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Grand Theft Auto - Lazlow Lives!

Mr. Sensible

Pitch and Putt Duffer
Here we are seven years out from the launch of GTA5, and without so much as a peep from Rockstar about the next numbered entry in their flagship series. Speculation abounds! But as long as we're here, let's talk about the GTA games we can actually play right now.

I am shamefully still playing GTA Online about a year after creating my first character. I say "shamefully" because GTAO does not respect my time in any way, and yet I am still playing it. Ludicrous load times, rampant cheating (at least on PC) and horrible UI design are all huge roadblocks to my enjoyment of this game, but there's still a core of lawbreaking fun somewhere deep down in there that keeps me coming back. Having a rocket-equipped hoverbike helps mitigate a lot of the B.S., but what I really want is to find a group of similarly damaged individuals to play with instead of grinding (and failing) the same heists over and over with PUG randos.

Aside from the aforementioned problems, it's also really tough to on-board new GTAO players because there's absolutely no clear progression. After creating a character and doing a couple mandatory tutorial missions, the game immediately assaults you with texts and calls from a menagerie of ne'er-do-wells. Each one of these NPCs tells you to buy a business office, a motorcycle club, a nightclub or any number of other investment opportunities. Why do you want to buy any of this shit? Who knows until you've bought it or look it up on a wiki! It's just a hot mess of successively bolted-on content that doesn't do anything to direct players toward the next logical point of progression.

With all that said, here's my quick-and-dirty guide to getting started in GTAO (if my griping somehow failed to dissuade you from playing):
  • Finish Lamar's tutorial missions. You're given the option to skip the tutorial, but this can cause glitches with later missions. Plus the tutorial does actually impart some useful info about the mechanics of Online mode, so definitely it's worth going through at least once.
  • Get familiar with the menus and Passive Mode. There are a ton of helpful options hidden away in GTAO's Interactions menu (long-press the PS4 touchpad or Xbox View button), but arguably the most useful for new players is Passive Mode. Enabling this prevents other players from interacting with (i.e., ruthlessly murdering) you, although you also won't be able to use any weapons yourself. Also of note is the Inventory sub-menu, where you can use items like Body Armor and Snacks to replenish your health/armor on the go (protip: take cover before eating snacks to skip the lengthy eating animation). Speaking of menus, pausing the game and going to the Online menu allows you to do more stuff like Find a New Session (useful for bailing out of Freemode sessions rife with griefers/cheaters) and the Players menu for vote-kicking individual troublemakers. The Jobs menu is also in here and will let you select specific Jobs from a big ol' list and bookmark your favorites.
  • Do Contact Missions & Jobs to build up some early cash and RP. Cash is everything in GTAO, so you'll want a lot of it. Contact Missions (essentially Online mode's story missions) and fencing stolen cars through L.S. Customs or Simeon's Import/Export are probably the easiest ways to make some quick cash as a new player. There's also Jobs you can pick up through your in-game phone: these can be accessed either as discrete invites from other players, or by selecting a type of job from the "Play Quick Job" phone menu and letting GTAO's matchmaking system do its thing. Besides money, the other number you'll want to focus on raising is your RP, or Reputation Points. RP is GTAO's version of experience: gaining enough RP causes you to rank up to the next level. You'll earn RP for finishing missions, wasting enemies and completing other objectives. However, your rank merely determines what gear you can buy and what activities you can participate in, not your stats (except max Health and Health regen speed).
  • Find some Collectibles. As you start ranging out further, keep an eye out for a host of different collectibles that have been slowly added to the game over time, including playing cards, action figures, signal jammers and movie props. Finding these will typically reward you with a bit of cash and RP. But completionists be warned: you may want to abstain from collecting anything until you're ready to commit to following a guide (and maybe also own a flying vehicle for convenience's sake). There are a handful of exclusive cosmetics and other perks unlocked by collecting everything, but they're generally not worth the effort.
  • Buy a Garage. Once you've got a decent little nest egg, you should start investing in Properties which provide additional quality-of-life features and increase your earnings potential. Since cars are such a key component of the GTA experience, most players start with a standalone Garage to keep their personal vehicles. The cheapest of these is $25,000 and gives you space for two cars and a bicycle, as well as a personal Mechanic who you can call for vehicle deliveries.
  • Do VIP Work. You'll need to have banked at least $50K to register as a VIP through the SecuroServ menu on your phone, which opens up a new line of lucrative VIP Work missions. As opposed to Jobs and Contact Missions, which all start in a lobby and play out within their own separate instance of the game world, VIP Work happens in Freemode. Fortunately there are a handful of VIP Work missions you can do in a Solo Freemode session if you want to avoid dealing with other players; Headhunter and Sightseer are probably the most efficient of these for grinding.
  • Buy a High-End Apartment for Heists. Look into plunking down on a High-End Apartment once you've earned at least $200-400K: these come with an attached ten-car Garage AND enable the option to start your own Heists. Doing Heists with a decent team can be a lot of fun, and they can potentially earn you far more money than most Contact Missions or Jobs. On the flip side, there's nothing worse than being stuck in checkpoint restart hell with a group of idiots who don't know what they're doing, so try to have some patience if you're matchmaking with randos (or start building up your friends list).
  • Buy an Armored Kuruma (at discount). Once you've finished the Fleeca Job (the first Heist), buy an Armored Kuruma from the Southern S.A. Super Autos website at the "discount" price of $525,000. With its highly bullet-resistant armor plating, this two-ton tuner sedan is an amazing workhorse, perfect for almost any mission that involves being shot at by angry dudes with guns, and you should make it a point to own one as soon as you can afford it. Just be mindful of its extreme weight when you're pulling those e-brake turns at 90 MPH.
  • Buy an Executive Office and Cargo Warehouse. After pulling off several Heists, you should have enough cash on-hand to establish your own Executive Office in one of Los Santos' business spaces, with Maze Bank West being a popular choice. Having an Office lets you register as a SecuroServ CEO and opens three new mission types: Special Cargo, Vehicle Cargo and Special Vehicle Missions. However, keep in mind that Special/Vehicle Cargo both require purchasing their own corresponding warehouse on top of owning an Office. Special Cargo is a decent enough way to start raking in that CEO money, but eventually you'll want to try Vehicle Cargo since it sees higher returns. Plus with Vehicle Cargo you can game the system a bit to ensure that you're always flipping vehicles for top dollar. This involves first stowing one of each of the available low- and mid-range stolen car models inside your warehouse. Subsequent VC sourcing missions will spawn only high-value cars instead, which you can then sell for maximum profit.
  • Buy a Buzzard attack chopper. When it comes to your first flying vehicle, there's really only one choice. For a mere $1.75 million, the Buzzard is a nimble little sprite of an attack helicopter that comes complete with dual miniguns and homing missiles. What it lacks in armor it more than makes up for in maneuverability, so practice your chopper piloting if you'd prefer not to become a smoldering crater on the ground when the bullets and rockets start flying.
  • Buy a Bunker. Once you've raked in enough ill-gotten gains from your Office business, purchase one of the Bunkers dotted around SA (mine's in Raton Canyon) to start your own Gunrunning business. It's not cheap to set up, but selling guns can net you upwards of $200-300k or more per sell mission if you're doing them solo. However, you also have to either steal your own supplies or pay $75k for a supply shipment before you can start producing salable product. Another issue with Gunrunning (or any other GTAO business that operates on the Supplies/Product bar mechanic) is that Weapons Sell missions have a pretty tight time limit, so selling larger amounts of Product at once may require assistance from other players. This means you've got to closely watch your current Product level (i.e., sell right at or less than 1/4 of max Product capacity) if you want to keep things manageable solo. Bunkers can also perform Research to unlock neat stuff like player/vehicle weapon upgrades and liveries. Unfortunately Research projects are selected at random, and they all require Bunker supplies to complete which would otherwise be spent on producing guns/money for you.
  • Try other Businesses for extra profits. I personally feel like the Motorcycle Club-based businesses (weed, coke, meth, counterfeiting and document forgery) have been largely obsoleted with the addition of executive Offices and Bunkers, but all types of player-owned businesses also help support the Nightclub property. Nightclubs are a sort of passive business that build up their own cache of salable product slowly based on your other active businesses. However, they also rely on doing regular Promotion missions to keep your club popular (and keep the product/cash flowing in). You should probably wait to invest in a Nightclub until after you've already got a couple other businesses established that your club can feed off of. Meanwhile, the newer Arcade also passively brings in money, but its primary function is to enable the Diamond Casino heist. This latest series of Heist missions lets you crack into the fortified vault of the Diamond Casino using one of three different approach styles (Big Con, Aggressive and Silent & Sneaky), and well-equipped players can potentially complete all the required Prep missions solo. You can also purchase the "Master Control Terminal" which allows you to manage all your other businesses from your Arcade. Finally there's Air Freight Cargo, which is similar to Special Cargo but operates out of an aircraft hangar instead. The only real reason to mess with Air Freight Cargo at this point is unlocking Trade Price discounts for purchasing certain aircraft.
  • Buy an Oppressor Mk. II (eventually). Being a Nightclub owner also allows you to purchase the Terrorbyte support vehicle, which in turn grants access to the almighty Oppressor and Oppressor Mk. II. While the original Oppressor is more of a high-jumping motorcycle with wings, the Mark II version is a flying hoverbike that can be equipped with homing missiles (once you've completed the requisite Bunker research project). You will eventually want to own one of these insanely powerful, convenient and expensive vehicles, especially after getting wrecked a few times by other players flying them. The Mark II occasionally goes on discount, so definitely jump on that if you're in the market and have a few mil burning a hole in your virtual pocket.
  • Buy a Facility and grind The Bogdan Problem. This is how you make your millions in GTAO. Pricey Facilities grant access to the Doomsday Heist, a long series of missions broken up into three acts. By far the most profitable of these is the Act II Finale mission, a.k.a The Bogdan Problem, which will net your heist team a cool million upon completion. The issue is that getting to the Act II finale requires fighting through some pretty demanding setup missions first, and once you finish it, you normally have to go through all those setup missions again before another Finale run. Fortunately, some clever players have figured out that disconnecting your Internet at a certain point during the Finale's final cutscene lets you keep your end-of-mission earnings AND retain all your setup progress, essentially allowing you to grind Bogdan quickly and repeatedly for massive amounts of cash. Is this cheating? Probably! But I've invested enough time into this game already that I really don't care, and so long as Rockstar doesn't care enough to fix the exploit, I'm happy to keep my Bogdan finale mission at the ready for whenever I need a fresh cash injection.
  • Suspend the GTA5.exe process to start a Solo Freemode session or fix loading issues. If you're a PC player, you can manipulate the GTA5 executable while it's running to start your own Solo Freemode session, which is incredibly useful for doing Freemode missions (such as Product Sell) without interference from other players. When you're in a normal Freemode session, Alt+Tab out of GTA and open the Windows Task Manager (either Ctrl+Alt+Del and select Task Manager or search for it in the taskbar). Go to the Performance tab and click the Resource Monitor button. In Resource Monitor, click the CPU tab and find the GTA5.exe process in the list. Right-click GTA5.exe and select "Suspend Process," wait about 5 to 7 seconds, then right-click GTA5.exe again and select "Resume Process". Return to GTA and you should now find yourself in an empty Freemode session, where no one will mess with you until you decide to join a new session. This handy trick can also be used if you've been stuck on an "overhead map" loading screen for several minutes; just do the Suspend Process procedure and you should get forced back into a Freemode session.
  • Keep things fresh with different Activities and Job types. You can't really complain about lack of variety in GTAO, though of course not all of the different gameplay modes are created equal. Once you hit rank 10 you can start doing Bounty missions for Maude, which are a good way to get more familiar with the greater San Andreas area as you track your bounty targets. Gang Attacks are reminiscent of the Gang Warfare battles in GTA San Andreas; they're basically just brief Freemode PvE combat challenges indicated by large red circles on the minimap. As an avid video game racing enthusiast, Races are one of my favorite Job types, with Stunt Races being a particular standout in terms of hosting wild track layouts (but beware of races allowing custom cars, as these are usually dominated by the wealthiest players). You can do Deathmatch if boots-on-the-ground PvP is more your thing, or try some of the more interesting Adversary modes like Slasher (one player with a shotgun versus a group of Hunted with flashlights stumbling around in the dark), The Vespucci Job (cops n' robbers) or Hunting Pack (get a bomb-rigged vehicle to the finish while keeping your speed up and avoiding enemies). Arena War is an orgy of different demolition derby-style events, complete with its own unique set of heavily customized vehicles. There are plenty of other modes aside from these, so don't be shy about dabbling in different events if you're bored.
That should be enough of a roadmap to get any new player on their way. Hope it helps someone, but I really just needed to get all this out of my brain so I could better appreciate how ridiculous the overall structure of GTAO really is.
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Post Reader
I miss when companies like Rockstar and Valve were interested in releasing more than one game every five years in between running services

Mr. Sensible

Pitch and Putt Duffer
Started a new GTA5 single-player campaign this week, and it's been SO refreshing to play a version of this game that loads quickly and features missions with an actual story through-line. Sure, all the characters are still obnoxious assholes, but it really reminded me of what was lost in GTA5's Online mode.

Mr. Sensible

Pitch and Putt Duffer
Finally solved an awful issue I was having where GTAO froze and crashed to desktop with an exception code of 0xc0000005. The error started happening a few weeks ago and made finishing most missions impossible. There's not much consensus online about how to address the problem, so I tried a spread of different fixes like granting admin privileges to the GTAV executable, messing with my pagefile size, rolling back my video card drivers, etc. The only thing that seems to actually help is dialing back my graphics settings like texture size and shader quality. Not sure why this has only recently become an issue; I can only guess something got broken in a recent patch.


Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I liked GTA Online for general messing about and being able to buy clothes without having to progress the dumb stupid story and endure annoyingly linear missions, but this is really the kind of thing I'd prefer to be able to engage with offline without other people.

I tried one of the multiplayer heist missions once and it was some espionage bullshit that instantly failed you if you got spotted. Since then I've mostly just stuck to the Wacky Races and the things that wish they were Mario Kart when I played the game.

With that said, I prefer Red Dead Online simply because mobile phones don't exist yet and no assholes can constantly harass me with phone calls trying to get me to spend money on funny munny to buy Bafomdads needed to unlock their respective DLC missions. Like, I'm just trying to ride a bike or snipe some troll and the phone rings. =/

Mr. Sensible

Pitch and Putt Duffer
Finally jumped back into GTAO this week after the major disappointment of Cayo Perico back in December. To elaborate, the Cayo Perico heist turned out to be one giant stealth mission because you have to sneak around the island without any weapons in order to scout your heist targets (stealth missions in GTA games invariably suck ass). Then the actual heist involves MORE stealth, and you can't even access the most valuable targets when playing the heist solo (which Rockstar deliberately misled people about pre-release). Just a huge bummer all-around...but, uh, at least I have this cool Russian submarine now?

Anyway, I finally bought a P-996 LAZER fighter jet last week since it was on a 40% discount, so that's been fun for zooming around the map. The Rhino tank is on sale for less than $1M this week, so I might grab one of those too.


Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I wouldn't mind the espionage missions so much if they weren't of the "fail instantly if you get spotted" kind. GTA ain't Metal Gear and insta-fail stealth bits are made worse when they're multiplayer.

Mr. Sensible

Pitch and Putt Duffer
According to Rockstar, the new Los Santos Tuners update last week for GTA Online had the most players of "any update ever". The update itself adds a new Car Meet social space, as well as a slew of fresh Tuner-class vehicles that can be extensively modified inside and out.

Two new types of Tuners-only race events also make their debut: Street Races are your basic wheels-on-the-ground lap race, albeit with lots of tight corners designed to test your mastery of apexing turns in one of the new tuner cars. Pursuit is something rather different: up to sixteen players make their way across town in a point-to-point race as their Wanted levels are slowly ratcheted up, spawning swarms of police officers/vehicles which must be avoided on your way to the finish. These Pursuit races typically devolve into a glorious melee of crunching metal as players push their way through police roadblocks and each other, so expect no quarter here, and be sure to bring your bulletproof tires.

Racing earns you reputation with the Car Meet, eventually unlocking new cosmetics and "trade price" discounts on the new Tuner-class vehicles. Among these, the Karin Calico GTF in particular has emerged as the dominant competitor with its insane AWD acceleration and excellent handling. The Dinka Jester RR and Annis Remus are also quite respectable when upgraded, but these can't compete against a stock Calico GTF in the hands of a competent driver, and I wouldn't be surprised if a future patch nerfs the Calico at some point.

In retrospect, it's kind of crazy it took them this long to add tuner-focused content like this to GTAO, especially considering the prominence of street racing culture in other car-focused game franchises like Need for Speed.