Grand Theft Auto V: Heists

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 27, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 84 comments

Despite being the progenitor of an entire genre, Grand Theft Auto has never really established a strong identity in terms of mechanics. Some titles have lock-on targeting. Some are free-aim. Some use cover-based combat, others favor run-n-gun. Some make driving feel effortless and arcade-y, while others make the vehicles heavy and cumbersome. San Andreas had this whole territory control mechanic that never appeared again.

Saints Row is an amusement park where you hop from one challenge to the next, picking up whatever activity seems fun. Sleeping Dogs has the Hong Kong / John Woo action flavor. Watch_Dogs has that lame half-assed hacking stuff. But Grand Theft Auto? About the closest thing the series has to a distinct style is the awful scripted mission design where the designer secretly changes the rules to make the gunfight / chase more “cinematic”. Aside from that, GTA doesn’t have a particular mechanic to call its own.

At least, until now.

In Grand Theft Auto V you can pull off heists. Aside from the extravagantly produced world and the near miraculous technology driving the thing, heists are the best thing about GTA V. They’re tightly integrated with the story so they don’t have the tacked-on feel you get from the extraneous side contentDarts and bowling et al. littered all over the world. At the same time, a lot of the best crew members can only be met and recruited while exploring the open world which means the heist system is also connected to the freeform gameplay. You have the strategy of choosing an approach, the whiff of sim-style gameplay as crew members gain experience over the course of several jobs, and you have the familiar core mechanics of shooting and driving when it’s time to pull the job. Heists are broken into a chain of missions, which leaves you free to piss off back to the open world if you’re getting story fatigue. As a nice bonus, it’s thematically consonant with the premise of the game in a way that attending therapy with your bickering family or watching in-game television aren’t.

How it Works

Come on Lester. Haven't you heard of Powerpoint? This setup is SO 1995.
Come on Lester. Haven't you heard of Powerpoint? This setup is SO 1995.

The story will reach some point where you need to steal something big. Maybe some jewels. Maybe a big piece of hardware. Whatever. You need it, and someone else has it. So the characters will put the plan up on the wall / cork board and you’ll get to make a few A or B decisions regarding approach and escape. Do you want to shoot your way in, or sneak in? Do you want to escape via dirtbikes in the desert, or jet skis on the water? Then you’ll get to choose your crew. Some crew members are more skilled than others, but more skilled people demand a bigger cutMost crew take between 5% and 15%.. However, their skill goes up as they gain experience, while their asking price doesn’t. So you can pay a lot now and have really good help, or you can cut corners now and have crappy help. But even if you take the second option it might be worthwhile, since that cheap crew member will eventually mature into a reliable teammate.

Once you’ve made your plans, the game cuts you loose again. When you feel like it, you can gather the items you need for the job. Maybe steal the getaway car or grab some weapons. These activities function as simple pickup missions. No cutscenes. No scripted nonsense. No rules-changing shenanigans. You just go and get the thing. I love these sections because I feel like I’m connecting with the established rules and not trying to out-guess the schemes and machinations of a sadistic mission designer.

This is Michael scouting the jewelry store. The dialog from the smug lady behind the counter is really believable, and also makes me not feel bad about robbing them.
This is Michael scouting the jewelry store. The dialog from the smug lady behind the counter is really believable, and also makes me not feel bad about robbing them.

Once the heist is over, you get a nice big screen of feedback letting you know how it went. How did the crew perform, how did you perform as a player, and what was the take?

The whole thing is brilliant, and I wish that more of the game had been built around it and built up to it. Yes, the game ends with a major heist, but we spend the vast majority of the game doing regular Grand Theft Auto type stuff. It’s not bad or anything, but the heist system is so much better.

I'm a sucker for any gameplay system that offers metrics on how you did, like Batman Arkham fights or the Civilization end screen.
I'm a sucker for any gameplay system that offers metrics on how you did, like Batman Arkham fights or the Civilization end screen.

I think Grand Theft Auto has found its voice. I think the next batch of movies it rips off should be the likes of Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job, Snatch, Ronin, Logan Lucky, and Heat.

I would have enjoyed it if the individual heists were a little more involved. As it stands, the “preparation” jobs are very short and simple. But still. This is a good idea to build a franchise around. I hope it carries forward and is expanded for the next game.

Merryweather Heist

Here's Trevor, working on expanding his meth business and not advancing the plot or sustaining the recently-created tension.
Here's Trevor, working on expanding his meth business and not advancing the plot or sustaining the recently-created tension.

Trevor’s arc is… strange. He learns from the news that his supposedly deceased running buddy is still alive somewhere in Los Santos. Rather than heading off to LS to track Michael down he instead begins a long, brutal war with some gangs in the area. He wipes out the biker gang that comprises most of his customer base. (Meth.) He takes over the local gun-smuggling business from the Aztecas. He wipes out the rival meth-producing gang the O’Neil Brothers. He has several scenes where he gives a tour of his meth labs to some Chinese gangsters, hoping to branch out internationally. (Spoiler: It doesn’t work out.)

This is pretty indicative of the weird-ass approach this game has to pacing. The writer drops the bombshell on us that Trevor is alive and follows that up by showing he’s incredibly dangerous and interested in tracking down Michael. Now we have some proper tension! Michael and Franklin just completed their first heist together and are celebrating its success when we cut to Trevor and learn that because of their triumph, a new threat is forming out here in the desert. We in the audience are naturally curious as to how all of this is going to shake out. What is Trevor planning to do?

After hours of dicking around in the desert doing stuff we don't care about, Trevor FINALLY goes to Los Santos and broods over the city, giving us a monologue to explain his thinking and the threat he represents. This needed to happen WAY sooner.
After hours of dicking around in the desert doing stuff we don't care about, Trevor FINALLY goes to Los Santos and broods over the city, giving us a monologue to explain his thinking and the threat he represents. This needed to happen WAY sooner.

But then the game gradually dissipates that tension over the next hour or so as we tangle with all these gangs that have no bearing on the plot. By the time Trevor returns to his quest to track down Michael, the story has completely lost its way. Even once he reaches Los Santos, he doesn’t immediately confront Michael. Instead he bullies he way into an apartment (we’ll talk about about his roomates later) and begins planning an unrelated heist at the docks.

It’s a good heist. Earlier I talked about how this game would be better if the disparate stories were quarantined in their own episodes. The Merryweather Heist (and the related drama involving the participants) would make for a fantastic self-contained episode. Trevor scouts a location, sets a goal, forms a plan, gathers the resources, and then does the job. That would form a natural arc of rising action that leads to a satisfyingSatisfying in the narrative sense, not in the financial sense. finale. It’s great. But this isn’t a self-contained episode, this is a seemingly irrelevant digression in the middle of a story about Trevor reconnecting with his old friend.

Trevor's jobs aren't very subtle.
Trevor's jobs aren't very subtle.

I get the purpose of the heist. The writer uses this to show why Trevor needs Michael. Michael’s heist was a clean, professional job. Michael is a natural leader and has a good head for planning. By contrast, Trevor is a terrible leader who enforces loyalty through terror, he has no head for planning, and he doesn’t even have a clear goal. He sees the big MerryweatherGovernment contractors specializing in military hardware. ship at the port and figures they must have “something” worth stealing. So he got a half-baked scheme to use a barely-loyal, mostly-incompetent crew to steal something from infamously dangerous government forces. His plans are obvious and brute-force, and in the end he doesn’t even know if the prize is worth the risk.

That’s a great way to characterize Trevor through his actions. The problem is that the writer established this “Trevor Threat” a couple of hours ago, and then just left it there. Trevor drove off to Los Santos to find Michael, and then…? Nothing? Now Trevor is doing this heist and it feels like he’s again forgotten his purpose.

The player can pull the trigger on this threat at any time by switching over to Michael and doing one of his missions. The problem is, they have no way of knowing this. So if you plow forward on the Trevor missions looking for the payoff, you’re actually putting it off.

The Failed Heist

How do we put a dollar value on an item when we don't know what it is? And if it really is a government superweapon, how could it possibly be this cheap?
How do we put a dollar value on an item when we don't know what it is? And if it really is a government superweapon, how could it possibly be this cheap?

I like that the designer was willing to give us a heist that doesn’t pay out. It’s appropriate for what the story is trying to do and it helps underscore why Trevor is such a failure despite his prowess in combat. Having said that, I think this could have been handled a little better.

Lester Crest is the “guy in the chair” for Michael and his jobs. Lester is an asthmatic shut-in with many physical disabilities. He generally runs an operation over the radio, telling the characters about the state of alarms and law enforcement while making sure to keep everyone on time and on-task. He’s in the hospital during this mission, and his absence makes Trevor’s plans seem even more haphazard.

The heist itself comes off as needlessly destructive and poorly-planned, which is what you’d expect from Trevor. But then at the end you finish the job and the writer just takes it away from you with excuses.

That's something I didn't need to see.
That's something I didn't need to see.

Once our protagonists have the mysterious prize, Lester shows up. He’s still in his hospital gown with his ass hanging out. (Uh, how did this frail man sneak out of the hospital without anyone stopping him?) He confronts the crew at the site of the heist. (Lester is very careful and secretive and would never expose himself at the scene like this, in either sense of the word.) He says the payload is actually an experimental super-weapon. (He knows this how? I mean, I get that he hacks all the computers and knows all the government facts, but how did he figure out his friends were boosting this item from his hospital bed? Being a hacker doesn’t make you omniscient.) He berates Trevor and insists they give the score back. (Guys? If this thing is such a big deal then why are we standing in the open at the scene of the crime? Shouldn’t we run for it and just leave the score here?)

I get that this is supposed to be funny, but this is a great example of how tonal whiplash can undercut a scene. “Character runs around with their ass hanging out” is Adam Sandler style comedy, but this isn’t that style of story and that kind of comedy doesn’t fit this scene. It certainly doesn’t cover up the cartoonish notion of Lester showing up like this.

A Better Solution

Trevor's plan is a little rough around the edges.
Trevor's plan is a little rough around the edges.

The point of this scene is to show that Trevor can’t do scores without Michael. This is an important plot point and I wholly agree that it’s a good thing to put in the game. The problem is that by stealing a “super weapon”, it sort of makes Trevor look competent. Instead of driving home the point that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, it sort of suggests he’s preternaturally skilled and he just got unlucky with his choice of targets. I mean, if he can steal a government super-weapon then what can’t he steal?

If you want to end on a comedy noteTo be nice, we’re assuming seeing Lester’s ass qualifies as “comedy” here. and you want to negate the score, then just have the score itself be something funny. Maybe Trevor thinks he’s stealing a super-weapon to sell to the Chinese, but then they open the package and it’s (say) a shipment of combat boots. Then someone has to point out to Trevor that just because the military keeps something locked up and guards it with guns doesn’t mean it’s treasure. They guard everything with guns. I won’t claim that’s hilarious, but it’s not less hilarious than Lester’s antics, it doesn’t require Lester to break character, it’s a lot more plausible, and it helps build the theme of Trevor being bad at heists instead of confusing or undercutting it.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Darts and bowling et al.

[2] Most crew take between 5% and 15%.

[3] Satisfying in the narrative sense, not in the financial sense.

[4] Government contractors specializing in military hardware.

[5] To be nice, we’re assuming seeing Lester’s ass qualifies as “comedy” here.



From The Archives:
 

84 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto V: Heists

  1. Chris says:

    The picture hover text on the jewelry store mentions her saying something that makes you want to rob them blind, what does she say?
    Also, with trevor, couldn’t they just put you in his boots, let you play as him doing the heist, then while he’s hiding from the police have him see the heist and recognize michael?

  2. Dev Null says:

    “Being a hacker doesn’t make you omniscient.”

    Shhhhhh! No one tell Hollywood…

    1. MadTinkerer says:

      Yeah, just being a hacker doesn’t make you omniscient! First you have to [EXAPUNKS SPOILER REDACTED] and then [EXAPUNKS SPOILER REDACTED] and then they just need to [EXAPUNKS SPOILER REDACTED]. Simple!

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Stuff and nonsense! Everyone knows a decent hacker can remotely open locked doors, see inside buildings without a camera network and project a taunting image of themselves onto any screen ever.
      Oh, and take control of the satellite. Which satellite, you ask? ALL OF THEM.

      And if you REALLY need to hack something? Two people typing random keys at the same keyboard and shouting computer stuff will do it, naturally.

      1. Marcellus Magnus says:

        As long as you don’t forget to use sunglasses and a (black) trenchcoat!

        1. Carlos García says:

          Hacking is easy. Just type >override let_me_do_whatever_I_want and done. Now you can bring your murdered dad from death and ask him who killed him, then summon a technodemon from hell to kill the murderer and take your dad with him so you don’t lose your inheritance.

  3. Karma The Alligator says:

    They can’t really build their franchise around doing heists, though. Payday already does that.

    Trevor’s arc is… strange. He learns from the news that his supposedly deceased running buddy is still alive somewhere in Los Santos.

    How? Isn’t Michael on the witness protection program? Pretty sure people under that program don’t get mentioned in the news.

    1. JDMM says:

      One thing they could do to get into the whole crimelord thing is to go for the whole drug production thing ala Breaking Bad, seems a way to put their own spin on the heists
      So most of the time your character would be gearing up to steal barrels of phenylamine or a large delivery of cough medicine but every so often you could go for a bank or a money truck or etc

      1. Mr. Wolf says:

        That’s where I figured Tevor’s introductory missions were going, but gameplay never supported it. He apparently runs a meth lab that either never makes meth or sells it at cost price because he never makes a profit. Sure he killed off a ton of customers, but he also killed off a ton of competition – that’s got to even out.

        I think Trevor’s extended introduction might have worked had he actually achieved something. As it stands all he did was make some enemies, and none of those enemies were particularly interesting.

        1. Shamus says:

          If this was a movie I think the Michael and Trevor introductions would have been concurrent. We’d keep cutting to this psycho in the wilderness and wondering where it was all going. Trevor wouldn’t discover the truth about Michael until we'd already gotten to know him, which would make it an "oh shit!" moment for the audience as we realize this unstoppable madman we'd been following all this time is now making a beeline for Michael.

          The way the game does it, we cut to Trevor, then he discovers Michael is alive, THEN we discover how dangerous he is, THEN we burn more screen time belaboring that point, THEN he heads for Los Santos where we assume he’s going to confront Michael but instead he begins an unrelated heist. Like a lot of things in this game, it's not strictly wrong, it’s just really inefficient in terms of screen time and it blunts some of the potential tension the audience could be experiencing.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            I kinda wonder if the game would have benefitted from having a “suggested” mission order. Like, you COULD do the missions in whatever order you want, but you’ll get the best experience is you do them in a certain specific order..?

            That way you don’t get the “Michael does a heist” trigger early

            1. As a game designer that would make no sense to me.
              If a quest/storyline triggers too early then you simply change/move the trigger.

              You see this happening often in GTA V too, where you get no new story missions for a character until you have done “almost” all story missions for the other characters. So they clearly have multi-conditional triggers.

              My guess is that the writers wrote the story linearly, then the game designer(s) pieced them up. Allowing the player to progress as far as possible in each character storyline unless it overlapped with key points of the other characters.

              Piecing it all up this way allows time for each character to slightly overlap, giving the player the apparent freedom to play either character “when they feel like it”. I don’t recall exactly if it was GTA V or a prior one, but if there was 4 character “missions” you only needed to do 3 out of 4 to unlock something new for another character.

              If this was a film then we’d basically cut from Trevors point of view, arriving to the city then going straight to Michals house, we’d then cut to Michaels point of view as Trevor bursts in like he did.

              But I also understand the angle of Trevor going to the city, establishing a “base”, planning a possible revenge.
              What I miss is Trevor doing some legwork to find out where Michael lives. I either missed that detail or that wasn’t added to the game.

              It could have been fun “snooping” around as Trevor. He could have seen Traci on Fame or Shame (and recognized her?), found the TV set location, scared the shit out of Lazlow and gotten the address of Traci that way.
              Or seen Amanda at a tennis court (could be a mini-mission with Trevor checking all tennis courts as he “knows” Amanda used to really like tennis), and scared her tennis coach to give him the address maybe.
              In the case of Lazlow one could have added a line to him when seeing Trevor again (when Trevor an Michael goes to “rescue” Traci the first time.) “Lazlow: Oh no, not you again.” for example.

              A game like GTA V could easily be re-written endlessly, it’s really a amazing open world to make stories. Would have been cool to have seen a early game choice for a character dramatically shift/change how their story ends (not in a negative/failstate way, just a major shift).

              But such replayability would cost a lot and be a nightmare to coordinate. Just look at Detroit Become Human, if that game had been made at the open world scale of GTA V then such a game could easily dwarf most motive budgets and take a decade to make.

          2. One thing you’ve convinced me of is that with the right editing and writing, there is a good movie in this game trying to get out.

            Maybe Rockstar should just let it out. “The first really good video game movie” is a title still up for grabs!

            I know it’s been tried a couple of times and has basically flopped miserably each time, but if there’s any franchise that could pull of a simultaneous release of a good movie and a truly integrated accompanying game, it’s this one.

            (Also, come to think of it, if you’re ever looking for a good column series to write, analyzing those flops is probably pretty fertile territory right up your alley, and it’s not massively over-covered by the game blog industry. I know you’ve mentioned Quantum Break here, but Google suggests I’m not forgetting an in-depth analysis you may have done.)

      2. Guest says:

        Payday 2 did that a bunch, one of the default mission sets is all about cooking and trading meth, and the mechanic comes up in a bunch of later additions.

        No reason why GTA can’t do it though, Payday was around beforehand, and it’s a pretty untapped space. It’d be great to have a multi-mission heist like Payday 2 does, where you cook and transport meth, dealing with bikers and cops.

    2. eldomtom2 says:

      Michael a) isn’t officially in witness protection, he’s paying off the FIB member who publically “killed” him, and b) is less careful with his choice of words during the heist than he should be.

    3. Sarfa says:

      Trevor figures out Michael is alive because Michael does a heist. It gets mentioned on the news, and one of the things the witnesses talks about is one of the masked robbers quotes one of Michael’s favourite movie lines to threaten said witness. Michael had threatened a witness using the exact same line in one of the heists he’d done with Trevor back in the day, so Trevor recognises it.

      Essentially, the news gives people who know Michael as well as Trevor does enough information to figure out that Michael was responsible and is thus alive.

    4. Mortuss says:

      Michael during the heist says something to the security guard, the guard repeats what he said on news, Trevor recognizes it as something Michael always said and he also “recognizes Michaels hand in the heist” like if the tactics he used were his handwriting.

    5. Mikey says:

      In the prologue mission, Michael tells a witness who saw his face “You forget a thousand things every day, make sure this is one of them.” Apparently he did this all the time back in the day, so when he does it again during the jewelry heist and that witness mentions it when being interviewed on the TV news, it tips Trevor off to the fact that Michael’s alive.

    6. JH-M says:

      Michael have, as a character, a tendency to talk like he is in a movie when doing heist, saying quotable stuff. You see him saying the saying the quotable line “You forget a thousand things everyday. Make sure this is one of ’em.” in both the “Prolouge” (Seen here at 2:15: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiBBx24eiOw) and “The Jewel Store Job” (at 5:40 in this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R1KbuBlg68&t=1s). In the second case, the cop repeats the qoute on TV, where Trevor sees it (NSFW Seen at 1:45 in and talked about at 14:15 in this video: NSFW https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo2JQ1v1zEU NSFW).

    7. Catiff says:

      News footage from the heist. Though they’re wearing ski masks, Michael says a line that he always uses, when bumping into someone on the street as he comes out of the jewelry shop. Trevor recognizes it when he hears it on the news. Que everything else happening to “Wrap up loose ends” before he heads to Los Santos to kill Michael.

  4. JDMM says:

    You make a lot of comments on the story structure of the heists but what about the gameplay structure?

    I’ve not yet finished all of the heists but I’ve read some reviews and such and they match up with my experience so far which is there’s a sort of Championship Manager character selection at the start which sort of doesn’t work out

    There’s not enough heists to justify building up the incompetent guy building up his stats and even if there were the payoffs just sort of aren’t high enough to justify it. Why not take Grant McExpert who takes 15% as opposed to Michael d’Imnotanygood at 7% when that 8% doesn’t really mean anything? Sure you’ll have more cash to… The big Heist at the end gives all the money you’d want to buy all the properties so like we’re getting some money faster?

    I don’t know, it just seems like the money thing and cuts should have had some bigger sort of thinking into them such that players would want to exploit the heists

    1. Gethsemani says:

      The whole thing is basically a false choice. The “budget” crew members will invariably screw up their tasks, which has negative consequences depending on which heist you are on, and they will always screw up, no matter if you “leveled them” or not. In the case of the jewelry heist, it is particularly bad because the budget gunman will crash his bike and make you lose 1/3rd of the score, so you are not really making a choice between 7% or 15% you are making a choice between 33% or 15%. The “special” crew members, like Packie from GTA IV, will also be universally better at the task then the expensive choice. This is particularly notable if you get the special getaway driver prior to the FIB heist, where she will procure an ambulance as a getaway vehicle, thus removing an entire car chase section (the budget guy will get you a sedan, the expensive one a sports car).

      On paper it is excellent and during your first playthrough you are likely to sweat these decisions, but it is mostly illusions and once you figure out what the game does, the choices become a lot less fun and more like flowcharts with very clear best choices.

      1. GoStu says:

        That’s REALLY depressing but sounds consistent with the game and series as a whole. Having a false choice presented like that just stinks of arbitrary punishment.

        The idea of building up your crews in number and experience sounds like a fantastic core to swing a Grand Theft Auto game on. Undermining it like that with false choice sucks a big one.

      2. Shamus says:

        I did not know this.

        How disappointing.

    2. Guest says:

      It doesn’t even work like that. The 8% does mean something, and min-maxing can pay off with the investment minigame. It turns out the stats don’t necessarily apply. Some characters are just fated to crash their motorcycles etc. So there’s no good reason not to just look up who the best crew for the heist is, because there is almost always one, who’s cheapest, and doesn’t really negatively effect the heist. Like, the cheap driver on the Jewelry store gets sport bikes instead of dirt bikes, which is a pretty minor difference.

      As was pointed out, the special crew members are just straight OP, take small cuts, and do their jobs perfectly. So, conversely, it doesn’t matter taking high skilled characters, you just take special recruits, or someone who doesn’t have a scripted screw up that loses you money.

  5. The Wind King says:

    “We wipes out the rival meth-producing gang the O’Neil Brothers.”

    Little bit of your inner Smeagol showing through

    1. Shamus says:

      Typos. We hates them forever.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        This made me smile way too much…

  6. Redrock says:

    Huh. The funny thing is, until you spelled out how this quest ends, I swear I remembered it as something along the lines of them finding some useless junk instead of a big score. Huh, Shows just how few of the fine details of the story actually stuck in my memory. And how much better that idea fits compared to the super-weapon bullshit.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I have this, too.
      I often find myself forgetting a plot twist, or how a film ended, and then substitute something else (that’s better, or makes more sense) in. Then, when I see the film again, I’m like ‘oh yeah, that’s what happened.’
      Sometimes I just forget I’ve seen the end and assume I stopped watching halfway through.

      Anyway, I’m assuming the super-weapon Trevor steals leads to the sideplot about the two feuding government agencies?

      1. Shamus says:

        “Anyway, I’m assuming the super-weapon Trevor steals leads to the sideplot about the two feuding government agencies?”

        That is a very sensible assumption!

        It’s also wrong. It never comes up again.

        1. Hector says:

          That is…

          What?

          They lob a setup like that and never make use of it? That’s like Chekov’s Railgun!

          You can’t introduce superweapons into a story and never use them! The audience loves seeing stuff blow up, as long as it isn’t nuclear weapons. And if it is nuclear weapons, you give a character a nightmare sequence so you can see the superweapon exploding and everyone can sagely agree that This Is Very Bad. The whole point of having gigantic superweapons in a movie is so we can have the anticipation/fear of them being used, preferably with personal stakes to raise tension and the thrill of seeing a protagonist’s clever trick used to thwart the antogonist.

  7. Hal says:

    Wait, I’m confused. Is Lester Michael’s guy, or Trevor’s guy?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m really regretting not covering this story in some sort of chronological order like I usually do. I can see my analysis is hard to follow for people that haven’t played the game. Sorry.

      Lester is kinda his own guy. The story hints that he’s got his own projects outside of the events of the game. However, he mostly works with Michael.

      1. Roofstone says:

        Yeah you learn more about the stuff Lester is up to in Online, which up until recent patches was a prequel to the story. Lester does a lot of work with your online character. Including two heists.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      As I remember it, both Michael and Trevor used to work with Lester before the events of the game, so they both approach him for help.

  8. Abnaxis says:

    Sure, your writing might make for a better story, but it doesn’t PUSH BOUNDARIES. Trevor’s ass is truly testing the LIMITS of what you can do with ART!

    Your solution is just the droll every other hack writer comes up with…

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Isn’t it Lester’s ass?

      1. BlueHorus says:

        The ambiguity about who’s ass it is just adds to the artistic value! Owned asses are so yesterday!

        (Yes, it’s Lester’s ass.)

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          Hey, I like my donkeys.

  9. Nixorbo says:

    The Italian Job

    Which one?

    1. Shamus says:

      The remake, I’m sure.

      I haven’t seen the original. I guess I need to stop waiting for it to show up on Netflix and just buy the damn thing.

  10. Steve C says:

    Floor cleaner. Trevor’s score should have been a big shipment of floor cleaner. It is both funny and a direct reference to Buffalo Soldiers. A movie about criminals pulling scams in the army.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Having stolen a truckload of boots also has potential. Like Trevor annoying everyone by trying to give them boots for the entire game, or a terrible plan to smuggle meth using them.

      Client: ‘This meth smells like old feet! I ain’t takin’ this!*’
      Trevor: ‘FUCK YOOOUUUU!’
      Cue shootout, bloodbath, and another in-gameplay example of Why Trevor Shouldn’t Be In Charge.

      *Yes, I’m sure most methheads aren’t actually discerning enough to care about the smell of old feet.
      Related fun fact: due to Breaking Bad’s (made-up) ‘blue glass’ meth, real-life dealers decided to add blue food colouring to their product in order to make it sell better. So BB actually made meth even worse for people for a bit.

      1. Shamus says:

        My attempt to make it work:

        Once they’ve escaped the scene, they get to the meeting point and Trevor gleefully begins bashing open the stolen crates. Then he sees the boots and freaks out that the world has pulled this cruel trick on him.

        Everyone else is too terrified of Trevor to speak, but Michael explains that just because the army locks stuff up and guards it doesn’t mean its treasure.

        “FINE!” Trevor screams, trying to save himself from the embarrassment of running this job. “FINE! We can still use the boots!” He throws a handful of them at Wade. “There! You’ll never have to buy another pair of shoes for the rest of your life! You’re welcome.”

        He decides to put on some boots to show how everything is fine and he’s totally happy with the take, even though he’s still boiling with rage. He starts holding various boots up to his foot, looking for ones that fit. This goes on for a few seconds while everyone looks at each other nervously.

        Finally Trevor yells, “Why are all these boots so fucking SMALL?!?! Are they recruiting out of middle school now?”

        Wade looks at the bottom of his boot, “Uh, Trevor? Says here these is women’s boots.”

        Trevor does some sort of freak-out and we cut away to leave most of it to the audience’s imagination. The post-heist screen pops up like it always does, except here all the dollar values are replaced by $boots. Like:

        Michael’s Share: $boots
        Crew Share: $boots

        And so on. Then for the rest of the game, all of Trevor’s locations will have these heaps of boots in the background. The airfield. His trailer. The manager’s office at the strip club.

        That’s how I’d do it, anyway.

        1. Chris says:

          Damn it, I really need to buy a copy of Witch Watch.

        2. Attercap says:

          It’s at these moments I wish you had upvoting on you commenting system. That just fits so much better than the current heist’s end and without sacrificing character… Bonus points for making me hear Wade’s voice in my head.

        3. Karma The Alligator says:

          I’d actually love to see this.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      I’m legitimately surprised it wasn’t MREs. That would have given Rockstar a chance to ‘satirize’ non-military people who might want to buy them.

  11. Tizzy says:

    I remember in the GTA3 days (last time I could be bothered putting up with the series) being frustrated that I could never prep for a mission. Like knowing that I’d need to make a fast getaway, but any car I nicked and parked nearby would be wiped when the mission started

    1. BlueHorus says:

      But it’s more cinematic to have to grab the nearest passing car, like some jackass who doesn’t know how to make plans!
      And don’t forget to crash into the fruit stand, the two men carrying a sheet of glass and the ladder with a guy at the top of it during the getaway!

      No, seriously, don’t forget. If you do, we’ll fail the mission and make you do it properly.

  12. Joshua says:

    Yeah, it does sound like the reveal that Michael’s still alive should have come after you’d played Trevor to know how scary he plus how he’s not a good leader.

  13. Darren says:

    Heists are a seriously under-explored area for games. I’m trying to think of games that really make use of the conceit. The Sly Cooper games–specifically beginning with Sly 2–did a good job with them, though they were very linear and involved no choice.

    Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory had a great bank robbery level, as did Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, but those games aren’t really about heists.

    Monaco and Thief leap to mind, but I’ve never played them and don’t know how they approach the concept.

    Any others?

    1. Abnaxis says:

      Isn’t Payday 100% about heists?

      Also, as someone who never played GTA past a tiny bit of GTA III, most of the time when I see it come up on streams or YouTubes or whatever, it’s people doing heists in the online multiplayer mode. Is there more of a focus on heists in GTA Online?

      1. Shamus says:

        I’d say Payday is about heists in the same way that Call of Duty is about foreign policy. Okay, that’s the root cause of the action on screen, but it’s not really what you DO in the game.

        GTA heists feel like [they could be] a heist move. Payday is designed to be a shootout from a heist movie.

        GTA can offer the full story: The inciting incident that necessitates the job. The scouting. The recruiting. The planning. The infiltration. The shootout. The car chase. The double-cross. The showdown. The victory. The celebration / payoff. Payday is just infiltration & shootout.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          I disagree with that a bit on Payday. You can pay extra money to supply extra equipment for the heist. Choose your skills and the skills of your team members to plan better for the heist, do a completely stealthy heist that trips no alarms, and go after extra money objectives for extra risks, or just try to leave as quickly as possible. There’s also heists that have unexpected complications crop up to add more levels, whether that be a car crash or needing to interrogate someone on site to actually complete the thing. The meat of a normal heist might be a defensive gunfight, but there’s decent depth to what you can do. I like that killing civilians is unprofessional and costs you, while capturing them and using them as bargaining chips can be a boon to your efforts.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Yeah, that was my impression from the gameplay I’ve seen. It always seems like it can devolve into a mass shoot-out, but that rolling out planning to shoot your way out of every situation is like going for a full frontal assault for a Hitman game–it’s a valid way to play, but not really intended

      2. Guest says:

        I think Payday 1 was mostly a Left 4 Dead horde shooter. I don’t know how stealthable it is. There might be more.

        Payday 2 has a lot of heists that allow full stealth runs, and are very similar to GTAV heists. There’s even a jewellery store heist like the GTA one, where you can just shoot the place up, or sneak in, take the guards hostage, before robbing the place. I actually really liked this system, some of the perks were a lot of fun in particular, like, there was a skilltree that allowed you to make civilians drop and stay when you fired an unsupressed weapon. There are still some straight out slufests, and a lot of missions can devolve into them, but when the stealth really works it’s really good.

    2. John says:

      Satellite Reign is all about heists. It’s an open-world, free-form, RTS-ish, cyberpunk heist game. Almost everything you do in Satellite Reign is a heist of some sort, even, arguably, the final boss fight. It’s a mechanically-driven game, however, and the narrative is sparser than sparse. If you’re looking for heists, you’re good. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for, say, a cinematic experience, a heist movie in game form, you’re out of luck.

      I love it. I love the flexibility of the open world. I love upgrading my squad to suit my preferred style of play. I love working out heists recursively. “Let’s see, I need to get my Infiltrator into Building X. To get to Building X, I’ll need to short-circuit Gate A. I could wait for the patrols to pass and then disable Camera B or . . .” I might enjoy a slightly more substantial narrative, but I’d rather have a sparse narrative than a non-sparse one that sucks.

    3. Nimrandir says:

      The corp runs in the Sega Genesis version of Shadowrun might qualify. You had to pick a team and decide on a strategy once you were in the building.

      I mean, they weren’t really deep. Most were pretty easy to break simply by having a spellcaster with invisibility or a decker who could crash the site’s computer system. They were pretty directly heists, though.

      1. guy says:

        The new Shadowrun game does it a bit, but aside from the overarching narrative where your end goal is to storm some fortress and the plot missions are largely about laying the groundwork for it the prep phase is pretty abbreviated. You grab a team, catch a train or something to go to the neighborhood, and figure it out from there and this almost invariably ends with a shootout with a High Threat Response Team or a vampire of great and terrible power and her minions and long years of experience in Accounting. She’s, uh, new to this.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I haven’t played much of Shadowrun Returns, though I enjoyed it. I got the feeling it was more akin to the SNES game than the Genesis variant. I always got a kick out of how different games with the same name could be in the 16-bit era.

          1. guy says:

            Dragonfall and Hong Kong make the pre-run stuff more complex as well as having more of a “grand heist” plot structure; in those two shortly after the prologue mission you identify the target for the climactic run; a mansion in Dragonfall with an abnormally massive security force and where the Matrix defenses instantly murder deckers and a corporate HQ in Hong Kong. But you’re just obviously not going to be able to hit them outright so you need to do a bunch of prepatory runs to get intel and remove key parts of the defenses like the super-ICE of unstoppable murder (several deckers help research what’s up with that; you get the answer before you run out of deckers)

            The runs are also better about having more approaches and additional ways to bypass/weaken defenses once you get to the neighborhood, but you have to depend on Mr. Johnson to handle scheduling the attacks at the right time to take advantage of an opportunity, as well as screwing up and overlooking a key element that nearly gets the team killed. So some of the full heist experience is missing.

            1. guy says:

              Speaking of Shadowrun, I happen to own one where a heist has the insufficently-researched target thing, where the crew hits a truck convoy, figuring its cargo manifest must be falsified, kills the guards including a shaman and spirit, and drives off with the main truck. Then they crack open the crates and determine that no, actually the manifest was legit, it’s a truck full of consumer electronics. Shitty ones.

              Of course, these being Shadowrunners, the reaction of most of them is a shrug because they got a flat rate for hitting the convoy and Mr. Johnson lets them keep the cargo so they fence it to double their payday and move on with their lives. The protagonist isn’t willing to leave well enough alone, though, and goes poking around to figure out why the hell anyone would pay them to steal a truckload of electronics and then not even keep it. This leads to the revalation that they’re actually part of phase 1 of an elaborate scheme to take the Seattle policing contract away from Lone Star, followed by the team getting back together and stealing a truckload of top-end firearms (the grand scheme called for the truckload to be stolen by someone else).

    4. Philadelphus says:

      Monaco’s pretty good. It’s kinda like Magicka except with bank robberies and criminal stereotypes as classes rather than crazy wizards: both are primarily co-op oriented games with a ridiculously high skill ceiling but also a pretty high tolerance for failure. Which is to say, it’s possible to play both of them pretty much perfectly; in reality things usually devolve into hilarious slapstick comedy for people with less than, say, thirty hours of experience.

      I guess with Monaco each level is a scripted story experience, so there’s no real element of preparation other than what you can do on the level itself before someone inevitably trips an alarm or gets bored and shoots a guard. So if you wanted that aspect of a heist it doesn’t really have it.

  14. King Marth says:

    Only ever really interacted with GTAV through this series and Achievement Hunters heists, it’s surprising to me that this was actually a mechanic since I first saw it via the parody where a getaway tank was prepared for a corner store robbery.

    I like that Trevor succeeded at stealing something as that shows he is effective, though I agree that it’d be cleaner to have stolen something worthless rather than giving the superweapon back. Trevor executes on what he does, but left to his own devices he has no idea of which direction to go.

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    I love the heists, and I hope they do make a return, but with a more ample presence and less false choices.

    Side note: Rockstar’s patented “reference = humor” style rears its ugly head again in Trevor’s start missions. There are a lot of references to Breaking Bad, but that’s all they are, references. The game doesn’t do anything with them, it doesn’t work to subvert them or exaggerate them. It’s like those missions in Champions Online where the newscasters are all expys of Ron Burgundy and his pals and all they do is stand around looking similar and occasionally repeating the same dialogue from their film counterparts.

    The one exception seems to be the teddy bear missing an eye, since it’s that way because Trevor uses it as a fleshlight. It’s not high-brow quality humor, but at least is something.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      That’s sad, because Breaking Bad was funny. Really, really funny. And that dark, absurd humor would have fit into a GTA game so perfectly.

  16. guy says:

    Wait, they had someone incompetently execute a heist without knowing what they were after and then they actually got something useful? And then you don’t get any money?

    I mean, if the point is to show Trevor is incompetent and short-sighted it should either just fail or steal something worthless. Or alternately something worth some petty amount of cash so the player has something to show for it but it’s still disappointing.

    Hell, they could even just have it end a bit differently by having Trevor realize it’s a valuable superweapon and then failing to progress to step 2 of “oh shit they’ll want it back” and then the next several missions go sour when Delta Force interrupts a bank robbery because they really want it back.

    1. Syal says:

      Another possibilty; Trevor pulls of the heist, but gets his face on camera and ends up on the news. Then you can have your news moment with Trevor going “oh shit, Michael’s alive!”, and then have a second news moment with Michael going “oh shit, Trevor’s in town!”.

      1. guy says:

        Well if the heist is to establish that Trevor is lost without Michael it has to go horribly, horribly awry in some fashion. Just a mugshot wouldn’t cut it there.

        1. Syal says:

          I think showing he’s not good enough to get away clean would be fine, that’s a pretty important part of pulling heists long-term. Of course you’d either want follow-up missions with complications stemming from it, or some throwaway lines that no one in Los Santos cares who’s wanted or not.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      having Trevor realize it’s a valuable superweapon and then failing to progress to step 2 of “oh shit they’ll want it back”

      I can picture him posting it on a message board somewhere:
      ‘4 sale: 1 experimental railgun or something. Cheap. Contact Trev 4 details.’

      The next day, he’s woken up by Delta Force operatives kicking his door down.

    3. Guest says:

      Plus, you can end up with the issue where the game doesn’t load from the correct save, and you end up repeating it. That long helicopter ride does not get better with age, and the ending gets worse every time.

  17. Redrock says:

    One thing that kinda undermined the heists for me was the fact that the best way to actually make money in the game still was taking advantage of the stock market through Franklin’s assassinations. I don’t recall the actual numbers, but I remember that careful stock investment paid much, much more, to the point of making the heists irrelevant in terms of money. Kinda like The Witcher 3 and its meaningless witcher contract rewards.

    1. guy says:

      To be fair murdering people to make a killing on the stock market is basically the peak of committing crimes to make money. It’s even combining multiple crimes in one package.

      1. Redrock says:

        Could be a funny joke. Like how no one cares about the murders, but the SEC or some such agency come down like a brick wall on Franklin for insider trading and proceed to be the game’s most terrifying adversaries. You wanna murder? Ok. But you don’t. Mess. With. The stock market.

  18. ElementalAlchemist says:

    I think the next batch of movies it rips off should be the likes of Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job, Snatch, Ronin, Logan Lucky, and Heat

    They already used two of those. The “Blitz Play” heist is literally lifted whole cloth from Heat (I’d also argue that Trevor probably owes at least elements of his character design/personality to Waingro). The prequel bank heist also has some nods to the final bank heist in Heat. The Italian Job gets two separate nods. The first is the jewellery store heist, splitting the loot between three vehicles and using the sewers to escape. The second is one of the options for the final gold depository heist, where you can load up three cars with the gold and hack a transport computer to manipulate traffic to escape (I’m only familiar with the original Michael Cain Italian Job, not sure what the remake does).

    1. SharpeRifle says:

      Pretty similar actually though the remake is a straight up heist as opposed to a comedy caper as the original was.
      Instead of pulling the “Italian Job” that’s a heist at the beginning where they get betrayed and spend the rest of the movie getting the gold back from the betrayer….but that second heist in LA follows the general heist flow from the first ,stop armor truck escape through streets, subways, waterways ,and sewers using control of traffic system thanks to leet hackzors skills! the main difference is it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.

  19. It could be even funnier if, instead of something valueless, it was something that has no *monetary* value, like a shipment of drugs to combat an outbreak of a deadly disease in a war zone. That’s valuable and it makes sense that the government would have soldiers transporting and guarding it, but . . . how can you SELL something like that?! Okay, theoretically you could probably find some warlord or someone who stands to profit from controlling the medication, but would crooks have those kinds of international contacts? Do they have the kind of clout to make the exchange without the warlord just murdering them and taking the drugs?

    And if you want REAL comedy, you could then have it be more or less impossible to “give” the drugs back, or hide them effectively, or sell them, and meanwhile there are a bunch of pissed-off military types who want Trevor’s ass, so he finally winds up fleeing the city because this failed heist has ruined him.

    Plus, the shipment being drugs kinda ties back into Trevor’s meth empire, so you could maintain a more consistent line throughout.

    1. guy says:

      Well, you probably know a guy who knows a guy and can get like 5% of the value. Though it’d also be fitting to steal one of those drugs that has to be kept refrigerated or otherwise requires special handling, so it’s worth a fortune- if Trevor had brought liquid nitrogen canisters so it’d survive the trip.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Well, ‘Lester’ knows a guy who knows a guy. And Trevor did know a guy, but killed him over some meth a couple of missions ago. Again, there’s lots of potential.

        Trevor and crew are looking at a large stack of cardboard boxes.
        Guy reading side of box: Phelynaxi-cloro…codixano – What the hell is this stuff?
        2nd Guy: Shit, it’s some kind of drug. Like a medicine. Maybe Steve knows what it is? We should call him.
        Camera pans over to Trevor, looking frustrated. Holds on him for second.
        Trevor (thinking): Steve…

        Cut to a sepia-toned flashback of a previous mission, where Trevor shot a guy in a warehouse with several other people watching.
        Past Trevor: Anyone else think they should be paid more because they’re a fuckin’ pharmacist?

        Cut back to present.
        Trevor: …fuck.

        1. guy says:

          I’m sure that anyone who can assemble a heist crew can sell stolen drugs to someone or other. But it’d be easy to have a contrast between Trevor and Michael drug heists; Michael lines up a dealer to buy them in advance and sells them for a decent cut of the street value; Trevor doesn’t, has to basically say “anyone want some drugs?” and find some guy who will resell them to some other guy who will sell them to a dealer and Trevor gets like three bucks for a bottle with a street value in the hundreds.

          I mean, drugs have various legal and logistical restrictions on their supply and there’s basically always someone who will pay vastly more than their label price because they can’t just buy them, but that person might be in Africa if it’s not Schedule 2.

  20. Vect says:

    Another case of Trevor screwing up a heist is the “Series A” heists in GTA Online. In it, Trevor hires the player characters to steal drugs from various gangs in order to fund his criminal empire. In the end, he manages to get his drugs, but loses it all after getting caught in a drug bust that forces him to run for his life. The final cutscene is him bashing his head against a tree in frustration and weeping pathetically.

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