GTA Online's Arena War update is focused on near-apocalyptic levels of carnage, as multiple players battle for supremacy in a trap-laid coliseum. We'll show you how to get involved, what you can expect, and how best to win.
What is Arena War?
Generally speaking, Arena War is a kind of vehicle-based matchmaking system wherein multiple teams of players fight each other in heavily-customised cars and bikes, some of those team members operating traps and weaponized drones while they wait for their turn in the driving seat.
Tied into this is a workshop that allows you to buy and modify cars, as well as a tiered progression system where you unlock new vehicles, upgrades and clothes as you rank up.
That's the basics, roughly speaking. Build your own deathmobile, bring it into Arena War games, use it to kill other players, rank up and earn money through victory, and use those to upgrade your deathmobile even more. There's more to it, which we'll get into momentarily, but that's the basic movements at play.
How to Start Playing Arena War
Like many GTA Online updates, accessing Arena War requires a pretty significant buy-in, purchasing an Arena War Workshop for a wallet-aching $995,000 (and that's the bare minimum, you'll likely have to shell out more over time). There are occasional sales that reduce the price, so if you want to play but don't have the cash, keep an eye out for a lowering of the price.
You can buy it by opening the internet on your in-game phone or laptop, and finding it either on the main page, or failing that, under the Travel and Transport menu. Click on it, then on the option to "Purchase Workshop." You'll be taken to a list of possible upgrades and renovations to buy along with it, some of which are much more important than others.
Buying and Customizing an Arena War Workshop
You can get this modifications while buying a workshop for the first time, or later on by going back to the same site. These are the following options:
- Office Style (Free - $260,000): A purely cosmetic option that alters the appearance of your workshop office. Not very important, likely not a priority. The default model is free, with a few other choices that range in price.
- Workshop Graphics (Free - $395,000): Again, a cosmetic option, this time changing the appearance of the car workshop your vehicle tinkering takes place in. Stick with the free stock model unless you've got money to burn.
- Workshop Color (Free - $265,000): The final cosmetic choice and probably the most notable one, changing the walls and surfaces in your workshop. The default car-park-grey is free, the rest all cost over a quarter of a million - a bit expensive for a lick of paint.
- Garage Floor B1 ($195,000 - $590,000): As a default your workshop can store 10 cars, and every floor bought adds room for another ten. Don't bother with more expensive versions of the floor if you find yourself in need of extra space, it just adds decals and stickers to the walls.
- Garage Floor B2 ($265,000 - $660,000): Same as above.
- Mechanic (Free - $727,500): Unlike other modifications, of which you can only have one at a time, you can have all three mechanics working in your workshop at once, and that's something you'll definitely want if you're serious about Arena War. The default mechanic is free, able to make all the modifications to your car you'd expect from a standard Customs Shop, but the other two cost money, each one performing a different function. We particularly recommend saving up for the more expensive weapons expert. In fact, he should be the first thing you start saving for, as he's the one that can start fixing gun turrets, mines and other deadly devices to your custom car.
- Personal Quarters ($220,000): This augments your office with a bed and wardrobe, and can also be used to set the whole workshop as a spawn point.
Accessing Your Workshop and Arena War
Once you've got a workshop, you can find it by going to the Maze Bank Arena, marked on you map by several icons of cogs. The purple ones mark locations to begin matchmaking for Arena War, while the white one shows where you go to get into your workshop.
Once you go to your workshop for the first time, there'll be an introductory cutscene in the Rockstar style, meaning it's about five times as long as it needs to be. Then you'll get put into a matchmaking game anyway, driving a massive car covered in guns and spikes and all sorts of fun stuff.
How to Play Arena War
There are multiple kinds of game in Arena war that usually change the main objective - collect checkpoints, knock around a giant beach ball, or just kill each other - but whatever the game, murdering other players will always be a significant part of it. You'll either be in the arena, driving around, or operating various drones and deathtraps from the safety of the locker room. When the driver's car is eventually destroyed, they go to the locker room and somebody else gets tagged in to drive their own vehicle, assuming it's a team game. The match continues until the specific objective has been completed.
How to Win Arena War
There's little to be said in terms of specifics when operating the car specifically, as each different game mode needs a different playstyle to win. However, there are some universal principles in play that it's important to keep in mind, and can give you that edge.
- Watch the road. Both cars and drones can leave mines, some of which can do a lot of damage. There's also traps laid around, usually marked by some telltale grate or mismatched flooring. Both can be devastating, so be sure to give them a wide berth.
- Listen to the commentators. Yes, they're annoying, but the two guys bellowing to the crowd can actually hint at what's going on, even if you can't see it, shouting about RC cars and turrets. They won't be so helpful as to actually tell you where they are, but it can be a helpful signifier just to take a quick look around, especially if you're on low health.
- Stay mobile. It might be tempting for newcomers just to hunker down in one corner, especially if it's just a deathmatch, and blast anything that comes too close. Bad move - there's a lot of stuff that strategy won't account for, like guided missiles and mounted gun turrets, meaning that the best thing to do is stay ahead of the enemy.
- Use the center. Likewise, don't let yourself be the victim in one of those long chases around the arena's edge, having some pursuing car pick health off you while you panic and drive in circles. Drop down into the middle of the arena and try to lose them, especially if you think your allies are manning the traps down there, and try to turn the situation around.
How to Use Traps and Drones in Arena War
Presuming you're not the one in the car, you'll be operating the traps and drones from outside. You'll see an image of your character operating a tablet, with a choice to man one of four deadly devices - a Battle Drone, an RC Bandito, A Trap Cam, or a Turret, activated by one of the four main buttons. When you're done with one of them and want to switch to another, press either Y/Triangle to exit, or Left Bumper/L1 to self-destruct, depending on what you're using.
- The Battle Drone. A flying drone which can be used either to disable nearby enemies with a recharging EMP pulse, or to detonate and damage everything nearby. Its manoeuvrability makes it highly versatile, but the slow speed means that it's sometimes best to wait for your enemy to come to you.
- The RC Bandito. A small remote-controlled car that be driven around the stadium. Like the Drone, it can also detonate for massive damage, but can also drop up to three mines that create shockwaves for knocking cars over. Though they don't do much damage, these mines can be highly effective when placed near a trap or turret, potentially making the victim a sitting duck for much worse enemies.
- The Trap Cam. A series of cameras you can use to trigger traps around the environment, done by pointing at them and selecting with A/X. Speed and reflexes are the key here - swap between camera points with the bumpers/shoulder buttons, surveying the arena to look for enemies about to place themselves in harm's way.
- The Turret. Well, Turrets plural, actually, as the arena is ringed by multiple machine gun turrets that can be used to pour damage into any nearby car. Like the Trap Cam you can swap between them with the bumpers/shoulder buttons, but they also come with a recharging guided missile that you can fly after launching, steering it into targets. As powerful as this is, don't take too long flying it around - crash it into the first good target, then get back to manning the machine gun so the missile can reload.
Buying and Customizing Your Car
Once you've played your first game, you'll actually lose that souped-up supercar the game let you enjoy. First taste's free, you see, but now you sadly have to start putting in some effort to a vehicle anywhere near comparable.
You can buy vehicles from the Arena War website where you bought the workshop initially. Either more expensive cars that are basically finished and customized already, or a range of much cheaper vehicles that function as blank slates for personalisation and modification.
Once you buy one, it'll be sent to your attached Garage. Get into it and press right on the D-Pad to move it to the Workshop, where you can then pick from a variety of modifications, with more unlocking as you level up your rank and hire more mechanics. Any car in your garage should then be accessible from the set-up screen before a match begins.
Rewards for Playing Arena War
Arena War matches gives you three kinds of reward - reputation, money and "Arena Points", which increase your Arena Rank. As your rank goes up, you'll have new car upgrades open up, as well as decreased prices for certain vehicles and outfits in the game. You can use the laptop in your Arena office and press left on the D-Pad to see the full list of Rank rewards, and what you'll need to unlock them.
If you found this guide helpful, why not check out what else is available in GTA Online with our guide to running your own MC Club? Alternatively, go from zero to sixty with our guide to all the fastest vehicles. Or if you want to find our full GTA 5 cheats page for the singleplayer, you can go right here for everything you'll need.