The recent revelation that Rockstar North is interested in either revisiting Vice City in a future entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, or including all of the cities they’ve crafted to date in some all encompassing adventure inspired me to gather together as many of the OnlySP writers as could be found on short notice to list our dream settings for the series. But that’s never enough for us. Not only are we going to offer where we want to go, but also why we feel as though these settings deserve to be portrayed and, in some cases, offer suggestions for the narrative threads that would be best suited to a particular location. Without any further ado, I’ll begin:
Darwin, Australia: Although Sydney is the most internationally well-known city in Australia, there is a strong argument for Darwin being the better choice for a future location for Grand Theft Auto. A recent joint initiative between the US and Australian governments has seen a large contingent of Marines being based in the city, granting it with a strong American presence. Even without this, it is a multicultural city with a large demographic of internationals, which would allow for some interesting character interactions. With a diverse environment and architectural make-up, it could prove to be a wonderful playground. Within Australia, it is renowned for the combination of alcoholism and racism which resulted in over 6000 assault cases in 2009 alone. Such a setting could give rise to interesting themes, though a compelling story may be a bit more difficult to create when compared to some of the other major metropoles in the country.
Washington D.C., U.S.A.: Although the first GTA was set in London, and the main series is developed in Scotland, it is profoundly American in its bearing. Several of the nation’s most prominent cities have already been featured, but one setting that I’ve always envisioned as a beauty would be the capital. Being home to a great many memorials and monuments, it would abound in eye candy, but its comparatively low criminal presence would force a fundamental alteration to the ideas of the traditional GTA game. What I would propose is a focus on politics and politicians and, really, who hasn’t, at some point, thought them to be the biggest criminals out there? It could take a very serious look at the undercurrents and shady dealings of politicians through a character affiliated with them, or perhaps play out the role of a political assassin trying to rectify the mistake of a failed hit early in the game. Whatever route they took, setting it in the political hub of the nation would give rise to satire far more cutting than Rockstar has attempted in the past.
Johannesburg, South Africa: South Africa’s most populated city is also one steeped in history. Racial conflicts have framed Johannesburg’s narrative since its beginnings as a tribal village in 13th Century. The geography is interesting, with the clear racial zones a remnant of the Apartheid days. The urban northern areas close in as you travel toward the dense city centre, which eventually turns into the former Apartheid villages of Soweto. Crime and violence are common in the city, with a vast war between criminal gangs and the police spilling onto the streets. Distinct areas and cultures, along with this tension between criminals and the authorities, could lead to a very interesting setting. To add to the cultural setting, the city is largely flat, which would make for prime racing strips and relatively uncomplicated driving for the most part in the city centre, while allowing for some more intense and complicated driving sections in the outer suburbs. If Rockstar could portray the people and setting with the dignity and respect they deserve, while capturing some of the wild danger that the city conceals, Johannesburg could be a great environment to explore themes of crime, race, and humanity in.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
It’s no secret that Dubai is a bustling city. However, what’s not so commonly known is that it’s victim to a significant class divide. On the one hand, you have the extremely wealthy Emiratis who basically run everything, and on the other you have working-class laborers made up mostly of Indians, Pakistani, and other South Asian nationalities. GTA V looks to be pushing the theme of class divide quite heavily, so Dubai wouldn’t seem too far-fetched a choice in terms of narrative. Rockstar displayed in GTA IV that they were capable of creating a complex and relatable foreign character, and this a trend they can continue with a setting like Dubai. This combination of both the foreign and familiar extends to the city’s architecture as well, which is endowed with countless skyscrapers, luxurious cityscapes and colorful nightclubs while also being notably draped in Arab culture. As for crime, Dubai is just seedy enough for a GTA game. Drug trafficking is high due to the city’s proximity to some of Asia’s more notable drug-producing countries, and the murder rate has significantly increased as of late. Combine that with money laundering and prostitution and you have a compatible setting for a GTA game, for better or worse. Lest it also be said that tourism is one of its main industries, allowing for interaction with American culture where applicable. To me, Dubai would be an excellent choice for taking GTA in a fresh new direction while still keeping it grounded in an urban metropolis troubled by crime. The opportunities here are exciting, and it would be a crime in itself if Rockstar doesn’t attempt to explore them at one point.
London, United Kingdom
WOAH! Grand Theft Auto has already been to London! True, but there’s something about this diverse multi-cultural city that draws my complete attention, and it’s not just because I’m English. Architecturally, London’s buildings offer a beauty and spectacle uncommon in most other major cities, and with the heart of British Government seated within, Rockstar could craft a great story about corruption, backhanders, and bribery, with London’s suburbs providing an excellent locale for the grimy, violence fuelled action. With the River Thames flowing right through the centre, Rockstar could provide both on foot and water based gameplay, although any traverse into such a place could likely give the protganist a very heavy stomach bug. Clean it is not. There’s also a great medieval history to the city, which contrasted with modern culture, could provide a nice balance to the narrative, as well as allowing players to explore more about historical figures of a life now past. Did I also mention it’s one of the world’s leading cities in Art, Commerce, Education, Entertainment, Fashion, Finance, Healthcare, Media, Professional Services, Research and Development, Tourism and Transport? Imagine the gameplay opportunities on offer within such a place. You could start the day by visiting a the British museum, followed by a spending spree at London’s overpriced boutiques, concluded by a rampage at Westminster Abbey, with the final standoff taking place on top of the London Eye. The best part? Healthcare is free, so dying wouldn’t deduct anything from your bank account upon respawning! Score!
The rest of the team was either unavailable or unwilling to take part. Now that you know our feelings, why don’t you leave yours up for discussion?