GTA Online has been around for 7 years already, so why am I writing a Newbies Guide now? Well, at the time of writing it was still the best-selling game on the PlayStation (after 6 years!), is in the Top Ten sales chart on Steam each and every week, and every time there’s a special sale on (which is frequently) a lot of new people get on board with it. So here’s a quick & dirty guide to get you up and running with this amazing game.
As usual, if you are a Windows user probably the easiest way to buy and install GTA Online is to grab it via Steam. Note that it is part of the Grand Theft Auto V package, so you also get the single-player version of the game into the bargain. The key commands listed in this guide are for the PC version, which is my preferred platform. If you are on XBox, or using a controller on PC, here are the default gamepad controls:
If you are a Steam Controller user, look for my Rodney’s GTA Action Sets preset, which also adds gyro control to the controls shown above, which makes shooting and driving a lot easier and more fun. You can get my configuration file by pasting this URL into the Steam Controller configuration page:
Getting set up
- When you first load up GTA V it will put you into offline Story mode, so you have to do the tutorial Prologue here. You can’t skip this, so just bite the bullet and go through it.
- Once you are done with the Prologue, you will see the opening credits of GTA V roll. Hit ESC, go to Online, and select Go to Online mode.
- You will now get the option to create your character. Take your time, because there are a lot of possibilities and if you want to change it later it will cost you $100,000 in in-game currency.
- When you have finished that you can finally join GTA Online. You will be given the option to skip the GTA Online tutorial. DO NOT SKIP THE TUTORIAL! If you do you will find it almost impossible to play with your friends later. If by some error you do select to skip the tutorial, you cannot get this option back again! The only solution is to make a second new character and run through the Online tutorial with that one, and then go back to your first character after you’re done. Yeah, it’s stupid and incredibly annoying.
- During the tutorial you will be given some relatively simple missions that teach you some of the cool features of GTA Online, such as buying clothes and robbing convenience stores. Just work your way through them. Depending on your level of experience with online shooters this might take a while.
- The last tutorial mission drops you into a PvP shooter instance with some other new players. Once you are done with that, you are fully in the game and can finally join your friends.
Getting into the real game
You will be using this a lot, it’s your primary method of contacting and getting messages from NPCs (and sometimes other players). Press the Up Cursor key to access it. There are 9 icons, each one accessing different things:
- Job List (middle): current jobs you can join. A Job is an instanced mission or scenario that you can play with a random group of other people. If you are on your own with no idea of what to do with yourself, check these listings for current open jobs.
- Web Browser (bottom middle): use it to access remote banking, property and vehicle sales etc. Note that if you need to bank some cash you do not have to go to an ATM, you can do it by simply going to the Maze Bank section of the Web Browser and depositing it there.
- Securoserve (bottom right): notifies you if an organisation wants to offer you work. If one does, I highly recommend you accept, it’s a great way to level up.
- Contacts (top right): other players in your Session are listed at the top of this, NPCs whom you know are listed at the bottom. As you level up and make friends with the various NPCs more contacts will appear in this area.
Useful NPC contacts include:
- Lester — once you get to know Lester well he can do useful tasks for you, like bribe the cops to get rid of your wanted levels.
- Mechanic — once you get a garage or apartment you can call him and he will deliver a chosen vehicle to you. Note that he takes his time and he always parks it a block away from you, so if you are in an emergency situation this might not be ideal.
- Merryweather — if you are in trouble and need help quickly, Merryweather can supply NPC mercenaries for a fee.
- Mors Mutual Insurance — will replace a destroyed vehicle. Ignore the message telling you it’s at their premises, it will actually be delivered to your garage instead.
- Pegasus — will deliver an aircraft or other special vehicle (if you have one) to the closest landing strip. Unfortunately their idea of “close” can be several miles away.
Press M for your Interaction menu. You will be doing this a lot. Explore this menu thoroughly because it has lots of useful functions.
- Quick GPS: you can use this to quickly find your way to your apartment / garage/ closest Mod Shop / Ammu-Nation store etc.
- Respawn point: when you buy a garage or apartment you can set yourself to always respawn there. I recommend you do this as soon as you get your first place.
- Targeting Priority: set this to Attackers, or if you are really paranoid, to Strangers. Unless you are a sociopath do not leave it at Everyone.
- Inventory — has several sub-sections:
- Snacks: eating snacks will heal you if you have lost some health. Always stock up on snacks any time you are near a convenience store.
- Ammo: you can buy ammo for your weapons at any time using this menu option, you don’t need to go to a gun store to buy it.
- Body armor can be put on via this menu. You do have to go to an Ammu-Nation store to buy the body armor though, so be sure to stock up between missions.
As soon as you can, buy some decent weapons. The Sawed-Off Shotgun is available for free when you sign up to the Rock Star Social Club, so pop over to your local Ammo-Nation and pick one up asap. It has a very slow rate of fire and no long-range capability at all, but at short range it’s absolutely lethal, and you can’t beat the price. Great for clearing building interiors, and you can even use it while riding a motorcycle.
A good starting buy is the Mini SMG. Like the real gun it’s based on (the Škorpion Vz. 61), it is cheap and easy to operate — just spray & pray. It can also be fired while you are inside a vehicle, so it’s great for doing drive-by shootings, or defending yourself if you are attacked on the road. As soon as you have saved up $8,900 go to the nearest Ammu-Nation store and grab one.
Once you have a few more dollars, other good starting choices for your armory include the Bullpup Rifle and Marksman Rifle. These are both solid, easy-to-handle weapons and are great bang for the buck. If you like motorcycles the Compact Rifle is also a useful choice, since you can fire it while riding a bike.
In the world of high crime, clothes make the man (and woman). So don’t be one of those dweebs running around in a boring plain T-shirt and jeans, get your ass over to a clothing store or Ammu-Nation and buy something that looks cool. First thing to do is look in the Tops section for Special T-shirts — you should be able to pick some of these up for free (and you can frequently find new ones listed as rewards for you playing each week). Browse other sections for pants, shoes, etc. Or you can even buy complete full outfits — ask the person serving behind the counter in the clothing store.
GTA Online is all about the multiplayer experience, and teaming up with others is the most fun you can have in the game. Luckily it’s usually quite easy to find a good team. The quickest way is to press T and send a message to the All channel in the chat window saying that you are new and looking for some help. Many experienced players will be happy to give you a hand.
Organizations are temporary groups of up to 4 players in a session. To start an Organization requires that you own an Office, which most new players won’t have access to, but you can still easily join someone else’s Organization and work for them. Use the Securoserve option on your Interaction Menu to tell any currently active organizations that you are Looking for Work. Any player running an Organization will be notified and can invite you if they have a free spot.
Once you are invited to an Organization, press Y to text chat with the other members of your team.
Getting employed by a player organization is an easy way to earn some steady cash, but more importantly it’s a great way to get Reputation Points and level up. You will earn 200 RP every minute and $5000 every 15 minutes if you bodyguard an organisation’s CEO — just stay close to him and you will collect the rewards automatically. As well as that, Organization bosses can start special missions which can net each member around $20,000 each time for participating, so that can be a considerable extra financial boost, especially if you are a new player.
Being in an Organization also gives you access to company vehicles for free — very handy if you are starting out and don’t have a good vehicle of your own yet, or if your current vehicle gets destroyed during a mission. Just press M and look in the Associates section at the top of your Interaction Menu for a list of vehicles available in your organisation.
If you are a new player I strongly advise setting your status to Looking for Work mode every time you log on — I know that I will always take people who are looking for work into my Organisation. Note that being in an Organization only lasts until you leave the game session, it’s not a permanent thing like an MMO Guild.
A Motorcycle Club is similar to an Organization, but can have up to 8 people at any one time, operating out of a Clubhouse. Motorcycle Clubs also have access to lots of illegal business opportunities, so if you fancy the idea of Breaking Bad and running your own Meth Lab, this is the way to go.
As a member of an MC you may also get special abilities which can be accessed via the Motorcycle Club section on the Interaction Menu, including being able to call your favorite motorcycle instantly to wherever you are — much faster than calling your Mechanic, and very handy for making quick getaways!
Looking for MC: same as Looking for Work, except for Motorcycle Clubs. Turn this on in your Interaction Menu too, because being in a Motorcycle Club is one of the most fun things in the game.
A Crew is the GTA equivalent of a gaming guild. It can be very useful to get into a good crew because this game is far more fun played as part of a team rather than on your own. My guild, Hidden Tradition, has a small Crew running in GTA on PC, feel free to join us. We are usually running an Organization or Motorcycle Club somewhere in-game, and are always happy to take new people along.
Note that GTA servers (Sessions) have a maximum capacity of 30 players, so when you log in you will often be on a different server than your Friends or Crewmates. To join them, press ESC, go to Online, and choose Join Crew or Join Friends (or go to the Friends tab and invite them individually to your Session). Note that this will not work until you have finished the online tutorial!
When you are out and about in the world, you will be in the default Free Roam mode. Each Free Roam session can hold up to 30 players at one time. In this mode you can see and interact with other players, work in an Organization or Motorcycle Club, visit player-run Nightclubs etc.
Pressing Esc will open the map of the entire world of Los Santos and Blaine County. You will see various colored points of interest on the map — going to any of those will start various other jobs or missions, so if you aren’t sure what to do, try exploring those. You will also periodically get notifications of Free Mode events starting, such as Business Battles, or if another Organization is running some illegal shipments. You can join in these events at any time just by driving towards the little green or red colored icons on the map.
Being in Free Roam mode does mean that people can kill you, run you over, or just generally screw with you. Most people will play relatively nice, but you will sometimes meet a griefer who will try to spoil your experience. You have several ways around this:
- Go into Passive Mode (Interaction Menu). In this mode you appear like a ghost to other players. They can still see you, but they can’t interact with you or hurt you. Effectively it turns the game into a temporary solo Session for you.
- Press ESC, go to Online, and select Players. Find the name of the player who is griefing you and select Kick. If enough people on the Session do this, he will get kicked off.
- Press ESC, go to Online, and select Find New Session. This will put you on to another server, hopefully one that has less idiots.
- Press ESC, go to Online, and select Jobs. There are hundreds to choose from, and each one will put you into an instance that contains just you and your teammates, so you don’t have to worry about anything else going on in Free Roam mode.
There are around 500 vehicles in the game, so getting to know all of them takes some time! GTA5 Rides is a useful database site if you want to compare your choices.
Until you get a garage you are limited to owning only one car at a time. You will probably already have one that you stole during the tutorial missions. Chances are that it’s not great so take it to a Mod Shop and sell it right away for some extra cash. Save that cash to help you buy your first garage (see Properties section below) and steal another car instead.
Stealing cars is an easy way to make some cash, however you can only sell one car every 48 minutes of real-world time. So it’s a good idea to choose carefully what you are going to steal. If you don’t know one car from another a safe choice is to just jack any random SUV, they are usually worth $3000–5000 each time you sell one at a Mod Shop. If you want to be more choosy, look for European sedans and coupes, they tend to fetch around $8000-$9500. Don’t bother with supercars, they are too hot to fence and you won’t get anything for them. Don’t forget to bank your cash each time you sell a vehicle!
If you find a good, cheap vehicle you want to keep for yourself, take it to the Mod Shop and have it fitted with a Tracker and Insurance. Then it’s yours to keep. Note that you can’t keep or sell anything that retails for $100,000 or higher, which is really annoying (but I guess essential for game balance).
To begin with you should be looking for an Übermacht Oracle, Lampadati Felon, or Ocelot Jackal. Each of those cars is a fast 4 seater coupe with good acceleration and handling, which makes them ideal for doing Jobs with a team when you are starting off.
Until you have a few hundred grand in the bank, don’t buy any vehicles. Not only is there a high upfront cost, but the more expensive a vehicle is, the more expensive it is to modify it later. So in the early game just steal vehicles instead. Save your money for other stuff.
However you can get a really tremendous car without having to pay anything at all. Open the Web Browser in your mobile phone, log into Legendary Motorsport, and choose Sort By Price. If you have signed up for the Rockstar Social Club you will see the very nice Annis Elegy RH8 (pictured above) for free, so grab that right away. Don’t be fooled by it being free, it’s one of the best sports cars in the game (it’s a clone of the Nissan GT-R), and as you level up you can modify it at a Mod Shop to make it even better. This should be your main driving car to begin with. Its only drawback is that it’s only a 2 seater, so it’s not great if you need to drive a whole team — apart from that it’s fantastic.
If you want to ride with a Motorcycle Club, your first bought vehicle should be the Dinka Akuma from Southern San Andreas Super Autos. It’s incredible value at only $9000, it is easy to modify, and overall is one of the best performing bikes in the game.
If you have some money to spare and want to get something cheap but useful for your team to get around in, consider the Bravado Rumpo Custom van from Southern San Andreas Super Autos (note: get the Custom version, not the normal one!). Yeah, it’s a van, so it’s not going to win any speed records. But it handles great off-road, it’s got bullet-proof windows, and it has sliding rear doors, so passengers riding in the back can use assault rifles and machine guns when firing. It’s also really cheap to modify. At only $130,000 it’s a great value all-round utility vehicle for a crew that’s just starting out. Highly recommended as a first vehicle purchase.
Although you can “armor” vehicles in a Mod Shop, this isn’t really armor at all, it just makes them a little bit tougher. However you can buy properly armored vehicles that are bullet resistant for around half a million dollars. The most popular of these is the Kuruma (Armored version), which is basically impervious to small arms fire; although my personal favorites are the Baller LE LWB (Armored version) and the Benefactor Schafter LWB (Armored version), both of which are excellent mission running vehicles for the money.
And for serious armor plating it’s hard to beat the Insurgent, which although relatively expensive compared to the others, provides excellent defense and performance for the money.
Now we are getting into big money items. Most weaponized vehicles cannot be bought unless you have certain businesses set up, and even then you may need extra stuff on top of that which will cost you several million dollars just to get started. However if you have about $1.5 million spare, there are a couple of other options:
A popular choice is the Nightshark — this is a fully armor plated off-road vehicle with twin machine guns mounted at the front. To be honest, the machine guns aren’t that great, but they’re something, and unlike most weaponized vehicles the Nightshark can be modded in a normal Mod Shop and stored in a normal garage, which is a huge advantage.
If you usually play with other players another option is the Technical — basically a Toyota Hilux pickup with a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the back. This doesn’t have much defense and you can only call it via Pegasus, but for the price you get a great off-road vehicle that is fun as hell to drive and can spit out a lot of damage.
There are a lot of different properties you can buy in the game once you hit level 10. The most important to start with is a garage, so you can actually store a couple of vehicles for your own personal use. As soon as you have $30,000 in the bank, consider picking up a cheap 2 car garage to get you started. You can also set yourself to spawn into your property when you enter the game, which is very handy.
Garages come in 2 car, 6 car, and 10 car sizes. You can also buy an apartment with a garage attached, but I don’t think it’s worth it until you have gathered some decent money together — just buy a cheap garage first to get going.
- Open your Mobile Phone
- Go to the Web Browser
- Click on Dynasty 8
The 2 car garages near Route 68 are good choices as starter garages at around $28,000, if you don’t mind being a little bit outside of Los Santos:
If you’d rather be in the city, another couple of grand will buy you 754 Roy Lowenstein Blvd:
Note that if you have the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack / Premium Online Pack you will get a 10 car garage for free near Los Santos International Airport.
Apartments can be handy if you like to change your costume a lot, since they each come with a built-in wardrobe. Each one also comes with an adjoining garage. Hi-end apartments come with Heist Rooms, which are great once you’ve leveled up a bit, but you can safely ignore that for now. If you have the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack / Premium Online Pack you get a low-end apartment with a 2 car garage for free at 1561 San Vitas Street, which is enough to get you started.
You can also buy business properties such as Offices and Motorcycle Clubs. My advice is to not even think about this until you have at least a million dollars in the bank that you don’t know what to do with, because running a business in this game can be very expensive! In your early days you are much better off simply joining a player-run Organization or MC, then you can just earn decent amounts of cash and Reputation Points without needing to spend a penny.
Every vehicle is equipped with a radio with a huge amount of channels, and a pretty fantastic selection of music and DJs. For example Bootsy Collins is the DJ on the Space channel and Lee “Scratch” Perry is the DJ on the reggae channel. (If you don’t know who these guys are, you need to educate yourself pronto!)
You can also create your own personal radio channel. Go to
Documents\Rockstar Games\GTA V\User Music
And simply drop some MP3 files in that folder. Now those songs will appear in-game on a new channel called Self Radio.
To tweak how this works, go to Settings — Audio. Now you can set how Self Radio operates — either as a traditional radio station, or playing your music sequentially or in a random order.
Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack / Premium Online Pack
This is a bundle of stuff to get you jump started in the game. When it came out it was widely panned as being not worth it, and since it was about 50 bucks then, that was true. But it’s now a lot cheaper, and sometimes goes on sale on top of that, so it’s worth taking another look at what you get:
GTA$1,000,000 Bonus Cash
Considering that a Shark Card with this amount of cash on it costs around 10–15 bucks, this cash is actually a pretty good deal if you get the CE Pack on sale. It’s the most worthwhile thing in it, because you can spend it on anything you want.
In order of usefulness:
- 1337 Exceptionalists Way 10 Car Garage — you will use this more than anything else, because you will have a lot of vehicles. Unfortunately it’s way down South by the airport, so not easy to get to. Stick cars in it and call your Mechanic when you need one of them.
- 1561 San Vitas Street Apartment — it’s a pretty bleh apartment, but it’s in a relatively cental area (Vinewood) and has space for another 2 cars. A good place to set as your Spawn Point. And has a wardrobe so you can change your clothes.
- Maze Bank West Executive Office — allows you to set up as the CEO of a business. Very useful if you are playing with some friends and nobody else has an office, because you can form an Organization and invite up to 3 of your friends to team up with you. However if you are in a Crew with other people who have an office already, it’s probably not worth the hassle. The rooftop helipad is cool though. If you mainly play on your own or with just one partner, consider using your office computer to buy a small Warehouse and doing some Special Cargo missions, it’s the easiest business to run at the beginning.
- Great Chaparral Biker Clubhouse — this is a ton of fun if you have a group of friends to play with. You can get up to 8 people in a Motorcycle Club and run some great missions. Again not really useful if other people in your Crew already have one of these. Although it does have space to store up to 10 motorcycles, so if owning bikes is your thing, that’s really handy.
- Senora Desert Counterfeit Cash Factory —running a business in this game has the advantage of giving you a ton more missions to do, but it can also be a bit of a grind. So my advice is don’t open this business unless you have some friends in your Motorcycle Club and/or you have leveled up a bit and have a ton of spare cash. The basic business may be free, but you’ll need to spend over $2 million upgrading it to get the most out of it, and that’s going to take you a while. And it also costs you about 5 grand an hour paying for the upkeep, so unless you are using it all the time it can cost you more than you make.
- Paleto Forest Gunrunning Bunker — this is personally one of my favorite places in the game, but everything I said about the Counterfeit Cash Factory applies here, in triplicate. It’s expensive to set up, it costs you about 10 grand an hour in upkeep once it’s upgraded, it’s far away from anything else in the game, and you really really need to have some friends to help run it otherwise it will cost you way more than you make. But if you have a good Crew and lots of spare cash to invest the supply and sales missions are fun as hell.
Bit of a mixed bag. Some are great, some… not so much. In order of my preference:
- Huntley S — basically a Bentley SUV. It’s heavy and kinda slow, and not great off-road, so why is it number 1? Because it is built (almost) like a tank and can take a lot of damage. It can also hold 4 people. For drive-by shooting, this is the choice of newbie gangbangers everywhere. When I first started playing I drove this more than anything else I owned. Note: buy Bulletproof Tires for it as soon as you get to level 25.
- Turismo R — it’s a Ferrari supercar. For when you absolutely need to be somewhere in the shortest time possible. Super fast, with great handling. It’s a bit fragile though, so practice on something slower before you take this one out on the road. And don’t even think of going off-road with this, it will end up in a hundred pieces spread all over Blaine County. Will also cost you a fortune if you want to modify it.
- Maibatsu Frogger — when you need to get from one end of the map to the other in a hurry, you have a helicopter on call! Incredibly useful vehicle to have, and one of the easiest ones to fly. Call Pegasus on your mobile phone to have it delivered to the nearest airfield or helipad.
- Dune FAV — it’s a dune buggy with a mounted machine gun! I love this car, it’s the best thing for going off-road. And if you have a friend on the mounted MG you can do some serious drive-by damage. Unfortunately you will also take a lot of damage because it has very little protection, but live dangerously, eh? Annoyingly, it can’t be modded unless you spend at least $2 million on a Mobile Operations Center workshop or Arena Workshop, which limits its usefulness quite a bit, especially when you are just starting out. But still great.
- Pegassi Vortex — Ducati Streetfighter road bike. I rode this a lot when I first got it. Then I realized that for a measly $9000 I could buy a Dinka Akuma that is just as fast, and costs only about 1/4 the price to modify, and so was actually much cheaper in the long run.
- Obey Omnis — based on one of my favourite cars, the Audi Quattro Rally Sport. Fun if you like going off-road, because this car doesn’t care if you are on a highway or a dirt track, it just keeps on going faster. Does tend to fall apart a bit after some rough handling though.
- Western Zombie Chopper — it’s a Harley-Davidson. When I first got this bike I never rode it. It’s not fast. But… now I love it, because it just looks so damn cool riding it with my Motorcycle Club. Actually has pretty decent traction too, especially when you mod it a bit. And did I say it looks cool?
- Enus Windsor — it’s a Rolls-Royce. If you want to go Big Pimpin’ this is your ride. When you park it in the street, girls will stop and take selfies with it (really!). Unfortunately that’s about all it’s good for, it’s not really a performance car. I still really love it though.
- Coquette Classic — Little Red Corvette. If you like American classic sports cars and/or Prince you will love this. Otherwise you will never drive it.
- Banshee — fast American muscle car. I hate it, it’s like riding a bucking bronco. If that’s your thing though, knock yourself out (literally, because the traction is so bad you will be crashing continually).
Weapons, Clothing & Tattoos:
- Compact Grenade Launcher
- Marksman Rifle
- Compact Rifle
You want all these weapons, they are fantastic. And you can use them all even at low levels. Use them and love them. One of the more useful parts of the pack if you are starting out.
Stunt Race & Import / Export Outfits, Biker Tattoos — worthless. But free, so you can’t really argue.
Overall, is it worth it?
If you can get it on sale, and have some ready cash you don’t need then… yeah. You’ll get a garage, a couple of nice cars and bikes, a helicopter, and some good starter weapons. And a million dollars. That’s all really useful. However unless you are running a new Crew or really want to be a hardcore criminal mastermind, the other stuff isn’t really worth it. So if you do get the pack don’t go round opening all the businesses until you know what you are doing. At least in the early game you are much better off just joining up with other people who own businesses and earn easy cash by helping them run missions instead of running your own.
Appendix 1: GTA weapons in the real world
Weapons and vehicles in GTA aren’t exact analogues of the physical world, but made up of mash-ups of various real things. But the following should give you a rough idea of what they are based on.
- Assault SMG: FN P90
- Combat PDW: Sig Sauer MPX
- Micro SMG: Mini Uzi
- Mini SMG: Škorpion Vz. 81
- SMG: Heckler & Koch MP5
- Advanced Rifle: IWI Tavor TAR-21 carbine
- Assault Rifle: AK-47 (Norinco Type 56–2)
- Bullpup Rifle: Norinco QBZ-95–1
- Carbine Rifle: AR-15 (Heckler & Koch HK416)
- Compact Rifle: Micro Draco AK Pistol
- Special Carbine: Heckler & Koch G36C
Appendix 2: GTA automotive brands in the real world
- Übermacht is BMW
- Pegassi is Lamborghini / Ducati
- Pfister is Porsche
- Obey is Audi
- Benefactor is Mercedes-Benz
- Dewbauchee is Aston Martin
- Ocelot is Jaguar
- Grotti is Ferrari
- Lampadati is Maserati
- Gallivanter is Land Rover
- Bürgerfahrzeug (BF) is Volkswagen (VW)
- Vulcar is Volvo
- Overflod is Koenigsegg
- Maibatsu is Mitsubishi
- Karin is Subaru/Toyota
- Nagasaki is Kawasaki
- Dinka is Honda/Acura
- Annis is Nissan
- Emperor is Lexus
- Fathom is Infiniti
- Shitzu is Suzuki
- Bollokan is Hyundai
- Schyster is Chrysler
- Bravado is Dodge
- Vapid is Ford
- Coil is Tesla
- Declasse / Invetero is Chevrolet
- Albany is Cadillac
- Brute is GMC
- Canis is Jeep
- Imponte is Pontiac
- Western Motorcycle Company is Harley-Davidson
- Dundreary is Mercury / Lincoln
- Hijak is Fisker