What We'd Like to See in the Next Grand Theft Auto

American hustle.


The last time Grand Theft Auto made the leap from one generation to the next, Rockstar took that opportunity to shift the franchise's focus, moving away from some of the zanier aspects present in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It wasn't to everyone's liking, but I appreciated the change. I felt like the Saints Row series had the wacky open-world crime game covered, and was glad that GTA was moving into somewhat different territory. I think that the writers at Rockstar have perhaps the best ear for dialogue of anyone writing games today, and I was glad that cutscenes in Grand Theft Auto IV often took their time, focusing on developing character as much as on setting up whatever absurd excuse would carry you through the next mission. Now that Grand Theft Auto will inevitably be transitioning once again from one console generation to another, I expect that Rockstar will once again take the opportunity to reevaluate the series' direction to ensure that the GTA games of the future don't feel like they're covering the same territory as the GTA games of the past.

I have no idea where Rockstar might take the series, but I hope that it goes against the conventional wisdom in game design right now that bigger worlds are better worlds. There's a lot of attention being paid to the size of games like The Witcher 3 and The Crew, and given that Grand Theft Auto V was so much bigger than GTAIV geographically, Rockstar might feel a certain pressure to continue making its games bigger in scope. But rather than going broader, I'd much rather that the next GTA go deeper. Instead of a bigger world and more main characters than GTAV's trio of miscreants, I'd prefer a more focused game that lets me get to know a pair of characters better.

After GTA V's vast scope and glamorous view of criminal life, maybe it's time for a smaller, bleaker GTA.
After GTA V's vast scope and glamorous view of criminal life, maybe it's time for a smaller, bleaker GTA.

And, yes, I'd like at least one of those characters to be a woman. When Grand Theft Auto III debuted, the series felt daring and subversive. Now, it has started to feel safe and predictable. We know what the tone of its satire will be. We know what the gameplay will be like. I want Grand Theft Auto to find ways to feel daring again, and I think that the best way to do that is not to double down on crude humor and excessive violence but to move in a more intimate direction and really try to tell a story about people we care about in some way. And it's sad but true that, given the relative scarcity of female protagonists in AAA games, pinning a GTA game on a female character would seem like a bold move.

What would make it even bolder would be if the game really wanted us to see that character as a complex, three-dimensional person. Of course, it's Grand Theft Auto. You have to be able to engage in criminal acts. You have to be someone who does bad things. But that doesn't mean that the characters have to be detestable. Currently, I'm pretty hooked on the FX television show The Americans, about a pair of Russian spies in deep cover in the United States, posing as a normal suburban American married couple, complete with two kids. They're sometimes forced into situations where they have to kill people, but they don't relish it, and the relationship dynamic between Philip and Elizabeth, the husband and wife, is fraught with complications because they love each other but often have very different ideas about what they're doing. I don't want the next Grand Theft Auto to model itself on The Americans or anything, but I think the show demonstrates that you can place complex characters in morally compromised situations without either celebrating the violence they engage in or making us hate the characters who are engaging in it, and I'd like the next GTA game to pull this off, too.

GTA can give us characters we care about or it can give us a world filled with crude humor. It shouldn't keep trying to do both.
GTA can give us characters we care about or it can give us a world filled with crude humor. It shouldn't keep trying to do both.

Shifting up the series' approach to character would also mean shifting up its approach to world building. If GTA does try to tell a story that's more grounded in character, it needs to give those characters a grounded world to inhabit, not one in which every billboard and every radio ad sacrifices believability for crude humor. The humor of the series, which is part of what once made it feel daring and subversive, is an aspect of it that's on the verge of feeling tired and predictable. Grand Theft Auto V's attempts to lampoon contemporary American culture and social media weren't so much insightful and biting as they were just plain bitter and misanthropic. I think it's time for the series to retire this trend and let the meaning of its story emerge naturally from its characters and the society in which they exist.

It's also been quite a while since the series took us to a different time period, and after both GTAIV and GTAV presented visions of early-21st-century America, I'd like the series to once again set its sights on another era. We've already had GTA filtered through the lens of sleek, neon-lit 1980s excess in Vice City, but a bleaker 1980s GTA set in a more working-class city like Chicago or Detroit could be great, and given the vast chasm between the image of early 80s American life sold by the Reagan administration and the reality of it as experienced by so many Americans, this setting could afford the series the opportunity to continue exploring the theme of the American dream in a way that feels organic and relevant.

At the end of the day, it's not the when or the where of the next GTA that I really care about. It's the spirit of it. I want it to surprise us with its subject matter. I want it to actually say something meaningful about life in America. I want it to truly be the bold, daring, subversive game that Grand Theft Auto games now only pretend to be.

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Avatar image for bluefox755

"What WE'D like to see in the next GTA"??? Who are they speaking for? That is not what I'd like to see, and I've never heard anyone else echo these ideas. It sounds like the writer has a personal problem with the game and wants to change it for their own personal reasons, no thanks.

Avatar image for azizaam

I think the story in GTAV was bold and daring, they really showed how crooked FIB is and how humans just sell themself of 15 minutes of fame.

Avatar image for paparolo

A proper PC release... f*ck me right?

Avatar image for Luchingador

a PC version.

Avatar image for Guest1001

"GTA can give us characters we care about or it can give us a world filled with crude humor. It shouldn't keep trying to do both."

Carolyn, would you like to tell us where you plucked this particular theory from? And what, exactly, storytelling experience you have that makes you such an expert on the idea that crude humour and endearing characters are conflicting story elements?

"Grand Theft Auto V's attempts to lampoon contemporary American culture and social media weren't so much insightful and biting as they were just plain bitter and misanthropic."

Look, I wasn't the biggest GTAV fan. I think it's over too soon, reached its climax too suddenly and following Michael and Trevor's return from North Yankton, it seemed like a rush to the end. But if there's one thing it got right, dear God, it was the satire of modern America. Particularly with regards to social media, fame and, yes, gamers. GTAV isn't a game that could've been made at any other time because it satirises present-day culture so perfectly. I felt that GTAIV missed the mark on it but GTAV got it right in a huge way. Similar to how films like They Live! satirised consumerism in the 80s (and is even more relevant today), GTAV completely nails the shallowness and impersonal nature of fame and technology.

Avatar image for liquidbutter

@Guest1001 Can't agree more with your assessment of GTA V, but I think GTA IV did a great job on the satire, not missing the mark at all. The two political radio stations were spot on perfect parodies of the modern political landscape in America, far more than V.

Avatar image for darkheath

Where GTA V gave you three protagonists, I'd love to see a fourth one where you actually play as an agent tasked with bringing down the trio. It would give it some cool replay-ability in that you can see the story from both sides. Finish up the good guy story, then start over as the bad guys and see if you can accomplish the things you foiled as the cop. That would be pretty innovative.

Avatar image for alien33

I would change a huge map in place of a smaller one (i.e. the size of GTA4) where you can enter any building and apartment you want.

Avatar image for ---Cipher---

Less Thugnificent, more Scarface please!

Avatar image for redcastle60187

less of the constant swearing. loses all impact after 2 minutes.

Avatar image for ballsy7777

<< LINK REMOVED >> I love the f word myself but it was a bit too much

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Avatar image for theprismhead

<< LINK REMOVED >> There was none, ever.

Avatar image for SkytheWiz1

I have zero interest in the next GTA... yet.

I'm still waiting for them to deliver things promised for the current one.

Avatar image for ddmartin2014

The biggest thing they could do? Move away from America (GTA London does not count) So many places they could go (China/Japan/England/Italy/Russia/Brazil) The game itself always improves, they said themselves they had 1000 ideas they didn't include in GTA V. I'd defo keep more than 1 protagonist. Or maybe follow the Saints Row route and design your own playable character.

Avatar image for liquidbutter

<< LINK REMOVED >> I think it would cease to really be GTA anymore if it wasn't set in America. The whole franchise is too deeply rooted in American culture. GTA isn't just about America, GTA is America. It is a beautiful and hilarious parody of every pop culture segment of the United States.

Avatar image for ddmartin2014

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> A lot of people would agree with you, maybe out of fear that they've done nothing else. Maybe 1 thing that could be looked at if they go American again, is Crime families. Working your way up through the ranks. Hell to be honest who cares, GTA will always rock, and while a PS4/XB1 GTA is probably years away...you know it will rock

Avatar image for hungoverhank

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>Why is GTA an American thing? It would work just as well if it was set outside of the states (as it did with the London 1969 release). London, Amsterdam, Naples, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney/Melbourne (bikers) and pretty much the whole of South America all have thriving crime scenes and isn't this the point of GTA ?? To make your way in a tough crime-fuelled gang filled city?

The American thing always makes me laugh as much of the game is not even made by Americans.

Avatar image for Immortallix

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sleeping Dogs/Shenmue/Yakuza got your Asian hankering covered.

Avatar image for azizaam

If you want a different open world crime game try Sleeping dog. It set in Japan..i think.

Avatar image for bg44

<< LINK REMOVED >> hong kong

Avatar image for juibrand

<< LINK REMOVED >> sleeping dogs is set in china (hong kong to be specific)..... YAKUZA is set in japan

Avatar image for ddmartin2014

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Sleeping dogs was a great game...but it's a poor GTA. GTA on the new gen needs to move away, and if anybody has the balls to do it, it's Rockstar

Avatar image for joce667

<< LINK REMOVED >> Will not happen Rockstar has said that GTA was a norh america affair .

Avatar image for nugchug_niko

I would dig a female protagonist, ex. homicide detective in a big city. The story needs to be more serious, where the humor is dark rather than silly. There is plenty to draw from a city like London and they dont need the map to get any bigger jus more immersive.

Avatar image for CharlesBurns

I wish I could play as my own avatar offline. I don't wanna earn money and buy stuff for Michael, Trevor or Franklin, they're not me.

Avatar image for Roogu_Asaashin

I think a GTA game with a male and female protagonist would be awesome, maybe like Bonnie and Clyde. It would add a twist to what we've normally experienced from a GTA game, but it will still be a GTA game.

Avatar image for hungoverhank

<< LINK REMOVED >> The Bonnie and Clyde idea is brilliant. Natural Born Killers meets GTA if you will...

Avatar image for ThePowerOfHAT

I do think that having likeable protagonists would be a good start. Sleeping Dogs did this better than most open world GTA-clonish games have thus far. The undercover cop angle ensured that you always felt like you were a good guy, and made the bad things you did to maintain your cover feel at least somewhat understandable. All that added to a lot more complexity than what you tend to see in the GTA games, in which the protagonists have generally just been bad people doing more bad things. (GTA IV's Niko Bellic at least had a greater sense of world-weariness, even if the game never fully embraced his attitude.)

Avatar image for Pauly_D

Even if GTA had a female main character. She would be either butch or a COMPLETE B****. Females and males wouldn't enjoy playing as her or watching her cut scenes because it would just be a crazy woman. Much like Catalina from GTA 3 and SA. Or my Ex.

Avatar image for Viral-venom13


While i can find humor in your Jersey Shore star username, imagining your ex being like Catalina is down right hilarious....hopefully you were never threatened to be sliced into so many parts if she never got her way, lol!

Avatar image for neomoglin

I'm not sure this is what "we'd" like to see and more like "What Carolyn Petit would like to see". Why get rid of an entire series trademarks that it's loved universally for? It does crude humour and political satire yes, because it does them well, which is important, why would Rockstar take away one of the largest things that makes GTA what it is. I mean you don't need another Trevor in GTA6 but a character who is even slightly averse to the violence they partake is going to ruin the entire atmosphere of the game, because it is a very violent game and it just wouldn't make sense. I liked the system of three characters but I felt like it focused too much on Michael's personal life which wasn't particularly interesting. What I'd personally like to see is a British character out of water in an American city, that would be easy enough for the Houser's given their origin.

Avatar image for daikkenaurora12

The title of this article should actually be "What Carolyn Petit would like to see in the next Grand Theft Auto".

And why is having a female character better? I would think a good character is important, not their gender.

Avatar image for nomisrevilo

Men or Women protagonists don't matter. If they want to make the game better, they sure as hell shouldn't change anything.

If you want to add another level to the story telling, a woman isn't the answer, rather how you tell the story is the key. They played with that approach in GTA5, they should expand on it in GTA6.

Add more protagonists, kill off a few, have them on multiple sides i.e. one as an FBI Agent or something like that. Could you image a better and deeper story than one that is told from both perspectives, and then have game play where you're literally shooting at yourself?

Just remember, they did GTA the way you want it (minus the woman) it was called Red Dead Redemption, he was an honorable guy trying to save his family... I enjoyed the game, but GTA isn't honorable, it's a raunchy race to the end.

Avatar image for hungoverhank

<< LINK REMOVED >> You're right about RDR. It did portray an honourable man who was fighting to save his family. It also managed to (and I can't think of another off the top of my head) portray the lead female character as an honourable woman too.

Avatar image for darkheath

@nomisrevilo You had the same idea that I did. It would add a ton of replayability. Imagine from one angle you're trying to plan the perfect heist. From the other, doing the detective work to figure out where they will strike next and put a stop to it. That would be fantastic. Though, you'd almost have to play the good guy side first or you'd already know what the bad guys were doing.

Avatar image for kayton8

Rockstar will never be able to please you guys. most of you are ungrateful after all the hard work Rockstar has done with the game. you guys are just like spoiled children. I mean yeah its ok to give suggestions,but i have noticed alot of people on here constantly bashing the game all the time. just seems a bit ungrateful.

Avatar image for bubba_1988

I wouldn't mind seeing a GTA outside of the states, but b/c American culture is so in your face and recognizable, would people (other than the locals) understand the satire of a South American or British set game. But then again do we have to? Funny is funny regardless of culture, right?

Avatar image for phbz

By biggest problem with GTA V was that, after Red Dead Redemption, I was expecting a much more mature game.

Avatar image for Duke_51

<< LINK REMOVED >> GTA is all about satire and dark humour, it's taking the piss out of American culture.

Avatar image for alien33

<< LINK REMOVED >> But most people were asking for the craziness and silliness of San Andreas to come back and this is what Rockstar did. They listened to the fans. GTA4 was more serious like RDR, but apparently most fans didn't like that.

Avatar image for kuda001

I don't think adding a female character would change anything. The reason why the game is so well received is because it does subversive, crude, satirical, politically incorrect humour very well. Yes, it does miss the mark on rare occasions but what your suggesting would not make it a GTA game. I also think that the stories themselves are very good and do exactly what you just explained with The Americans TV show. A game is not made with just having a female lead character.

Avatar image for itsglover

Though I agree that playing as a female character would make the plot different. People who play GTA games don't really play it for the plot or for the characters necessarily. The majority of people I see playing it just want a game where guys kill other guys for fun.

On another note, a change in location would be nice. Rather than LA, NYC, or Miami. Though it would be interesting to see how they would pull it off.