After a year and a half of waiting Grand Theft Auto Online's heists have finally arrived. Fans have been clamouring for the multi-stage missions that highlighted GTA 5's single player story to transition to online multiplayer and at last they are here.
After such a lengthy wait though there is every chance that it could all fail to live up to expectations. That remains to be seen, but we have played the first introductory heist on the live public servers – and here's what we thought.
Warning: Full spoilers for the first heist of GTA Online follow...
There are requirements to play heists in GTA Online, but they are easily attainable. First is a rank of 12, which can be attained in just a few hours of play if you've only just started. The other requirement is a high-end apartment, which will require a sizeable amount of expenditure on your part – but you should have enough by rank 12.
As in GTA 5's single player portion, the player's journey as a career criminal starts off small and with a visit to Lester Crest – the keenly intelligent loner who organises crimes he can't physically commit himself.
Given player characters in GTA Online are silent, the cutscenes are reminiscent of those in GTA 3 and work just as well. It should come as no surprise that Rockstar have spared no expense in making the online component of GTA every bit as polished as the single player. That has been evident since its early days and the quality of these heist cutscenes only serve to close that gap.
When the player first enters a session having downloaded and installed the update, they will receive a text informing them that their high-end apartment has been fitted with a room for planning heists. These serve as the hubs, and it's where players who join you will go if you're the heist's leader and planner.
I searched online for someone to play with (the first heist requires only two players) then set to work. The first job is simple – scout the Fleeca Bank branch on the map's west coast. It's a simple driving mission with lots of exposition from Lester as he explains how heists work.
With one player driving, Lester gives the other a mini-game to crack on with – one that will be crucial to pulling off the heist. The puzzle has a simple goal – guide a line from one end of a maze of circuits to the other – with the completion of three boards unlocking various security system.
Doing that on the way and on the way back eliminates the potential boredom of being a passenger and allows practice. In the first heist you can fail numerous times with no consequences, but I imagine that will change in later jobs.
With that complete the player is introduced to the Heist mission board – where you'll see the set-up missions to complete in order to unlock the heist finale. Carrying through teammates from one mission to the next is simple, and the finale can be activated quickly from your phone once it is unlocked.
For the Fleeca Job, the second mission required my well-dressed teammate and I to attack a car park, defeat a Korean gang and steal their armoured vehicle (a Kuruma). It's a fun little mission with some action that further establishes the players' partnership.
The finale starts with a return to your apartment and the planning board. Here the leader can choose how the "earnings" are split and what each player must do in the forthcoming job. Each player can also choose what they wear and the mask they take with them, or the leader chooses for them, or a mix of the two.
When the job begins it is largely repeated elements of the first mission – with one player driving the Kuruma to the bank and the other tackling the mini-game to hack the bank's systems. If you take too long completing the mini-game however the other player won't be able to take a position outside the bank and will have to wait for you.
Likewise when you're inside the bank you'll have pressure heaped on you by Lester if you're the player completing the mini-game and unlocking the security deposit box. Whether this has consequences in this particular heist, I don't know, but it appeared to be setting up a big focus on timely completion of each robber's roles in future heists.
Outside the bank each player must put on their masks before entering the bank, once inside I ran toward the now-open vault (thanks to our hack) and set to work drilling through the lock. To do this I needed to hold down the right trigger and push forward on the left stick. Doing either too firmly overheats or breaks the drill, so players must work with the force needed and manage the heat of the drill bit.
It is another decent mini-game that does its job well, which paired with Lester's rushing creates a good level of tension. Once the vault has been raided the players leave, re-enter their vehicle and embark on a mission-ending police chase down the coast, culminating on the bridge not far from the military air field.
Here one of Lester's associates picks your car up with a giant magnet below a helicopter. It's the kind of barmy finale typical of GTA, and furthers the feeling that this is every bit as Grand Theft Auto as the single player.
Once complete a nice little cutscene runs showing the two player characters enjoying a celebratory drink together.
As an introduction to Hesits, the Fleeca Job works very well and is a perfectly fun if fairly standard GTA mission. What works well is how easily this could have been a mission in the game proper. Bigger and more complicated heists await, and Lester has set us up well to tackle them.