GTA 5 stunt master Ash Sky Queen has thrown herself out of high-altitude aircraft countless times. She's torn through the skies of Los Santos like a bolt of lightning, and has thread herself through the tightest nooks and crannies dotted around San Andreas like some sort of aerial seamstress. Ash is, to my mind, the best stunt performer in modern day Grand Theft Auto. And if you need proof – just check out her Chiliad Pylon Challenge.
Ash makes it all look so easy, but her unsuccessful attempts at that particular feat run into the thousands. By her own admission, she's a perfectionist when it comes to GTA 5 and GTA Online's stunt performance subculture – "on one Chiliad attempt, I'd bounced on a couple of pylons. I was like, do I put it out like that? No, it's got to be clean, I've got to do it again" – which makes nailing the most tiresome and challenging tricks with flawless precision all the more satisfying. Now, Ash is turning her attention to the GTA Trilogy.
Up, up and away
Mount Chiliad, of course, first featured in GTA: San Andreas, which portrayed a much smaller take on the pseudo-California state than the one that features in GTA 5. Still, Chiliad, as it appears in the original 2004 sandbox, now reworked in the GTA Trilogy, is a towering icon of the map – one which, if throwing yourself out of virtual aeroplanes is your thing, is ripe for death-defying stunt work.
"I've not long started the Trilogy, and I'm playing San Andreas," says Ash. "I'm hoping to get my parachute, get up Mount Chiliad, and get back off it again! It's so weird being back in the old map because there are parts which I've become so used to in GTA 5 that look so familiar. I was driving down a street at one point in the Trilogy thinking: 'Ah, this is where the Liquor Hole should be'. But it's not actually in the original San Andreas, it's only in GTA 5 and GTA Online's take on the San Andreas setting."
One of my own favourite things about the GTA Trilogy so far is exactly that false sense of familiarity. There are pockets of the reworked San Andreas that feel so recognisable against modern day GTA Online, but are of course distinctly different, to the point where I've gotten completely lost within a sandbox I once knew so well. The absence of the Liquor Hole which Ash alludes to is a standout example of this – the site of another of her renowned and jaw-dropping stunt maneuvers that you should also absolutely check out for yourself.
Similar to her Chiliad feat, Ash makes the end result look straightforward. And yet, she tells me she stuck one million GTA dollars in her character's pocket before starting out on this one. In-game, you drop $500 every time you die. And by the time the Liquor Hole stunt was successfully completed, her character had lost somewhere in the vicinity of $800,000. And she didn't even die during each botched run.
All of this speaks to the determination and persistence required to nail the most challenging stunts in GTA, no matter which game you're playing. One thing I love about this community is the way they view each game's sandbox differently from regular players – where every railing, ramp, stairwell and hillside is seen as an opportunity and, above all else, a challenge to be overcome. The Grand Theft Auto stunt scene dates all the way back to GTA 3's first release in 2001, but it took off proper in GTA 5 – underpinned by the rise of social media, and the nascent YouTube celebrity-ism that's boomed over the last decade or so.
Now faced with a shiny, polished version of GTA's back catalogue, new challenges face stunters like Ash. And while she's certain some of her most sophisticated sky-bound tricks aren't possible in old school San Andreas, she's got her ever-inventive eye locked firmly on Chiliad and other spots around sunny SA.
"Even with the new environments, San Andreas isn't currently capable of doing what I do in GTA 5. But there is one specific spot that I'm going to look at," says Ash. "There's a mission in San Andreas early on where you end up crashing your car through a billboard, and you leave a big gaping hole in it. So I want to get a hold of the jet later in the game, and see if it's merely possible to do something with that. I don't think it's going to work out that well, but you never know. I want to give it a try and see how it goes."
"But just for nostalgia purposes, I want to go up Mount Chiliad and jump off, because for me that was the birth of the Chiliad stunt obsession for me in GTA 5. Wish me luck!"
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