I had played GTA V through once to its conclusion, and found myself sitting with a very large chunk of cash indeed — more than I could ever spend. This got me thinking - there's more than enough legal and illegal ways to make money in Los Santos... why not try and do it without the big heist story?
In order to do this, I set rules for myself:
1) No story missions, no stranger/freak missions - random events only. 2) Sleep once per day. 3) Even though the game doesn't model it, assume any cars used for more than a short while for heists would be identified. As such, a new getaway car (or re-spraying the old one) would have to become part of my routine. 4) Radar off. Entirely off. No blips, no map. This means you're forced to visually look for people and events, and you're forced to learn the streets a bit better, as you can't just keep staring at your GPS and look for a recommended path. 5) Kill as few people as possible. Ideally, none. However, to make this possible in GTA V, I had to pretend that beating someone with fists or the like would count as 'unconscious', not dead.
6) Permadeath. If I died, the story was over.
Franklin had the following assets to begin with:
1) $328 2) His car, a white, customised Bravado Buffalo 3) A fast, green motorbike. (Nearly useless, as cops shooting at you when you have no chasis around you is very bad) 3) A place to crash at his Aunt's place, and a single garage to store a vehicle which isn't his personal car & bike.
Unlocked at this point are pistols, micro-SMG, SMG, Assault Rifle, Armour, Grenades and a few other small details. Notably locked are shotguns and sticky bombs - which means busting open armoured cars is not going to be easy.
And so, we go on to the story of my attempts to make it as a stick-up artist and street thug in Grand Theft Auto V.
Awake and in my room at my aunt's place in South Central Los Santos, I took stock of what I needed to do while I waited to begin my first stick-up jobs.
With no gun, that's definitely a first purchase. For the first few jobs I hopefully won't need much, so I bought a single pistol and an extra clip.
The next thing I needed was a fast car that wasn't my own personal vehicle. So, due to the almost non-existent amount of cash I had left, I walked to the Davis train station (near the barber) and headed up towards Vinewood, to jack a nice, fast sports car from someone's driveway. I didn't want to jack one in motion, as I couldn't afford to repair it for now, and car-jacking someone tends to attract police attention more easily.
I arrived at the station and found myself waiting for Los Santos' famously awful public transport, wishing I had more cash for a cab - but at this point every dollar counted.
Terrifyingly, the train, when it arrived, was almost entirely full of people wearing Ballas gang colours. Made me glad I didn't run with their competing gang.
Hooting and hollering, some of the exiting gang-bangers clambered over things and ran straight across the street, ignoring traffic lights and laws.
Soon the train is off, and I'm on my way to Portola Drive and beyond.
Several in-game hours later (LST trains are SLOW) I arrived - then realised I'd gotten off the wrong stop. Silly me. I was one early. Still, it was a rich neighbourhood, so I began my hunt for a fast car in a quiet driveway somewhere.
As I passed the sign reading "Rockford Hills", I heard a siren. Reacting quickly, I spun around and witnessed a cop car pull over some angry guys in a 4WD. A brief gunfight ensued, and as a stray shot hit near another car, the street went berzerk. Seeing a chance to get some ammo and money, I ducked behind a parked car and waited to see what happens in the ensuing chaos.
One cop went down, and the criminal escaped. Sure enough, before the ambos arrive I pinch his spare clip - 12 more shots! Then I resumed my search...
I eventually found a Lampadati Felon GT Coupe in black, parked in a driveway with nobody in sight. I quietly forced the door. The alarm went off, causing me a momentary panic... but not for long, and nobody heard before it shut off. Soon I was driving (carefully) back down to South Central to park in the garage and wait until nightfall, for my first stick-up job.
A nap later and it's 11pm, and I headed out to perform my first robbery - hoping beyond hope it'd work, as I'd never actually robbed a convenience store before in GTA.
After some driving around, I finally found the 24/7 store on Clinton Ave in Vinewood. Parking my car right up close with the driver's side door facing the entrance, I entered and aimed my gun at the man. After a few tense moments, he handed over everything in the till - $521 in total.
Then came the chase. Two police cruisers were nearby and started bearing down on me as I sprinted several feet to my strategically-parked Felon GT. However, the freeway was nearby, so I used my superior speed to pull ahead. One cop stayed on me as I swerved a bit, but thankfully I managed a near-miss with a truck which the cop failed to pull off. Hearing an almighty crash behind me, I did a sudden U-turn north through a break in the freeway's centre barricade and headed into the nooks and crannies of East Vinewood, eventually hiding in an alleyway behind the Racetrack between some hedge-rows.
Soon, sure the cops had lost me, I turned around and headed back home with my loot.
The sun would be up soon, so I wanted to wait until the next night for stick-up number two.
As I was driving back south, I passed something which made my mouth water - an armoured car, slowly meandering toward the freeway. But with just a pistol, I had absolutely no way of taking it, even if it wasn't the middle of the day. Soon, soon...
My next target was a Rob's Liquor store on San Andreas Blvd, down near the Venice canals. As the sun was going down, I began the drive to Vespucci Beach, arriving a little early and stopping to get a soda nearby as I waited for night to fall.
I once again parked my car out front and got ready to stick the joint up.
This time, I wasn't so lucky.
Entering at dusk, I pulled out my gun, but in my haste, my trigger finger was a bit too heavy, and I put a slug in the attendant.
Panicking, I began to run out, then realised I had no money. Making yet another probably foolish decision, I ran around and began to madly empty money from the till manually. I got a tiny amount - a few hundred, and then ran out the front door.
As luck would have it, no cops were nearby and I very quickly dodged into an alleyway, driving with my headlights off, carefully avoiding any police, until I was as far as Del Perro. Once there, seeing more sirens near the main roads, I gunned it straight down onto the pier, waiting quietly in the parking lot until the sirens passed.
But the night was still young, and THIS time I wouldn't fuck things up so badly - it was on to Morningwood, to another liquor store. Why not try and do this one right, eh?
I drove to Prosperity Street, and prepared for stick-up number three.
This time, things went more to plan. I didn't accidentally put a round into the teller (oh good, Franklin was already guilty of murder in the second degree. Or is that manslaughter? Who knows in GTA-land...), and I got a further five hundred odd dollars. Out the door, I found three police cruisers on the horizon, coming from two directions. With nothing else to do, I went back towards Del Perro beach on Vespucci Blvd, driving so fast only one or two came close to seeing me. Finally reaching Vespucci, I ducked into a few alleys, turned my lights off, and waited.
It worked! Now up to over a grand, I wanted to make just one more score... because I had something special in mind if I could reach the magic figure of $1500.
I had seen a gas station down in Little Seoul that I wanted to hit. That had to be worth some cash. So, with the last of the night upon me, I drove over, parked at the door and entered.
As was becoming familiar, I jammed my gun in the face of the bewildered Indian man. He reached down slowly for the teller, but... that was where things went pear-shaped.
Suddenly picking up speed, he reached down and pulled up a pump-action shotgun.
Reacting quickly, I fired twice. He didn't get a shot off, but soon I found myself under more fire - two nearby citizens with gang colours on were firing guns at me. I took them out from behind some rapidly-exploding snack stands and then began to empty the register and the sound of sirens got closer.
Grabbing what little cash I could, I ran straight outside, nearly running into another guy with a gun. Through blind luck, he didn't hit me, and I was soon jetting away from the cops again. But unlike last time, there were no major straight roads where my car's superior top speed and acceleration could win the day. I was stuck in side streets right from the start; you can't hide from the cops if you can't get out of their sight to start with.
Soon I found myself being rammed off the road, raked against a retaining wall and seeing pedestrians running screaming.
As I righted the car, the cop fired at me, blowing out my front-left tire. Desperately continuing, I tried to keep it straight for as long as possible, as I knew turning was going to be almost impossible. Then, as if to make matters worse, the stripped and busted tire went flying off, leaving my car scraping along and no longer able to make its previous levels of speed.
Finding my way onto a main road, without my tire two cruisers were keeping pace with me. However, some luck was yet waiting for me - two large trucks were all but blocking the road, and by swerving right (the only way my car could really turn any more) I got through without losing much speed, but the cops did not.
Finally heading into an alleyway near the bottom of Vespucci Beach, I ditched my car (which was now belching smoke) and ran to the back of a large apartment building, hiding between two garbage dumpsters.
Finally, the cops gave up.
My wallet's total value now? $1393.
Not enough for what I wanted... which meant the next night, I had to get a replacement getaway car... and to think up a better plan.
The only up-side? I now had the teller's pump-action shotgun... and 8 very lonely rounds.
More luck came my way - I had ended this latest stick-up attempt right near the Vespucci marina and some kindly yacht-owners, not the poorest of people, had left some very shiny sports cars. Being early morning, too, nobody was around me stealing a swish little black Coil Voltic. Before anyone could see me, I'd snuck on back to my Aunt's place and parked the lightning-fast, dead-quiet little electric sports car.
Not a bad end to the day... of course, I had also proved that 'not killing' when robbing joints was getting harder and harder. I was now guilty of four counts of murder.
On night three I hit my most dangerous target yet: a service station on Grove Street. Not dangerous for any reason other than their proximity to my safe-house. Stirring up trouble at home seemed like a dangerous thing to do.
This time, my car was positioned directly down the highway. As I'd learnt, this vehicle was lightning-fast - faster than my last one - but had a pretty awful turning circle if you didn't hit the brakes first. So, drag-racing the cops on an open stretch, coupled by a quick turn somewhere quiet and dark was obviously going to be my best bet.
This time using my shotgun, to show I was even more serious than before, the nervous attendant emptied his teller of $658. Wondering if there was anything in the second, unmanned teller, I fired a round into it. It blew sparks and the man screamed, "There's no more cash! I've given it all to you, I promise!"
Fairly sure he was telling the truth, I ran outside and gunned it up the highway.
Cops were on me in two seconds straight. However, a brief turn around the Colosseum, and I was heading down the long highway going past the airport and over the docklands. This long, straight road was exactly what I needed. One cop kept pace for a while, but when I weaved (barely) around a big truck, he failed utterly and skidded off the thing entirely, resulting in a huge explosion as his vehicle careened, somehow, into a propane tank far below the highway in the docklands.
One quick turn later and I was shrouded in darkness, off the road in far-east Los Santos.
With the cops soon shaken, I had enough cash - it was time to get my next potentially important tool. The nearest ammunation was in Cypress Flats, so I headed there quickly to get my new toy: a silencer for my pistol.
The shop in Cypress Flats was huge - occupying an entire hanger. Soon, with a few more clips and my silencer, I was ready to try out the new toy and see just how 'silent' I could be.
As I left the shop, I paused, the door being held open. I turned around, raised my newly-silenced weapon and blew the shopkeeper away... with almost no sound.
Alone and unhindered by the police, I grabbed more rounds from where he'd stashed his shotgun, blew open the two cash registers and drove off with almost as much money as I'd started with.
I hit two more 24/7 shops in Vinewood that night, bringing me almost back up to the $2k level. But the sun was coming up, and after a short sleep, I still had time to kill before it was dark and time to go thieving again.
With little else to do, I found an abandoned cab and had a mad idea - could I earn money that way?
I spent the rest of the day running the cab, and it did earn me about $1500. Not bad for a day's work NOT running from cops... but it had a better purpose. It was an excuse to locate two or three new stick-up locations. As the sun went down I found myself dropping off my last passenger for the day at Paleto Bay, a long way north of Los Santos. I figured I'd try something daring: on the way home, I'd rob the supermarket at the fancy seaside resort-town of Chumash.
It's very easy to get too cocky - too sure of yourself. And it quickly became clear that this was that situation.
I brazenly waltzed into the 24/7 on the main drag of Chumash and aimed my gun at the shopkeeper, who, in total contrast to the scared or violent people I'd encountered so far said, simply... "No money for you! None! No more! GO! LEAVE!"
Not sure what do do, I lowered my gun and, as he sat there yelling at me, I ransacked the register. I'd gotten about $200 when the cops got close, and I found myself again driving for my life. The problem was this: it's a long, straight highway back to Los Santos from Chumash, and I was in a taxi cab - not exactly a vehicle built for speed.
Within minutes three cruisers were on me and I'd lost a tire. Then, just when I began to panic, one rammed me. I went careening through a guard-rail off the Great Ocean Highway and found myself upside down on some rocks behind a beach house, three cops driving down and getting out of their vehicles.
I left the cab and ran, gunshots narrowly missing me, hopping over fences and scarpering between little alleys between rich peoples' holiday homes.
Finally emerging, with no cops on me, I began to run along the dangerous, open stretch of beach toward the only thing I could see: a beach party.
Five people sat on the beach, dancing and singing around a camp-fire next to their three vehicles. A van, a little 4WD and a sports coupe sat there. No prizes for guessing which I took. The party was over - a police cruiser spotted me and was driving down onto the beach. Trying to avoid the screaming party-goers, I gunned the stolen sports car down the beach toward the now-visible lights of the Del Perro pier. But the cops were just as fast. With nothing else to do, I waited until I had a moment alone as the cops failed to navigate an outcropping of rock correctly and, while they flailed and fishtailed to get back towards me, I drove the car over a bump and, deliberately, into the surf.
As the car sank, I climbed out and began to swim. I immediately dove below the surface and swam straight west - as far from the shore as possible.
When I finally came up for air, two gunshots rang out near me, and I dove again.
I kept swimming.
The second time I came up, only one shot rang out, but two terrifyingly-close streaks showed up as I dove, bullets zipping through the water right near me.
However, by staying down further - almost to the point of suffocation - I finally came up and heard no gunshots.
And so, after a moment's respite, the sirens stopped and I found myself alone, treading water in the darkness of the Pacific Ocean, with the lights of Del Perro beach houses and the gorgeous pier itself my only light.
I paddled back to shore and, exhausted, padded back, drenched and vehicle-less, along the shore. I kept walking until I reached Del Perro pier.
To my surprise, I wasn't alone on the beach. A few haunted-looking souls padded along the shore in both directions.
I overheard a cell phone conversation from a grumpy-sounding woman out for a late-night jog: "You're meant to be my agent! So answer me this: why am I waiting tables?"
A couple were coming out of the water and walking back toward their towels.
Another man just sat there, arms folded, staring at the surf.
At the Del Perro pier I stopped for a soda, and tried to figure out how best to get back home.
After freshening up, I walked to the lonely carpark on the pier and inspected my options. All the cars were slow and bulky... until a zippy little sports car pulled up. Figuring I was about to get the cops on me anyway as it was probably alarmed, I thought... why not rob the driver, too?
After all, my night couldn't get any worse. So, as she exited, I raised my silenced pistol.
My timing was perfect. The door was still open - I fired once, and she fell down.
No sound, and nobody to see it. I got in her car and, without an alarm sounding, drove off, with the cops none the wiser.
The sun was rising as I drove back to Davis.
The next morning, I went shopping. I had accrued some shotgun shells from the cops on my awful, failed adventure in Chumash - it was the only good thing to come of it - but I still needed an assault rifle, some armour, and... some grenades. This left me with very little cash - about $1600.
And so began my project.
I invested what little cash I had left in Cluckin' Bell (as it was at an all-time low) and began a very careful operation to ensure that, damnit, my stock would be worth the investment.
I stopped my stolen car in front of a rival fast-food chain's food truck. I then got out and took it from the confused driver. He gave chase on foot and, finally, after giving up, called the cops. But by then I'd parked the truck at the entrance to an alleyway. Getting out, with the truck between the cops and me, I hurled one of my three precious grenades under the vehicle and legged it.
The explosion was huge - and the cops couldn't follow. Within minutes I was free of them, and began to prowl about for yet another fast food truck to pinch and destroy.
In my head, this made a lot more sense than stick-up jobs.
I wasn't killing anyone (if it all went to plan) - just destroying property - and even though working with grenades was expensive, I began to think of myself as almost a "white collar criminal", as it were. I was manipulating the stock market for my own gain. That's surely better than robbing and potentially having to kill minimum-wage shopkeepers, right?
My second attempt was a bit less seamless. I found one a Taco Bomb truck and opened the door, irritating the driver. As he ran toward me, I hurled a single grenade toward his vehicle and then ran off. Unfortunately, this time the explosion took out a neighbouring car and was nothing near subtle. I'd killed someone else - again - and now the cops were on me.
So began a high-speed chase on the highway. Almost sure I'd lost them after a few minutes, I turned off and ducked into an alleyway. Almost on cue, a cop car appeared at the other end, and I had to reverse as fast as I could, with bullets whizzing by me.
As I left the alleyway, I heard a terrifying sound - a chopper, and my police scanner picked up "Eye in the sky has a visual on target".
Back on the freeway, I hooned as fast as I could. I soon lost the cars... but not the chopper. Finally, a sharp turn on the freeway and an overpass above me lost it... but cop cars were closing. I was almost out of ideas until I noticed a workman's sign - construction work was going on, and so I blew through the construction signs and soon found myself travelling down to an in-progress subway tunnel.
With no hint at where I'd gone, the cops were finally off my tail.
Later on, safely back home, I checked the value of my stock. Yep, it'd gone up... barely.
For the cost of a few grenades (about a hundred dollars each) I had made... a bit under a hundred dollars.
Looks like this wasn't going to work without more capital.
Which meant it was time for a bigger score: a security van.
It was raining when I tried to stick up my first security van, at a gas station in South Central Los Santos. The lights of the city were reflected all around me and all I could hear was the cars above me on a nearby freeway (I was driving without the radio on so I could better pay attention to my surroundings). I pulled up quickly when I saw them loading the truck, just screeching to a halt, sliding my car so I'd exit the vehicle with my driver's side door facing away from the armed guards.
Silenced pistol out, my timing was just off and I took out the rear guard just after he locked the door. Screams as he died meant that the driver was suddenly yelling into his radio. Hiding behind the truck, I leaned out and put two in the driver's head.
I quickly checked the rest of the gas station for any hostiles, and not seeing any, set out to open the door.
Sirens got closer as I unloaded clip after clip into the rear door. Finally, just as the first cruiser arrived and the sound of a helicopter boomed overhead, I blew the door open. I grabbed the satchel with about $3500 in cash, narrowly avoided being blasted to pieces by two cops opening up, and jetted my perfectly lined-up car forwards across the road, down an alley and, to my delight, over the jump I'd seen earlier.
I slammed my car down into this alley, regained control, and almost span out again as I tried to corner in the rain.
Minutes later, I'd lost the cops and decided to grab a soda and then spend the rest of the night... well, just seeing what came about.
As it happened, I passed another liquor store, so, pleased with myself and feeling cocky, I entered.
To my shock, the teller immediately pulled a shotgun on me.
"YOU! I remember you! GET OUT!"
I slowly began to back away, and as his gun was not quite aiming at me any more, I tried to quick-draw on him.
Two gunshots and one shotgun blast later, I was hurting but trying to empty the registers.
Not hearing any sirens, I walked out and found the shock of my life: three police cruisers, sirens off, cops waiting with guns raised.
I slid into cover behind my car as they opened fire, with glass exploding around me, landing in nearby puddles.
I fired a few shots at the closest cops, then got into my car and began to drive away.
With one dead tire and the sun rising, I abandoned the vehicle near Little Seoul, and began to walk back toward my house.
A little shaken at how difficult stick-ups had become, I paused at a nearly-deserted gas station to steal a sports car for tomorrow night's jobs - which I was convinced would have to be nothing but armoured vans, as they were worth the risk - a shotgun to the face from an angry liquor sales guy just wasn't. Not for a few hundred bucks.
To my delight, it wasn't alarmed, and I was soon driving further south... and then I saw it.
It was just reaching dawn, but very few cars were on the road... and there was another juicy armoured van there, waiting for me.
So I made my final mistake.
With little planning, not enough shells and a car I wasn't used to, I drove up to the van.
I took out the rear guard with my pistol without even leaving my car, then took cover behind the vehicle and prepared to take out the driver.
I missed the first few shots as he dove for cover, but got him with the next few.
The rain was over, but the ground was still wet - everything was shining and it was very difficult to see much around me.
I was shooting out the rear door, when I ran out of shells.
I swore. What was the point of that? Perhaps I could blow up the armoured van.
I got in, and move it closer to a petrol pump.
In a way, I'm glad I never got to find out if my desperate plan to blow apart the armoured van would have worked. Because it would have been quite an embarrassing end if I'd stuffed up the distance and blown myself to pieces.
But, as it happened, a nearby foot cop I'd failed to notice because of the blinding light had snuck up behind me, and as I got out of the security van, he painted the driver's side window with my brains in a single extremely well-placed shot.
There we have it... apparently, crime doesn't pay. I made it to about $17,200 in the end, and nearly a full week of sticking up joints.
But I had gotten sloppy, lazy, and impatient, despite my best efforts to the contrary.
Still, the dynamic way GTA V does stick-ups and random events and the incredible difficulty of playing GTA with permadeath and no mini-map to help you made the world much more lively than I'd ever found it before. I learnt the city better than I ever would have with my eyes constantly flicking to the minimap, and firefights become genuinely dangerous when you can't magically tell where the enemies are.
Perhaps I should have kept that cab and just done that for a living... or hooked up with that Michael guy? He seemed to know a thing or two about not getting killed while heisting joints...