A brief history of Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA Online
Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA Online are colossal open-world experiences containing a dizzying amount of things to see and do. You could say that there are too many features to list, but we're going to do it anyway - and supply guides on how to ace all of these game mechanics too. If you were ever wondering how to do something in GTA 5, or how to do it better, we'll have the answer for that below (or somewhere on the site).
Grand Theft Auto 5 (Story)
GTA 5 is the latest game in the long-running Grand Theft Auto series. Returning to Los Santos, which also appeared in GTA: San Andreas, the feature-rich open-world action adventure game follows the criminal exploits of Franklin Clinton, Michael De Santa and Trevor Phillips as they plan and pull a number of daring heists while getting mixed up in conflicts that run much deeper. When not playing story missions depicting their various escapades, you can spend time managing their businesses, playing side-missions, engaging in common criminal activity, hunting collectibles, and seeing the sights while taking fancy looking screenshots.
GTA Online (Multiplayer)
Once the possibilities of GTA 5 have been exhausted - or you're just more of a multiplayer person - there is a whole other side of this world to explore. Stepping over to GTA Online, you get to create your own character and hop into a pseudo-MMO that takes place in the same map, but with completely different activities and features, which have been expanded with several DLC packs over the years, big and small. Though fundamentally the same in broad strokes, there are several key differences between the two modes that change how you approach them as a player. We're going to take a look at everything both have to offer.
Expanded and Enhanced
On March 15, 2022 alongside the release of the Expanded & Enhanced port, GTA Online underwent what just may be the most significant transformation and change in its history - going standalone. Unshackled from the main, singleplayer experience, Online will live an independent life as a dedicated multiplayer game. Between this and its ever increasing popularity even after all this years, it is reasonable to assume that going standalone is a deliberate move to ensure that Online will outlive GTA 5, and will continue to be supported even once the franchise moves on - provided it'll still have the playerbase to warrant it. As things now stand, it definitely will.
Expanded and Enhanced also brought a wide array of improvements to both Online and Story Mode, including graphical enhancements, new content, UI overhauls, technical improvements and more.
GTA 5 and Online can be a lot to process for new players. The developers, Rockstar Games, did a good job of easing you into new features and providing tutorials, but it can still be rather intimidating. To get a better idea of the characters you'll be controlling - since there are three of them - you can check out our guide on Franklin, Michael and Trevor. Get familiar with them, because you'll be spending a lot of time together! After you have completed the prologue in the game, you'll be transported from chilly North Yankton to Los Santos and Blaine County, the huge open world the rest of the game takes place in. Since the map is massive, it's best to keep our interactive map handy so you never get lost.
When playing, you'll notice that a lot of features work through the in-game smartphone. All three characters - and your GTA Online protagonist - have access to their phones basically all the time, and it acts as a secondary menu. Alongside the numerous apps present on the phone and that are used for missions, buying items or adding backstory and lore fluff, you can actually call people too - or get incoming calls. It's handy to know what numbers mean who is calling, though usually there is ID attached to make things simpler.
Some of you may choose to jump into GTA Online immediately after playing through the tutorial, skipping the story mode entirely. While we discourage this, we also can't stop you, so GTA Online guides covering the more basic elements of the game will be referenced here too. For those of you who have some mileage in the game already and will understand GTA-specific terms, our general use story mode hints and tips - and the GTA Online equivalent - will definitely come in handy!
Point of View
If you are playing GTA 5 on newer platforms - meaning anything other than the PS3 or Xbox 360 - you can switch over to first person view. The default is third person, and both modes have some advantages and drawbacks. Check out our guide to decide which works best for you.
You'll be doing a lot of fighting in GTA 5 and Online, and can expect more of a challenge in the latter when facing other players. Combat mostly involves shooting, but there are some melee weapons available, and you can get into fisticuffs as well. It pays to know your way around the mechanics and weapons very well.
Shooting is pretty standard fare in both third and first-person perspectives. You can aim down sights, switch between guns and reload without losing the bullets in the mag you toss if it isn't empty. There is a weapon customization feature, and several categories with various weapon types having their own ammunition.
The game has a large arsenal of weapons waiting to be picked up, bought or unlocked (the exceptionally powerful Railgun has its own separate process for this). When running around the open world, there's danger lying in wait in every corner, especially in Online where experienced players prey on newbies all the time, but you can get jumped by hostile NPCs during random events in story mode, too. Griefing is a constant problem in the multiplayer mode, usually done with the Hydra jet or other flying vehicles.
Fighting against other players in GTA Online is significantly different and more challenging than facing down the NPC opponents - except when they're the police, since the LSPD is apparently staffed entirely by omnipotent robocops who always know where you are and what you are doing - and will require different tactics and strategies, depending on game mode.
Vehicles are a huge part of GTA 5 and Online - the "auto" in the name sort of gives it away - with many game modes and missions revolving around driving and piloting various cars, planes, boats, bikes, helicopters, tanks and more. Sometimes vehicles are the key to success in certain situations, so it pays off to know your way around.
In story mode, vehicles generally matter only as far as your personal preferences are concerned. If a mission needs a specific vehicle, it is likely provided, or you already went about acquiring it in a previous mission. With enough money in your pockets - and we'll get to that later - you'll be able to buy any car you fancy for when you're just cruising around the open world, and naturally you can also steal them.
That said, just how much of a pounding a vehicle can take is important to know, as it can mean the difference between life and death - in Online as much as in story mode. If you like to make your own fun in GTA 5, there are plenty of scenic and hidden routes throughout the vast map that are interesting to explore and make for lovely photos. If you're one for off-roading, there are many lesser known trails around the north half of the map - some of which may be useful for sneaky, indirect approaches towards objectives in certain missions.
In Online, cars are more of a commodity, and finding specific models when certain missions call for them isn't as simple. Repo Work, where you'll hunt certain cars down for a character called Simeon, doesn't mark the car exactly on your map. It's useful to know where certain types of vehicles naturally spawn in the GTA Online map to make these missions easier.
Of course, there is also the eternal question of which car is 'best'. Since Online's already large library of vehicles just keeps growing with each DLC, the answer for this hasn't been the same as in story mode for years now. Whether you are thinking about dominating races or looking for the best getaway car, there is always a perfect car for the job. It just keeps changing.
Throughout GTA 5's storyline you'll encounter all sorts of mission types. Some will be mandatory for progressing in the story, others won't be. Some will include fighting, some will include driving, and some will be large, complex affairs like heists. Different mission types will feature different kinds of mechanics and objectives, which the game helpfully displays, but things are occasionally a bit more complex than usual.
The main missions that move the overall story plot forward in the most significant manner are the heists your plucky crew meticulously plans. These fall into the more complex category, and sometimes you might need a bit of help to get the best results.
As mentioned before, the content doesn't end with story missions though. If you are a completionist gunning for 100% Completion, or want to unlock all the Achievements - there are plenty! - then you'll sooner or later run into random events and side missions, like the murder mystery Michael gets mixed up in.
In terms of game mechanics, the interaction between the in-game stock market and Lester's Assassination Missions may be the most complex, but if you play your cards right you'll be swimming in cash.
Progression in GTA Online works a little differently, since there is no overarching narrative tying things together or dictating pace. You can do anything anytime, provided you have enough money. This can be more than a little daunting, since there is so much you can do in Online. When the game plops you into the open world after the tutorial with a million icons on your map, it's easy to get lost.
When starting out in GTA Online for the first time, it helps to know a few things about the game and buy a few key items, after which you can begin your long journey through the game's wealth of content in earnest.
As you climb the ranks by gaining RP or Rank Points by doing... well, basically anything at all, you'll steadily begin to unlock new items and weapons.
Different activities will level up your various stats, all of which give you some kind of gameplay advantage, so it's a good idea to try and max these out as soon as possible. Though it may be tempting to jump headfirst into the newest and most lucrative content, you'll probably not have the funds for that starting out, and getting familiar with the simpler content - including jobs, races, contact missions and side activities like repossessing cars for Simeon - can be a good launchpad prior to getting into the more complex activities.
Heists were introduced to GTA Online via DLC, and though many popular and game-changing DLCs have followed, they still remain relevant to this day, and should be your number one way of getting money before you jump into the world of businesses. If you don't have a crew or group of friends, it may be daunting, but heisting with randoms isn't so bad. While Rockstar took things in a business-related direction for a while, between The Doomsday Heist, The Diamond Casino Heist and The Cayo Perico Heist, heists have once again entered the high-earning endgame content category. While still not quite competitive with efficiently run businesses, they're definitively viable ways to earn in-game, and with Cayo Perico, you can even do it solo.
Expanding on Cayo Perico's new solo trappings was late 2021's biggest DLC, The Contract, which brought a new depth of story content to the multiplayer mode, putting a solo narrative experience to the forefront.
Alongside these more serious "main" activities, you can also faff around in GTA Online even more than in story mode. There are a bunch of jumping challenges spread throughout the map, or you can hook up with VIPs and CEOs as a bodyguard or associate to earn something of a stable salary. Daily Objectives rotate every 24 hours and help spice up your sessions, with ample rewards for players diligently completing them all.
Once you do reach the heights of white collar crime and start grinding businesses, it will save you time and some gray hairs to circumvent the private lobby restrictions by loading into your own solo public session.