How Heists transformed GTA Online for better or worse

By Matt Martin, Tuesday, 2 June 2015 09:36 GMT

Now the dust has settled on the Pacific Standard job, did Heists change GTA Online significantly?

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It’s been almost three months since GTA Online received the Heists update, a collection of five multi-layered co-op missions that came with great risk and costs, but rewarded the players with massive paydays when successful.

Heists reinvigorated GTA Online and drew a whole new crowd to the game. Not only did it drop some of the best missions in the entire franchise to date, it added new vehicles and weapons, and brought with it a bunch of extras that got overlooked, such as Daily Objectives and Adversary modes.

All of that happened on day one, and it took a few weeks for us all to discover and make the most of the changes. But beyond those gameplay updates and cosmetic additions, Heists has been responsible for changing GTA Online in three meaningful ways.

More money in the economy

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“Before Heists we were calling the game tight, but now we’re stacking cheddar and we’ve little to spend it on.”

Since Heists launched it’s been remarkably easy to earn serious amounts of bread in just a couple of play sessions. I went from skint to $300,000 in the bank a day later, which only really amounted to about four hours play; three Heist set ups, a Heist finale with a first time bonus, two lots of complete daily challenges and a $30,000 Survival put serious money back in my pocket.

We’ve gone from famine to feast and it’s difficult to digest. Before Heists we were calling the game tight, but now we’re stacking cheddar and we’ve little to spend it on. Rockstar has acknowledged this with the new Ill-Gotten Gains DLC featuring new gear, weapons and vehicles to spend your Heists dollars on next week. And it’s doing the right thing by staggering the DLC and releasing more goodies later in the summer.

The truth is the GTA Online community has an insatiable appetite for the new; whether that’s gear, guns, missions, cars, clothes or apartments – and they’ll spend all their cash and ask for more a day later. Rockstar will never have a happy crowd. My advice is always the same; if you’ve got the money, spend it. There’s no point hoarding it.

More co-operative play

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This is out of necessity. You can do Heists with strangers and take the gamble of getting a griefer or someone who just won’t listen to a simple instruction, and put up with the regular drop outs and abandoned missions half way through. But aside from the constant frustration this causes, you won’t complete all the elite challenges unless you’ve got a trusted, co-ordinated team. And you ideally want to run the Heists in order, from start to finish, to get maximum impact and money. If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.

This is Rockstar’s biggest achievement with Heists. It has clearly learnt from the community. GTA Online players have long since created their own gangs with complicated initiations and rules, their own photography clubs, and they play together in smaller groups due to the fractured nature of the game. Forcing more organisation in GTA Online has created new crews and friendships that have extended far beyond four-man teams running through Heists.

More violence

“Free-roam is a warzone with a map full of red skulls and armoured vehicles.”

Up until the release of Heists there was a misconception about GTA Online’s free-roam game: everyone playing it was a psycho griefer, running up on you the moment you stepped out of your apartment, nuking personal vehicles and ragging on you when you respawned. But that wasn’t true. Every online game has it’s share of idiots, but GTA has as much a friendly community as a psychotic one.

But with Heists came the VTOL jet, the armoured Kuruma and the Insurgent with mounted gun. Even now, well over two months since Heists went live, there’s a whole lot of unforgiving attacks from strangers. Free-roam is a warzone with a map full of red skulls and armoured vehicle icons. Regular players have been asking for military gear for some time, and adding a fast bullet-proof car, a rocket-proof truck and more manoeuvrable jets granted that wish for good or bad.

It feels like a misstep for the game but one that can’t be corrected. Maybe there’s a relation to the increase in violence and the uptake of invisibility hacks. Free roam has become less about crime and more about the military. Ill-Gotten Gains looks like it will bring back more of the posing, the gangster flossing and the wealth flaunting. And that can’t come soon enough.

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