With my back pressed against the slatted wooden facade of the Gentry Hotel in West Vinewood, I cycle through my inventory for a quick health boost. Munching a bag of Ps & Qs in GTA Online can be a time-consuming endeavor, forcing an eating animation that leaves you momentarily vulnerable to attack. So whenever I'm staring down a gang of gun-toting bad guys, I take cover – not just to avoid the inevitable flurry of bullets aimed at my chest, but to take advantage of the fact that eating candy while in cover mode negates the offending animation. I'm not sure when I realized this trick during my 2115+ hours in Los Santos over the last several years, but it's become second nature to me in that time.
Now deep in the throes of 'Usual Suspects' – the second mission of the crime sim's latest Drug Wars: The Last Dose update – I move into the open, shoot one enemy dead, take out another, and make a beeline for the gang's leader whose life I must preserve to interrogate. With my gun raised, I have my sights trained on his head.
Meanwhile in real life, my two-year-old son bursts into the room to show me a stuffed toy elephant that he's owned since he was born, and that I've seen pretty much every single day since. Startled and baffled by my son's misplaced urgency, my hand slips on my controller. I hit left on the D-Pad, and, still with my gun raised in-game, toss a grenade forward. Incredulously, I watch as the gang leader is blown to pieces. I've clearly failed in my bid to keep this man alive, but that feels irrelevant now. What is totally relevant, though, is the fact that I did not know you could throw grenades while moving and aiming in GTA Online.
How could I possibly not know this? After all this time. After the number of projectiles I've hurled through the air at gang leaders, drug dealers, police officers, planes and trains and automobiles over the course of the last eight years, since GTA Online landed on PC. With my mind blown wide open, I quit out the game, search online, and find that I'm not alone. From what I can see, a number of PC players using mouse and keyboard already know that tapping G does the same thing – but as a PC player who instead favors a controller, it's clearly never occurred to me to slip my hand down from the left analogue stick to the D-pad in the heat of battle. This Reddit thread is full of players as shocked as me, with others informing that the move lets you toss whichever throwable was last selected. Which sounds dangerous if that's a molotov in a tight space, or exciting if that's a remotely-detonated sticky bomb.
Elsewhere on the same Reddit thread, other players share lesser known tips including the fact activating stealth mode in the Akula military helicopter instantly drops two stars from your wanted level, while equipping accessories drops it down by one. When searching for a contact on your phone, says another player, you can use right and left on the D-pad to skip a few contacts ahead. Someone else highlights the fact that Tom at the Diamond Casino facilitates fast travel to specific locations around the map; and, bringing us full circle, another player points out candy can be restocked at your Auto Shop by virtue of the candy bowl on the downstairs table.
Through all of this, it's not really important how much of a self-confessed idiot I am (or we, don't be afraid to admit it) – what I instead find fascinating is that I'm still making little discoveries like this in a game that I think I know so well. I could draw you a road map of San Andreas from memory at this point, and yet a pretty fundamental part of combat has slipped my net for an inordinate amount of time. And I think that's great.
Earlier this year, I wrote about being over 300 hours into Elden Ring, and only then discovering its version of Dark Souls' worst area. My inbox took a bit of flack after that admission, but, honestly? That feeling of discovery in something familiar was too wonderful to ignore, and was something I just had to share. Who knows how many other players were in the same boat, and I'm nevertheless happy to have provided the Git Gud brigade with some light entertainment between times. Sure, the 'Would you Kindly', and unexpected post-apocalypse giraffe moments are great, but I'd argue a game's scope to shock and awe after literally thousands of hours is just as impressive – even if that's down to one overlooked input, and one single grenade.
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