I'm hooked on one particular moment in Cerberus Surprise, the new limited-time Halloween event that's active right now in GTA Online. Granted, the whole thing is a hair-raising, panic-inducing, blood-pressure-soaring affair, but there's one moment that occurs right at the beginning of each freemode set-piece that's so simple and terrifying and tantalizing in equal measure that I just can't get enough of it.
Let me first give you the set-up. As part of GTA Online's wider Halloween-themed event, Cerberus Surprise can be activated in public or private servers, as long as: a) at least two players occupy the lobby, and b) you already own an Auto Shop. When sent out to steal specific Exotic Export cars, a driverless, banged-up Apocalypse Cerberus truck will begin chasing you as soon as you take off – and it'll continue to pursue you until you've shuttled your stolen goods at a drop-off point, or have endured five minutes of fender-bending onslaught. The Cerberus itself cannot be hijacked, and while the rusted trucks are easy enough to spot before boosting each Exotic vehicle target, they're invulnerable until you start the ignition.
The best bit? Watching the Cerberus' yellowed headlamps burst to life in the distance, and then hearing the growl of its engine as it begins speeding towards you.
Use your head
From there unfolds a drop-off mission like no other. No matter your experience in GTA Online, you'll likely know that outrunning heel-snapping gang members and/or the LSPD in the aftermath of criminal activity is pretty par for the course – but this is totally different. Besides the sheer size of the pursuant, the high-speed ordeal is made worse by the mindlessness of the AI. The fact that there's no driver sitting behind the wheel is, naturally, a Halloween-inspired gimmick, but the Cerberus' purposefully erratic behavior makes predicting its movements almost impossible. This is especially true when navigating San Andreas' highways and busy central thoroughfares because, whereas regular AI characters are programmed to yield and push forward between gaps in the traffic when driving – so as to generally avoid head-on collisions – the Cerberus simply plows through, using its custom-built cast iron front plate to flip obstructing vehicles like pancakes. Should you find yourself in pole position for that particular maneuver, which you will, you best remember your safety belt.
The high-stakes cat-and-mouse set-up of Cerberus Surprise is pretty similar to Steven Spielberg's 1971 action thriller movie, Duel – a straight-to-television film about a driver being chased by a mostly unseen truck driver that's since garnered cult classic status. Admittedly, I've never seen it, but the comparisons noted on social media seem bang on from what I gather from YouTube and Wikipedia. What I was reminded of most while playing Cerberus Surprise, however, was the iconic bridge scene from Terminator 2 – when John Connor is pursued on his dirt bike along an aqueduct by the T-1000 behind the wheel of a haulage lorry. It may be primitive by today's standards, but there was a level in the 1991 Dementia and Ocean Software Atari ST movie tie-in game, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, whose top-down, obstacle-dodging interpretation of this scene gave 5-year-old me nightmares for weeks. I'm too scared (read: scarred) to try it myself, but I bet something similar could be recreated in the Los Santos Storm Drain. Just the thought of that gives me the shivers.
To make matters worse, Rockstar employs a cheeky cheap trick to keep things spicy. Because even if you manage to outrun or derail the Cerberus at any given sharp turn or heavily-congested intersection, it'll simply respawn right behind you a few hundred yards down the road, sound its bassy horn, and begin forcibly tailgating you at top-speed. In any other circumstance, I reckon this sleight of hand would infuriate me – but here it works, simply by maintaining the high intensity of every run between pick up and drop off. If you're feeling especially courageous, you could always try jamming up the Cerberus en route to the drop-off, hop out of your car, and blow it up with explosives – but it's probably easier, and definitely more fun, to enjoy the chase. For the duration of the Cerberus Surprise event, your safe arrival will be rewarded with 2x GTA$ and RP. Which, just about, makes the near-unbearable stress of it all worth it.
After that, I only have one thing on my mind. I fire up a new mission. I scour the shadows for the Cerberus. I locate the Exotic Export target. I start the engine. And then I watch those yellowed headlamps flicker to life once again off in the distance, inhale a sharp breath, and put the pedal to the floor.
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