Grand Theft Auto V: The Making of a Great Heist Sequence

The three-protagonist structure of Grand Theft Auto V allows for the most complex, cinematic missions in the series' history.

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What makes a good heist sequence so exciting? Not the kinds of elegant, stealthy heists that you might see in films like The Thomas Crown Affair or that you might pull off in Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine. Think more along the lines of the bold, explosive heists that you see in films like Michael Mann's Los Angeles crime epic Heat.

Sequences like these often end up involving gunfire, but that's not what separates a great heist scene from an average one. What really pulls you in to a scene like this is the sense of planning that the criminals have put into it, the awareness of all the coordinated, moving pieces that have to work together to pull the job off successfully, and the tension of not knowing if things will go off without a hitch, or if everything will fall apart. This is the kind of heist sequence that GTA V aims to let you experience.

In Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar wants money to be more important than it has ever been before in the series. Sure, you'll be able to get your hands on some ducats by holding up liquor stores, robbing ATMs, and engaging in all sorts of other small-time crimes, but the payouts for such activities will be chump change compared to the big scores available to you through the game's big heists. These missions require planning and decision making, and have you switching between Michael, Franklin, and Trevor as they work together to pull off these jobs. By having multiple protagonists, each with his own tasks to perform, Grand Theft Auto V can keep you focused on the most dramatic parts of the heist.

By having multiple protagonists, each with his own tasks to perform, Grand Theft Auto V can keep you focused on the most dramatic parts of the heist.

Though it's not one of the large-scale, full-blown heists that come later in the game, an early mission called Blitz Play was a promising taste of what might come later. Before you can pull off this mission, which owes more than a little to the armored car robbery that takes place early in the film Heat, you need to acquire some vehicles, outfits, masks, and other supplies, and park your getaway car in some isolated spot. The dramatic buildup of this preparation should, in true cinematic style, pay off during the job itself. (After all, the armored car job in Heat wouldn't be quite as exciting without the buildup of seeing De Niro steal the ambulance, Kilmer buy the explosives, and so on.)

Once all the preparations have been made, it's go time. As Trevor, you're a lookout, searching for an armored car and letting your cohorts know when it's approaching. As Michael, you park a truck across the road, forcing the armored car to come to a stop. As Franklin, you then speed down an alleyway in a dump truck and run the armored car down, knocking it over. You then plant a bomb on the rear doors of the truck and blow the thing open.

It doesn't take long for the cops to show up. Franklin, Trevor, and Michael must work together to get out of there alive, and you can switch between them on the fly to most effectively extricate yourself from the situation. From Trevor's lookout post, for instance, you can fire on the cops with a sniper rifle, offering support to Franklin, who the cops have hemmed in. Your counterparts can fend for themselves when you're not controlling them, but they'll typically leave the really exciting stuff to you. When an opportunity arises to shoot down a police helicopter with a rocket launcher, the game encourages you to switch to that character and do it yourself, rather than letting it happen offscreen.

Instead of just playing through an action sequence that might remind you of a scene from one of your favorite crime films, you might get to do something closer to designing your own incredible heist sequence.

The Blitz Play mission provided a sense of the potential excitement that the three-protagonist structure can generate. The freedom to experience a coordinated plan of attack from the perspectives of three characters, each with his own parts to play, should allow for missions that are cinematic and layered in ways that significantly surpass anything the Grand Theft Auto series has been able to do in the past. The full-blown heist missions that come later in the game also let you take an active role in the planning, making decisions that will significantly impact how the heists play out. There might be multiple ways into a building, for instance, some being more stealthy and others being more confrontational.

For the bigger jobs, you'll also be able to build out your crew beyond just the three core protagonists, perhaps hiring additional drivers or other specialists who have their own skill levels and who take a cut of the overall score that's proportionate to their skills. Will you go with cheap help who take a smaller cut but might botch the job, or will you put together a costly but skillful group of seasoned professionals? Instead of just playing through an action sequence that might remind you of a scene from one of your favorite crime films, you might get to do something closer to designing your own incredible heist sequence. Eat your heart out, Michael Mann.

Want to know more about GTAV? Click here to read about the roles you can play while goofing around in the open-world sandbox.

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Discussion

245 comments
SunnySkyNL
SunnySkyNL

I have been waiting for something like this for so long! The Bank mission in GTA IV was one of the best missions in that game if not the best! But this is taking it to a whole nother level, the planning of it all, not just running in guns blazing. Even the simple things like choosing your teams outfits and masks is exciting, but checking more than just 1 way to get in, maybe hack the alarms before going in or even going in stealth in the middle of the night, in and out without anybody knowing you did it. Not sure if the last is an option too but it all sounds amazing. I am still hoping this game will come to the PS4 as well so I can play this game for the years to come when I feel like just playing a good heist far after I finished the whole game. I guess we will find out at E3 in june.

splinter10
splinter10

Dunno how people can argue over the internet for a good 30 comments.

GTA-Like_Fan
GTA-Like_Fan

Money more important ? Thats a great news, that's what I hate the most about games like this, they make it about money, all you do is to gain money but it can only pile up since there's barely nothing to buy.

I hope you can buy properties and businesses like in VC but on a larger scale.

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

The way this game is set up reminds me of a tarentino movie, where the plot is always interwoven through different characters in different situations all taking place at the same time.

p4kman88
p4kman88

i never understood that south park episode go god go....until now...

LonelyHippie27
LonelyHippie27

I hope for heists we can buy black suits and ties and some shades and reenact the jewel heist in reservoir dogs. THAT WOULD BE SO SICK! OMG think about it

kuda001
kuda001

Three different protagonists sounds very interesting.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

A lot of Three Leaf Clover like missions in GTA V? Fuck yea

LukeD420
LukeD420

@Morphine_OD go fuck yourself bro lol. why are you bitching about a game that hasn't even come out yet? Acting like you know everything that's gonna happen in the story lol...

smoothness33
smoothness33

People like to throw around the word "sequence," and strangely it's usually only used in connection with "heist."  Yet, can we say GTA5 has a heist sequence?  Especially if we consider that a sequence is a series of connected shots within a film (taken via a camera), can we say GTA5 has any shots?  Perhaps, it's more appropriate to say GTA 5's "heist portion of the game," or GTA 5's "heist story."  Ah well, I've wasted enough time typing out a bunch of useless stuff that doesn't matter, haha.

THizzle7XU
THizzle7XU

I think video game website editors are the only one who care that the character in the story is detached from just blowing stuff up and having fun. Nobody who is actually enjoying the game cares. The story is fun and cinematic and the freedom to mess around is just as fun. I'm not losing sleep over it like game editors apparently do.

It's a video game for fun that doesn't need to establish an artsy fartsy preachy narrative to "justify" why a character does what they do. I don't care about Michael's motivations when he's shooting a rocket launcher from the sky while he's parachuting out of a fighter jet. It's just fun.

razor_rj
razor_rj

i'm just gonna headcanon that the 3 characters are older verions of tony versetti, CJ and the guy from gta 3.

Atheosis
Atheosis

Sounds cool.  Too bad they dropped the ball when they decided to not allow this stuff to be done in coop.

splinter10
splinter10

In previous GTA's there was never a good reason not to use the money cheat, the money you earnt from activities weren't significant, and there was never anything much to spend money on. However if money is as important as i'm hearing, aka Tons of ways to earn it from stick ups to bank jobs, and theres tons of ways to spend it, including vehicles, clothes and property (meaningful/lucrative property like maybe buying a place and using it as a traphouse, maybe even paying the people who work there). Then I'll be happy earning my money, for as long as I play this game.

CrushedGear
CrushedGear

GTA 5 > GTA 4 > GTA Vice City > GTA San Andreas

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

The three protagonists aspect has me intrigued. Can't wait to get my hands on this!

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

I still don't get this whole 3 protagonists thing. It sounds very confusing. I don't even know how is it supposed to play out of the story missions. Will the other character spawn instead of my current one? Or will they always run together like a boys-band? I'd take a single-protagonist story over soap opera any day. EVERY kind of a story is centered around a single protagonist. 

Hell "protagonist" means the man with the first part. There can be no 3 "main" characters in any narrative, because the audience is supposed to feel empathy towards the central character, to feel intrigued about HIS story, to root for him. Having 3 protagonists is a fallacy, 3 protagonists means 3 characters to feel empathy for, in terms of a single story it's either impossible if they have conflicting motives, or totally redundant if their motives coincide.

Having 3 stories however means the game has only one protagonist per story, but has an overarching narrative. And this is totally different from having three "protagonists" because at any given time there is only one protagonist per story.

The only thing that can explain all this mess is three protagonists is nothing but a marketing gimmick and a supportive construct to excuse a gameplay gimmick designed only to differentiate from other titles in that market. I see totally no valid reasons of having to switch between 3 characters in a story heavy game set within a sandbox-world.

Tseng
Tseng

@smoothness33 The following of one thing after another, a continuous or connected series, a subsequent event.  All of these describe 'sequence'.  You are limiting the scope of the word, of course it isn't going to make sense.  The 'heist sequence' in a game would be the entirety of the time it takes the player to complete the heist from the moment it starts to the moment it ends.  The next sequence in the game would be another heist/a different mission.

xolivierx
xolivierx

@CrushedGear GTA4 was the worst of the serie. There just so much realism you can gobble before you barf. It had beautiful graphics thought, but a hell of a boring story and boring gameplay.

emfan457
emfan457

@Morphine_OD Protagonist does not mean "the single male main character." It means the people (male, female or otherwise) you're intended to root for. There's no rule that says there only has to be one. Many movies and TV shows have more than one protagonist. Many books often portray events from multiple perspectives. This is a common technique in entertainment and one that is not often explored in video games. I'm sorry if you can't keep up with multiple ambitions and desires, but most people can. So if anything, R* is breaking boundaries. I doubt they're going to follow you around the world--it seems as if they all have their own separate lives and stories which often do not overlap (watch the trailers).

And can you really see no valid reason why R* would want to do this? Maybe so they can tell an even bigger story? In this one game, you can experience Los Santos from three wildly different perspectives--a gangster, a rich corrupt married man, and a redneck drug dealer. Now instead of buying DLC to experience Liberty City from three perspectives, it's already built into the main game. That sounds amazing to me.

I don't know how anyone reads these articles or watches the trailers and isn't 100% sure this game is going to be perfect.

tonymoise
tonymoise

@Morphine_OD I personally like the idea of 3 "main" characters. It will be interesting to see different sides of Los Santos through their eyes. We will experience Street Life with Franklin, the gritty country lifestyle with Trevor and the woes of the Glamorous living with Michael.

I think it is different and exciting. I can't wait to play this gimmick.

yuval4597
yuval4597

@Morphine_OD Not all missions will involve all 3 characters, and not all heists either. What's wrong with 3 characters all having 3 different stories that connect at some points?

talamalopilis
talamalopilis

@Morphine_OD why can't there be 3 protagonists!!?? Have an open mind. Its people like you who are scared of change, are ruining creativity and media. thank god most of people like you are busy playing COD because that game doesn't change. If you were here GTA would be the same regurgitated crap year after year because people like you like that. Expand your mind, get an education, and move the world forward not spiralling into the drain. 

franizarduy
franizarduy

@Morphine_OD dont play it then. and let me tell yout taht you are wrong my friend, want some spoilers?

LonelyHippie27
LonelyHippie27

@xolivierx @CrushedGear For what it was I think it was alright. I still have fun on it to this day causing mayhem. Think about this though, IV was the first step into a more realistic scenario. They were putting their toes in the water to see what they could do. Granted the story line might have been a little far fetched and weird, but when hasn't a GTA game been that way?

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@emfan457 you're mixing it up with a narrator, or a focal character. Sure a family could be the protagonist, but it doesn't mean that every man in the family is a protagonist. If the trinity of characters is the protagonist, then each one of them is just a focal character. And no way R* is breaking boundaries - different playable characters experiencing the story from different perspectives was around for almost as long as the games existed.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@tonymoise well, before we've experienced all these sides before and didn't need 3 playable characters for that. Which is the definition of redundant.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@yuval4597 having 3 focal characters is not the same as having 3 protagonists. And what is the reason to have 3 focal characters if not all the missions (and it looks like the majority of them) will not have all three available? It's no different from any other game that has multiple playable characters (Hint Hint Jericho, FF, COD, any fighting game, RE etc etc.). 

Notice how none of them market itself as having multiple protagonists. And notice how seriously lacking are the stories that attempt to have no protagonist at all, substituting it for multiple focal characters.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@talamalopilis having an education taught me the meaning behind the word "protagonist" and it's difference from a focal character.

emfan457
emfan457

@Morphine_OD @emfan457 PS I just read your original comment and I have to add, do you really think GTA needs to "differentiate" itself from the other titles on the market? It can do that just by putting "Grand Theft Auto" in its title. They revolutionized the sandbox genre and consistently put out the most epic and well-received games in the genre. They could just put out GTA4 in Los Santos and it would still sell like crazy. If they do anything to the game, it's because they're trying to make it better.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@tonymoise so basically any new dude with a new name would mean a different perspective for you? I wish I was as gullible.

tonymoise
tonymoise

@Morphine_OD @tonymoise LOL....if you say so buddy. So you have played a GTA game with one or all of these characters? Although we may have seen all kinds of sides of Los Santos in a previous GGTV game, we didn't experience it from the perspective of GTA's new characters. So....NO....this is not a redundant gaming experience.


Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@Darkhearted91 I'm sure GTA5 will be a major hit, but "3 protagonists" thing is a marketing gimmick hands down.

Darkhearted91
Darkhearted91

@Morphine_OD @FourTurkeys Why are you even here then if you are so against GTA V and all its trying to do. Go be somewhere else cause no one is trying to listen to all they shit youre trying to spew everywhere.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@FourTurkeys yeah their gameplay is so amazingly different! Once in 10 minutes of same shooting and driving you get to perform different SPECIAL MOVES! And the characters are AI controlled when you're not doing it yourself. NOW THAT'S AN INNOVATION RIGHT THERE!

FourTurkeys
FourTurkeys

From a USA Today playthrough:

"Each character has a special ability and Michael's is on display here. He can stop time as he is shooting -- similar to Max Payne 3's bullet time -- making it easier for him to hit a target. The best driver of the group, Franklin slows time when driving at high speeds. Trevor flies into a rage in a special melee move that lets him deliver increased damage while taking less."

"At any time, the two characters not controlled by the player will not be sitting passively waiting to be reactivated, they will be getting on with their own lives. So the player might switch to Michael as he's shopping with his wife or to Trevor as he's being chased by the cops or Franklin as he's chilling in front of the TV."

This sounds like different abilities and unique lives to me. No more commenting from me - I don't respond well to trolls.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@yuval4597 @Morphine_OD have you read the previews? There will be no "own unique skills and abilities" bar 1 single skill, 95 percent of their skills and gameplay would be exactly the same. And playing for 3 same characters in an open world game is redundant. You only need at least one and then you're free to do whatever you want. And having multiple characters during linear plot missions is already beaten to death in other titles.

yuval4597
yuval4597

@Morphine_OD @yuval4597 I disagree with you, I think the story will be great and even more creative since this has never been done before. In all those other games you mentioned it wasn't a free world where you can just switch between characters whenever you want and they all have their own unique skills and lives.

Darkhearted91
Darkhearted91

@Morphine_OD @yuval4597 GTA V is telling a story of three people, you either want to play through it and marvel at the innovation if its good, ridicule it if the story is bad, or dont play it but dont be a chode to people for no damn reason. Im also an educated person but that in no way makes me smarter or a better person than anyone else here it just means I paid a shitload of money to gain knowledge to get a well paying job.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@Mistamayja nope, it has 4 parts, in each there is only ONE protagonist. The overarching story is quite bland - a tale about a family. This story is basically unreadable due to it's stream-of-consciousness style and I can bring thousands examples of a much better works that don't delve in post-modern writing techniques

Mistamayja
Mistamayja

@Morphine_OD @talamalopilis  A story can have more than one protagonist. I happen to be an English teacher and if you're looking for a story to support my claim read The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. It happens to be one of the greatest stories ever written and guess what THREE PROTAGONIST and one over arching story. GTA having multiple protagonist whets the appetites of multiple fans while delivering something varied and new. So why knock just wait for it to come out play and THEN form an opinion.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@JJB03 If you're sure GoT has many protagonists, then you could probably tell me it has multiple stories, which means GoT is no story on it's own, merely a framing narrative. I have no problems with calling them main characters, or focal characters, but I think GTA5 will be same stuff as GoT - multiple stories, every with it's own protagonists, with a framing narrative - a technique known since Decameron.

JJB03
JJB03

@Morphine_OD @blackmetalwar That still means the GoT story has more than one protagonist, and some of those protagonist have conflicting goals. Why be so quick to claim what GTA is doing to be a  marketing ploy or gimmick? It seems pretty clear by this article what R* intend to do with an ability to switch from one character to another, and just because their are three of them doesn't mean they have to be around each other all the time, maybe 'protagonist' is not the right word for them anyway perhaps main characters would be more suitable as one may turn out to be an antagonist half way through the story, surely its the narrative that dictates who is a protagonist or an antagonist at any given time in a story.   

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@blackmetalwar Each GoT subplot has a single protagonist. At no single point in the book or the show, a subplot has more than one protagonist.

blackmetalwar
blackmetalwar

@Morphine_OD @DisturbedFan789 Morphine, the perfect example to counter your entire speech above is Game of Thrones. Many central characters, with conflicting goals, and yet the story has a way of making the viewers empathize with opposing sides.

Your use of jargon does not hide a thin thesis, with little substantiation. By the way, a protagonist could be a woman, or a bat, or a f*cking pylon. It doesn't need to be a man. Next time you want to flex around kids, maybe have a coffee instead.

DisturbedFan789
DisturbedFan789

@Morphine_OD You, sir, have no room to be a snide asshole and demand someone use proper grammar. Your grammar sucks.