When Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick described Grand Theft Auto V as “the gift that keeps on giving” to FOX Business in the US last April, he was referring to the way in which the game’s online micro transactions kept the money flowing to Rockstar and its parent company. But frankly we could have said the same about how it has continued to evolve and improve over the last 12 months too. GTA Vwas one of the best games of the last generation of consoles and GTA Online has been persistently reminding us of its quality.

Each new, completely free update has brought with it new missions, vehicles, outfits, weapons and more. What most of us have been waiting for however is the promised co-op Heist missions, now finally launching for both last- and current-gen versions of GTA Online. We wouldn’t say we’ve exactly been treading water in the last year, though. GTA Online has been a glorious excuse to experience the world Rockstar North created without the trappings of predetermined story or characters to weigh us down.


GTA Online is the true sandbox and, while it has its limitations (money, ammo, weapons and cars being something that take a little grinding in order to reach a comfortable level), this is the purest formof San Andreas we could wish to experience. It’s a world detailed and populated enough to entertain, but also blank enough to inspire players’ own creativity. From inventing heists of their own to becoming San Andreas photographers or stuntmen, you don’t have to look far on YouTube or much further afield to see that GTA is helping to create even more spin-off entertainment. Some have even gone so far as to create movie trailers using nothing but in-game assets from GTA Online.

And while the streets of Los Santos may be a jungle in the open multiplayer arena, the comfort of playing in a private game with friends or even attempting to play GTA Online solo (a curious exercise in virtual isolation) is something worth exploring. While playing the game in the open can lead to the kind of ruthless behaviour we would have thought was better suited to the wastelands of Fallout, playing in a more private setting can allow you to enjoy the nuances of the AI behaviour, the scenery and opportunities for creating stand-out moments that don’t require cut scenes to justify them.
It’s a world detailed and populated enough to entertain, but also blank enough to inspire players’own creativity
AND SO NOW we step into the new Heist missions, which are very much the opposite of that, with a tight crew of thugs. This is like bringing the story mode right back into the online setting, which given the freedom we’ve enjoyed up until now may be a little bit of a culture shock, but GTA Online is broad enough to embrace many different styles and delivery systems for gaming moments. In fact it was exactly because the story modes’ own Heists were poorly suited to the online sphere that they’ve taken so long to arrive according to Rockstar.

The key is making sure everyone has something fun to do. In single-player there was only ever really a need for at least one of the three leads to be doing something interesting. The game would force you into their shoes at key moments or let you switch freely so you could decide what role you wanted to play at any time. Online, in a four-person crew, you don’t have that luxury and no one is going to want to be the getaway driver stuck in the car while their mates get to have fun.

The structure that’s been devised for the Heists is a complex (by comparison to the rest of Online’s missions) but inventive one, with one player designated as crew leader and responsible for bringing the crew into the mission, fronting the money, assigning roles and setting cuts to each member. The leader gets paid at the end, everyone else can earn by fulfilling their mid-stage objectives leading up to the big job. And those can include just stealing the right car, infiltrating a police station, working undercover, hacking, stealing a jet from an aircraft carrier (something new revealed in the Heists trailer) or many other things.

What we’ve seen so far of GTA Online Heists has shown a variety of ideas and potential for chaos that makes playing solo a lot of fun, but should make co-op play insanely enjoyable. We looked forward to getting to try out the story-mission heists with friends, but frankly what Rockstar has come up with is so much more. And like everything else GTA Online has delivered, it’s free to all who have the game already. Truly, the gift that keeps on giving.