Opinion: GTA Online’s Cayo Perico Heist is another win for Rockstar

Grand Theft Auto V is like the video game version of Paul Rudd. It’s relatively old but damn, it only gets better with age (Paul Rudd is 51 years old, by the way, holy shit). I’ve written many mini-reviews and news articles for GTA Online’s largest content updates over the years. Each time, I’ve made the mistake of noting it as Rockstar’s way of sending the game out with a bang. Clearly that never happened and with a next-gen version coming in 2021, it probably won’t ever happen until GTA VI comes out.

If we didn’t have that knowledge, one could be forgiven for thinking the GTA Online Cayo Perico Heist update lives up to that same standard. A new map, a new heist, hundreds of new songs, and so on all populate what is being touted as the biggest update to the game yet. It continues to give life to GTA Online, making it one of the most well-supported games ever.

With Cayo Perico, players are offered a pretty lucrative but super intense job. The Madrazo family has asked you to infiltrate the fortified island of Cayo Perico under the guise of a big private beach party. Your goal is to get in and extract some valuable Madrazo family secrets from drug lord El Rubio, with the added benefit of being able to nab some extra goodies on the way out.

El Rubio, drug lord and owner of Cayo Perico
El Rubio, drug lord and owner of Cayo Perico

The beauty of this new GTA Online heist is that you’re given a ton of choice. You can do it solo or you can grab up to three others to help participate. The more players in your crew, the more gold bars, money, bags of weed, and other valuables you’ll be able to steal. While there is validity in a solo playthrough, there’s also a lot of extra depth when playing with your friends.

The heist itself does not hold your hand, whatsoever. It tells you where you need to be but doesn’t dictate how you get there, leave it, or what you do when you get there. It’s up to you and your crew to really hatch a plan and if you’re like me, it’ll usually go horribly wrong and you’ll have to quickly improvise. You may set everything up for a stealth approach, HALO jumping on to the island under the cover of nightfall. You parachute close enough to Rubio’s estate but still have some legwork and checkpoints to clear, leaving room for error.

If that error occurs (which is highly likely if you have friends like mine), you’ll be subjected to juggernauts, hordes of gunmen, and anxiety. That said, every approach is fun and there are reasons to replay the mission. Many have compared it to a Hitman mission and that’s entirely true. Rockstar has been criticized in the past for their incredibly linear mission design but GTA Online has opened up their level design to be as freeing as their open world.

GTA Online: Cayo Perico Heist update


They give you the tools, the opportunities, and let you just play. The way Rockstar designs the actual mission still allows for the high-octane action that you may see in a scripted mission. A helicopter may chase you down as you make your escape off the island, all while dodging jeeps of machine gun-wielding guards. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s something I will continue to play with my friends over the holidays.

My biggest disappointment with the update is that Rockstar has been hyping this up since mid-2020. We’ve been expecting a GTA Online map expansion for quite some time and there is one… but it’s with a caveat. You can only play on the island during missions, there’s no “free-roam” on Cayo Perico. Grand Theft Auto is known for playgrounds to play in, Cayo Perico is like if that playground had your parents breathing down your neck as you went across the monkey bars. There are guards and cameras everywhere if you try to venture off, making it difficult to be too free. If you go off-road, you’re bound to slam into some oddly indestructible bushes as well.

It’s not a map that has a lot going on outside of a few key areas, so it clearly wasn’t designed for free-roam. It would’ve just been nice to have a new residence outside of San Andreas but alas, we will likely have to wait until GTA VI.

GTA Online: Cayo Perico Heist update

Ultimately, I hope the pros of this GTA Online update sets the stage for the future of the franchise, both in GTA Online and GTA VI/future Rockstar titles. The freeing mission design is a breath of fresh air, giving more replay value than the traditional heists we’ve seen in the past. There’s a lot to love here and I hope it’s not just a one-off for Rockstar.