GTA V’s NPCs might actually be players trying to steal your car

The NPCs in Rockstar’s open-world crime sim GTA V might actually be rival players in disguise, trying to steal your personal and upgraded supercars

GTA Online Lamar breaks into a car while no one else is looking

The citizens of Los Santos, home to Rockstar’s open-world epic GTA V, are a mixed bunch. Some are pleasant, idling away the hours playing volleyball, or shopping at Rockford Plaza. Some are rude, shouting, swearing, and trying to fight you if you so much as graze past them. And some aren’t NPCs at all – some are rival players, trying to catch you off guard and steal your supercar.

Consider this a public service announcement – try to read it in the voice of one of those 1950s safety information films. You think that man is an NPC? Think again. He could be another player – or more specifically, the GTA V YouTuber Elanip – using a smart collection of settings and customisations to blend into the Los Santos background, and deprive you of your favourite ride.

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You’ve got to admire the effort here – Elanip could not look more like an average AI joe. He walks in straight lines, he stands still to watch players fighting or running from the cops, he makes shrewd use of the in-game emojis, and he deliberately traps himself between a park bench and a hedge so he can spend five minutes jogging on the spot like his pathfinding has bugged out. This isn’t just a disguise. This is full-blown method acting.

And it works. He makes off with a Reever superbike, a tricked-out Comet with neon lights, and a police Interceptor right from under their owners’ noses. It’s wonderful. If you pause it just right, you can spot the exact moments, when Elanip’s innocent NPC wandering veers suddenly off course, and all the players at the car meet immediately start to panic.

It’s not a foolproof strategy, though. A few die-hard GTA V players, role-playing as cops, spot what Elanip is up to, ram him off the road, and try to put him in handcuffs. Nevertheless, he’s a pretty slick operator and there could be more out there.

Especially with the latest GTA Online update, which adds a nifty armoured Kuruma, among other things, you’ll need to watch for NPCs walking in jagged lines, or maybe making too much of an effort to look stupid. You’ve been warned.