Today, Rockstar released the latest big update for Grand Theft Auto Online. Los Santos Tuners is all about sweet cars, fast races, dangerous crime, all while hanging out with like-minded automotive gearheads. And unlike past GTA Online updates, Tuners not only adds things that the community has wanted for a long time, but it also finally gives players an official way to do car meets. The end result is an update that is a (mostly) good time for solo players or big groups.
When I say that Los Santos Tuners adds a ton to the game, I really do mean a ton. It’s one of the biggest free updates in GTA Online history. But the star of the expansion is the Car Meet, a new area found in southern Los Santos in an empty warehouse. Inside, you’ll find other tricked-out cars owned by both NPCs and other players. Walking around the space, you can inspect cars up close and take pictures to commemorate the event. Players can also jump in their cars and rev the engine, open the hood, play music, and even tune-up and modify their wheels right there in the car meet. It’s a great experience, and because nobody is allowed to shoot or run people over, it’s also a nice and chill hangout.
Players have been running car meets in GTA Online for years, long before this update. But that always involved trusting other players to play peacefully, which sometimes required finding private lobbies or quiet areas of the map. If you weren’t careful, some arsehole could come by and blow you up with a super laser. Now, Rockstar has officially given these players a way to meet up, show their rides off, and even upgrade and race them either on the street or in the included test track.
Some features, like the test track and new clothing store, are locked behind a $50,000 one-time membership fee. But this also unlocks the ability to test drive new cars before buying them, and an LS Tuners reputation metre that grows as you spend more time interacting with other tuners. The higher your metre, the more you’ll unlock new things like car mods. And best of all, you don’t have to be a member of the car meet to visit it and hang out.
But like the Fast and Furious film franchise, this new update isn’t just about cool cars and street races. (Though there are a bunch of new street races modes, one which includes cops and feels very much like an F&F film.) Soon after hitting up the car meet you’ll meet two individuals who offer you a chance to make some money doing crimes.
These “Tuner Contracts” feature bank robberies and other heist-like scenarios, though the payout is only around $US170,000 ($231,965), and can be pulled off solo or with a friend. On the plus side, these missions are also much easier to complete than a big, traditional GTA heist. One had me driving around the city, robbing multiple small banks using a souped-up tuner car. Simple, but fun and exciting.
But to get access to these new contracts and some other tuner-related business opportunities, you’ll need to own a car workshop. Yes, this update will make you buy yet another damn property. At this point, I’m losing track of all the businesses and places I own in GTA Online. Adding one more to the list is annoying, but at least the car shop is more useful than prior additions, like the submarine.
One thing that I like about this update is that you can focus on either the car meets or the crime sprees without having to engage with the other parts of the update. While both portions of the game can intersect and feed into one another, this division offers players more options beyond the usual loop of, “Buy a shop, grind out missions, repeat.” I also appreciate that the new street races require four players before starting, so you’re not stuck with empty race lobbies.
For music lovers, the update adds a slate of collectibles around the map that can expand your playlist. But for the first time in GTA history, you can now customise your music options. You can select which stations you love, making it easier to hear the music you like and not the stuff you hate.
Rockstar is promising more Tuner Contracts in the future, more tuners to buy and modify, more races, and even weaponised go-karts. I’m excited for all of that, which is a nice change of pace from feeling burned out on the game. The existing car meet fanbase and community, meanwhile, no longer have to rely on workarounds. It’s a great step towards making GTA Online more like the game fans want it to be and less of a kill-happy battlefield filled with jet-bikes and nuclear subs.