GTA Online’s Flight School and patch 1.16 leveled the game – and it’s for the best

By Patrick Garratt
26 August 2014 11:27 GMT

Some missions got nerfed, some got boosted, and everyone learned how to fly. The result is a more varied GTA Online with less grinding, says Patrick Garratt.


But 1.16 was about more than cash. The Flight School update refreshed GTA Online, reverting it from whiny grind to exciting playground.

It had nothing to do with zombies and there wasn’t a casino in sight. The San Andreas Flight School DLC for GTA Online was a surprise for many after an undead update had been “confirmed” by YouTubers, and it was easy to see it as a let-down. No one wanted planes.

Flight and parachute jobs in GTA Online are some of the least popular, largely because they’re hard and most people would rather be pretending to be in Heat by grinding Rooftop Rumble. People want cash in GTA Online, and they’re happy to endlessly repeat the most lucrative missions to get it. Real practice is required to avoid the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) on flight jobs, and, pre-patch, they rarely paid well. Why bother when you can shoot for money?

Rockstar’s answered the question. Many of the most popular grind missions have been nerfed, while dozens of other have been boosted (check out this Reddit thread to see where the money’s gone). Most missions now pay well after the patch, meaning pay-outs of more than $16,000 for completion with a group are regular. The message is clear: Rockstar knows the jobs were unbalanced and by leveling rewards it means you can fully explore the game and be well rewarded for doing so.

A noble endeavour in itself, but 1.16 was about more than cash. The Flight School update refreshed GTA Online, reverting it from whiny grind to exciting playground. The content itself and the double-cash event last weekend forced players to get over their prejudices and get back behind the joystick, and the new planes – especially the Besra – aren’t just window dressing. It’s a shame we didn’t get a buyable jet with rockets, but whatever. The whole weekend was spent in the air.

Watch on YouTube

A quick look at the San Andreas Flight School content.

A good thing. GTA Online’s flight modelling is sensational, and some of the Flight School tests themselves force you to truly master plane and chopper controls. The low-flying Basra exercise is hard, and landing the chopper on the back of the truck is no cake-walk. By learning how to properly use helicopters and planes, your overall GTA Online experience is richer. I’m assuming Rockstar could see flight was being generally neglected, and the DLC was a great way to get people back involved.

The leveling of jobs desperately needed to happen. Before 1.16 GTA Online didn’t pay out enough for too many missions, while others offered a disproportionate reward, meaning when players inevitably became frustrated with getting nowhere fast they were welcomed with endless online advice as to which missions to repeatedly grind for cash and levels. This meant certain jobs were getting hammered and much of the rest of the game was being ignored. Pointless for the developers and boring for the players.

But now it’s been fixed – although how well it’s been fixed is, as ever, debatable – and dozens of missions now offer high payouts instead of just a handful. Equally, planes and choppers are no longer automatically passed over in the post-job voting screen, and that suits me. Flying is a good laugh in GTA Online, and after 1.16 the game – and the way players approach it – is more varied.

Those bemoaning the patch should get away from the grind for a while. Drop fifty grand on a flight suit. Do some dogfighting. Live a little.

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