete sprawl opens up before me and I cannot for the life of me see the cargo plane. I whiz past a stationary jet parked in the middle of the runway. Not it, where is it? I continue to the hangars at the far end. Not there, where is it?
"Pull over your vehicle!" cries the authoritative voice of a real person on their headset in an accent which I think is French, but could be, like, Belgian or Swiss maybe. I'm so focused on my getaway that I struggle to discern. In any event, I ain't doing that but am instead hurtling towards the bank of aircraft lined up to the west of the runway. Another nope.
"Where the hell is this cargo plane?" I scream fruitlessly into my own headset, now on my feet and performing the wee side-to-side hop I do in real life when a game gets me going. Mid-Cha-Cha Slide/insert more contemporary reference, I realise I'm too early. The cargo plane hasn't arrived yet. Shit. Back to the entrance, into the street, under bridges and away from the shower of machine gun fire relentlessly raining down from the chopper above.
I hang a left past the airport's arrivals terminal, pick up speed and collide head-on with an armoured NOOSE van. I spin out of control, cross the median and career straight into a brick wall. The front end of my truck is buckled and, not to put too fine a point on it, I am fucked.
"Getaway pilot inbound," informs a message now splashed across the screen. "Head to Los Santos International Airport."
I'm playing 'Busted', a cops 'n' robbers-style player-made game mode on Grand Theft Auto 5's FiveM server, and, despite my colourful language, I can honestly say it's given me some of the most fun I've had in San Andreas. Those of you who've read my GTA roleplay diaries here at PC Gamer will know how fond I am of the RP scene, but Busted is a great example of the less distinct diversions from the base game FiveM can deliver—in this instance, something Rockstar would do well to replicate within its official fold.
First crafted by The Ivaneh Community for GTA 4, early variations of Busted appeared in GTA Online pre-PC release, but its current FiveM guise is its most accomplished yet. Within standard 32-player games, one un/lucky sod is assigned the role of 'Robber', while everyone else fills the shoes of 'Cops' or 'Airsupport'. From there, it's simple in theory—Robbers should burglarise the Pacific Standard bank, evade the boys in blue, before being summoned to the runway of the LSIA where a cargo plane awaits their arrival. Cops, on the other hand, are tasked with destroying or trapping the criminal's vehicle in order to fill a 'Busted' meter, make an arrest and win the round.
Air-supporters provide auxiliary assistance by keeping eyes on the convict from the skies, ensuring the cops below can always see their location on the ground. Air support players must also keep a safe, non-contact distance from the Robber—until they reach the airport, whereupon their mounted rail gun and missile launcher are activated.
Random power-ups also become available for both sides over the course, such as Spike Strips for police units and Speed Boosts for robbers, which add another layer of strategy to each unpredictable battle.
In practice, it's pure lose your head, scream at the telly, rave around the room carnage, especially when you're assigned the lone Robber role and are faced with 20-odd cop cars smashing you relentlessly up and down the streets of Los Santos.
Another cool little quirk of Busted from the Cops' perspective is the fact that while voice chat can be heard universally within range, the authorities can access a private text channel which is especially handy for the eyes in the skies. During one Air support mission, I clocked the Robber nipping into the high-rise parking garage in Pillbox Hill in a bid to eat up the clock. It was clear as soon as he entered the building he planned to climb to the roof, and use the jump ramp to breakaway down the road. I used the private chat to advise the squad to congregate in the drop zone, and watched with glee as they swarmed the Robber seconds after his tires touched the tarmac.
I get whiplash just thinking about the airport scenario outlined above, whereby I somehow made it out of the 32-vehicle pile on—helicopters and all—only to be obliterated yards from the cargo plane's open hatch. I screamed in real life as I am wont to do and woke up my napping two-year-old, not for the first time, once more feeling the wrath of my aggrieved girlfriend who only barely accepts my enthusiasm for Grand Theft Auto at the best of times.
But this here really is the best of times, better than any other Adversary Mode, official or unofficial, that I've played to date. For me, the most thrilling part of any GTA Online heist is the getaway and Busted is that with real-life opposition, and a splash of old school Driver, Need for Speed, Burnout and even Mario Kart thrown into its explosive, hedonistic mix.
Crossing the thin blue line demands strategy in the face of chaos, supplemented expertly by aerial assistance, and a well-executed pile-on is as satisfying as any takedown in the ruthless battlegrounds of the base game. I can't recommend it enough. Just remember to arrive at the airport on time.
Learn more about Busted over on the TheIvaneh Community Server.