The Cayo Perico Heist is the most recent addition to GTA Online. It’s also the biggest content release the game has received since it first launched over seven years ago. In that time, Rockstar has developed all sorts of new experiences for its open-world crime sandbox, all of which have encouraged the player to further establish their own criminal enterprise.
For some, it’s all about maximising their profits by staying on top of all their businesses, while others rather focus on grinding cash from the action-driven heists, a concept which has not only become synonymous with the GTA Online experience, but also refined with each iteration. What we’re served up in The Cayo Perico Heist is Rockstar’s best effort yet at creating the definitive high-stakes robbery. Not only does its freeform structure allow the player to approach the heist and steal the required loot in any manner possible, but it’s set on an entirely new location – a tropical island paradise that’s full of mystique and plunder. Rockstar’s developers created a whole new sandbox just for this one heist and because of the multitude of ways it can be approached, it just doesn’t get old.
El Rubio always has something new to rob and his ongoing drug operations will ensure you and your friends leave with your bags full. But let’s say you don’t have anyone to join you or you’d rather try out various tactics by yourself, then The Cayo Perico Heist has you covered by being the first-ever heist in GTA Online that can be fully experienced solo. This is a fantastic quality-of-life improvement, because while completing heists with friends allows for a more coordinated and oftentimes unexpected result, the ability to play solo lets you experience The Cayo Perico Heist at any time without being forced to rely on others. In fact, if it wasn’t for this option, then I just wouldn’t have been able to rerun this heist as many times as I did, so I’m grateful to Rockstar for factoring solo play into their design. The community has also welcomed it with open arms too. According to Rockstar, more than half of the player-base broke into El Rubio’s compound alone. This also isn’t a once off either, as the option for solo play is set to be a new standard for future GTA Online and Red Dead Online updates. It’s fair to say that I’m both eager and excited to see how Rockstar seamlessly blends cooperative and solo gameplay experiences going forward.
The Cayo Perico Heist also combines music into its gameplay mix. Your first visit to the tropical island will see you as a guest of honour, partying with the Keinemusik DJs at an elusive beach party, which you can also revisit after completing the heist. You can dance with your friends, get drunk and just have an all-around good time. Rockstar has also opened a new Music Locker underneath The Diamond Casino & Resort. Here you’ll be able to enjoy live performances from Moodymann and Palms Trax. Occasionally, you’ll often receive phone calls from Tom Connors or English Dave to help these DJs out and the rewards for completing their requests are certainly worth the inconvenience. GTA Online has also received its biggest music update yet; with new radio stations like the drum-and-bass of Still Slipping Los Santos and the classic throwbacks of K.U.L.T. 99.1 FM giving the sounds of San Andreas a much-desired refresh. In total, there’s over 250 new songs to spruce up your radio dial with new playlists for Worldwide FM and FlyLo FM thrown in for good measure. Beyond the tunes, The Music Locker is where you’ll meet Miguel Madrazo for the first time to brief you on the opportunity to raid El Rubio’s compound and retrieve the "Madrazo Files" he so highly desires.
Before you jump in, you’ll need a base of operations – a versatile and fully manoeuvrable Kosatka submarine! Operated by Pavel, who offers the occasional laugh with his humorous voice lines, this maritime vehicle can be given numerous upgrades, such a periscope, onboard missiles and a sonar radar to locate collectible packages underwater. It can also be moved by the player to bring you closer to your objective, or you can take the new Sparrow helicopter or the amphibious Pegassi Toreador instead. Both are excellent choices to have on standby, with the Sparrow being my aircraft of choice for efficiently grinding preparation missions in the shortest time possible. It can also be spawned in at any time, which makes traversal around Los Santos and Blaine County far less time consuming – plus it’s the handiest way to get off your submarine so you’re not stranded out at sea. If you’re serious about grinding GTA Online, this is the best new vehicle to buy in the game. Your submarine can store both vehicles for easy access, as well as a Kraken Avisa submersible for reaching the depths of the seafloor with ease. These vehicles each come at an extra premium, so I recommend acquiring the base submarine and the Sparrow first before investing into the other upgrades and vehicles. You’ll thank me later.
Once you’ve spent enough time dancing to Keinemusik’s set and getting a little tipsy, you’ll need to leave the beach party unnoticed and begin scoping out the island. The first thing to observe is just how beautifully detailed this Caribbean island is to witness. It’s dense in foliage with new bushes and shrubs, although there are a few annoying ones that stop you in your tracks which can make off-roading in vehicles somewhat tricky. Cayo Perico is also full of ambient sounds and noises, with birds always chirping in your ear to remind you that you’re in paradise. The island itself is made up of a few shipping ports for importing and exporting drugs, an airstrip that does the same job, a communications tower which is essential for hijacking into El Rubio’s security cameras, as well as his highly-secured compound. You’ll also find various easter eggs and other discrete, but interesting locations as you explore the island, so keep your eyes peeled as I don’t wish to spoil them here. In addition, there are two daily Treasure Chests hidden around Cayo Perico and finding them will net you some bonus cash.
Initially, this scope-out mission can feel quite daunting and often infuriating as if you’re caught by a guard or a security camera, you’ll be escorted back you to where you started. But once you get the hang of things and learn how to use the island’s vehicles effectively, it becomes much more straightforward. You’ll begin to remember the positions and patterns followed by the guards and as you repeat this scope out in the future, you’ll also recall locations of where you might find useful items such as grappling hooks, bolt cutters or guard outfits, as well as loot such as weed, cash or cocaine. But because their locations will change with each replay, it’s certainly worth familiarising yourself with multiple locations of where these items might be. You shouldn’t scope out everything however, as your loot bag can only carry so much, and the tools you need will depend on your approach. Furthermore, the various points of entry and escape only need to be scoped out once as these are retained for subsequent replays while the locations of tools and loot, as well as the items inside the compound, change. My favourite task to do every time I scope out Cayo Perico, and something I recommend everyone to do, is to find cutting power and use it to poison the water supply at either of the island’s water towers. This procedure certainly won’t do any favours for the shooting accuracy of El Rubio’s goons, eh?
Of course, that is just one of many ways you can alter The Cayo Perico Heist. If your plan is to go in with all guns blazing, this step might be a necessary one, as would completing the relevant prep missions to reduce the weapons, armour and air support available to the guards. If your plan is fully tactical and you’ve nailed down a slow, steady but silent break-in, then you may not need to do any of this at all, but if you’re like me, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and to take those precautionary steps beforehand. You can also choose to tackle the heist during either daytime or night. I often pick the latter so I can reduce the visibility of the guards by disabling the electrics at the airfield. It’s the best way to take them by surprise, especially if I dress like them and pretend to be one of their courier drivers. All I have to do is steal a supply truck that I scoped out, find one of their uniforms and break into the compound without firing a single bullet. Perhaps next time I’ll bring my submarine or another vessel and use a blow torch to get into the fortress through an underwater drainage tunnel. Remember the grappling hooks I mentioned before? Those can be used to get in or out of the compound without making any noise, or if you do prefer to go in loud, you can always stick some detonation charges at the main entrance and just go in with a bang! Whichever way you decide to approach it, you’ll need to make it into El Rubio’s office and his basement from there, but how you reach it, and escape from the island with your loot is entirely in your hands – as well as those of your companions if you chose to bring any along for the fun.
The best part about all this is that El Rubio never seems to learn his lesson. Sure, if you try to rob him again shortly after your previous attempt, security will be tightened as the difficulty gets bumped up to “hard mode,” but that only incentivises the player even further thanks to the increased pay-out. No matter if it’s the Madrazo Files, elusive bank bonds, a special encrusted bottle of antique tequila or some precious jewels and diamonds, El Rubio always has something worth robbing. Don’t ever feel bad for him, as after all, his collection of drugs, counterfeit cash, exotic paintings and gold bars means he can surely spare a few million dollars in theft to appease your duffel bag. But most importantly, no two runs of The Cayo Perico Heist ever feel the same. Just because your latest attempt was pulled off effortlessly doesn’t mean your next one will be.
Remember that supply truck I mentioned earlier? I decided to recycle that same approach in a subsequent raid, but this time a guard was driving it, which meant I’d have to take him out without alerting the alarm. Now that is a serious risky endeavour and it’s those sorts of decisions with unpredictable outcomes that you’ll need to bet on each time you rob El Rubio. In a later replay, I opted for the Velum and landed it on the runway dressed as a drug smuggler, but when searched by a guard after hitting the airstrip, he found my handgun and immediately sounded the alarm before I could incapacitate him. Right from the get-go, this approach wasn’t smooth sailing and it certainly caught me by surprise. It’s that unpredictability that has made replaying The Cayo Perico Heist such a delight and it keeps me coming back for more.
Not only is The Cayo Perico Heist fun to play, but it’s also extremely lucrative. Expect a margin of at least one million dollars if you’re pulling off the heist by yourself, often more depending on the main target you’re stealing and the loot you take along the way. With all this set on a wholly new exotic location that’s unlike anything else featured in the Grand Theft Auto series to-date, there’s so much replay value and excitement to be had from GTA Online’s latest update that it’s the closest thing we’ve had to a brand new installment since the release of Grand Theft Auto V.
With the chance to experience it all completely solo, GTA Online finally gives something to fans of traditional single-player GTA experiences, as well as those who adore the continuously evolving online world, and that in itself makes The Cayo Perico Heist an unmissable experience for every fan of the franchise.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.