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How to pull off for your first Heists in GTA Online

So you want to rob a bank.

GTA Online‘s long-awaited “Heists” add-on is here at last. The free update adds new elements that carry the vibe of endgame content, though you really don’t need to be that far along to get started. Los Santos sociopaths that have been looking for better sources of fake income should get hyped, as there are some big scores to be had from the five newly added heists.

If you haven’t tried them out yet, then you’re probably wondering how the whole thing works. GTA Online‘s heists are structurally similar to those featured in Grand Theft Auto V‘s story, with the key difference being that you can bring a group of friends along. It’s pretty easy to figure out thanks to a gentle “tutorial” heist, but we’ll run through a few helpful tips for getting yourself prepped and taking your first steps on the road to becoming a master criminal.

Crawl before you walk

You can’t host a heist of your own until you’ve hit level 12 in GTA Online‘s progression. We’ve got a guide to help you learn the basics of the multiplayer mode, but here are a few pointers for getting to level 12 quickly. First, don’t bother with the open world just yet. Not only is it dangerous, with higher-level players running around and armed to the teeth, but there’s also not a whole lot of money or experience to be earned there.

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Go for missions instead. They’re listed under “Jobs” in the game’s Online menu. You probably won’t have access to many of them if you’re especially low-level, but keep an eye out for invites on your phone. You can’t host higher-level missions, but you can still join them when you get an invite. And while you might not be much help to a team of rank 70s and above with your little peashooter pistol, you still reap the same rewards at the end, even if you’re gunned down in the opening minutes.

Spend some of your newly earned money on beefing up your arsenal. Many of the basic guns are locked off behind level requirements when you’re first starting out, but GTA Online‘s had so many free updates that it’s possible to get several assault rifles and shotguns (and even a sniper rifle) right at level 1, provided you have the money. Just pay a visit to any Ammu-Nation and check out the weapons stacked up on the right-hand shelf.

Guns are important, but try to set aside some cash as well. You’re aiming to have at least $200,000 in savings by the time you reach level 12. Keep reading to understand why.

Ignore the green invites

There’s a new invite notification that pops up with the release of Heists. Normal missions and other, PvP-focused activities still have their same pop-up, with white text on a black background. Heists adds new invites with a green background, specifically for heist setup and execution missions.

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Ignore those! Not forever. But when you’re starting out, stay the course and get yourself leveled for your own heists. The add-on’s multi-stage robberies are built to be replayed, but there’s a story wrapped around each one. Both the scripted one that Rockstar Games created and the one that you build for yourself as you piece together the different parts of a robbery, then pull the whole thing off.

There’s something really cool and rewarding about bringing a heist together, and you should give yourself a chance to experience that before you start replaying individual setup components of different heists, like they’re regular missions. Resist the urge to jump on those invites and dive in with piecemeal heists until you’ve run through them in full.

Grab a friend and get started

Lester calls and asks you to pay him a visit once you hit level 12. This is where the heists begin. Head to the “L” icon on your minimap and watch the cutscene. In addition to being level 12, you’ll also need what the game classifies as a “high-end” safehouse (they all have 10-car garages). The cheapest of these is $200,000. Now you know why you were saving some cash. Lester might not call until you have the apartment (we weren’t able to test it), so if you’re phone’s not ringing and you don’t have a high-end pad, that’s probably why.

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Once you’re done with Lester, your high-end safehouse icon should be green on the minimap. Head over to check out a new addition to your digs: the planning room! This is where all of your heists are planned. From here, you trigger new missions, set up your team’s responsibilities, and divvy up the money earned.

The first heist amounts to a tutorial, and it’s for two players only. So grab a friend, fire it up, and read along with the onscreen pop-ups between each mission to learn how everything works. It’s not complicated at all. It’s just a wrapper that ropes a group of missions together, tying them up with a giant reward waiting at the end.