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 staticsnake87

How about a new type of world aside from the usual NY, LA, or Miami? Like Detroit.... post-bankruptcy and economic collapse. Detroit would be a great one considering the current state of that city. The game could focus on a pair of protagonists, one who is a sleazy scammer coming to Detroit to find ways to take advantage of the city's issues to make money, and the other could be some guy who grew up in the rundown part of Detroit and wants vengeance for politicians ruining his city and to get more money.

Make the scene where they meet be something like the well-suited guy who came to Detroit is in some bank with a contact of his setting up a plan when the Detroit native comes in to rob the place, and funny conversations ensue and the scammer dude winds up hiring the robber or something.

Avatar image for 001011000101101

Not sure I can take this seriously from someone who complained about V being "misogynistic". This person clearly has zero understanding of what the GTA games tries to be and/or do. This kind of "article" could, under other circumstances, very well be described as a poor attempt at trolling.

Avatar image for chuckles471

"the series felt daring and subversive"

They weren't trying to be, they were just trying to make a fun game that was a homage to the films that they grew up with. That's why the Houser's are multimillionaires and you are crying that they don't add a female protagonist.

Also the satire is brilliant because they attack everybody, they don't have sacred cows.

Avatar image for Sh4ark

A PC version..

Avatar image for Whiskey3romeo

Thankfully, Rockstar Games doesn't listen to the media...or Congress...when building their games. What the author suggests isn't Grand Theft Auto. The main reason GTA IV was the most criticized of the series is it started to take itself too seriously. Hence it's return to the "zanier aspects" of the series with GTA V.

Give us bigger maps and more and more outrageous stuff to do around every corner. We don't need complex "The Last of Us" style characters. That's not what GTA is about.

Avatar image for megamatics

<< LINK REMOVED >> All I ever needed to know about Claude is that he wanted to make money, Didn't make GTA3 any less of an amazing game.

Avatar image for Whiskey3romeo

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> True, although having a character that talks, has a personality and a story isn't necessarily a bad thing, but one of the main attractions of GTA is the ability do things aside from the story or sometimes do nothing at all but just drive around...and the game still be wildly entertaining.

This is what makes GTA what it is. They strayed away from this formula in GTA IV...albeit only a little bit...and it wasn't well received. They should never stray too far away from it again.

Avatar image for itay169

I only agree that one of the charcters in the next GTA should be a woman

Avatar image for always_explicit

Utter nonsense...I dont want to be a female gangster...its not a realistic interpretation of the GTA world in my eyes.

Also taking away the humour is taking away one of the fundamental features that make GTA...GTA.

GTA could go in any direction imaginable...Carolyns suggestion to "stick a female protagonist" in the mix is actually an incredibly dull and uninspired direction to take given the possibilities available with such an expansive genre.

GTA at its heart is a crime game. The protagonist could be male female....it doesnt matter....it could be set in any location....it doesnt matter. The satire needs to stay.

Avatar image for SPBoss

Rockstar got where it is today because of loyal PC gamers that bought their games (they were only released on PC at the time). The least they can do is release a PC version at the same time as the consoles to show some appreciation.

Their excuse is always 'the PC version needs more work' and they still release a crappy port. So far only Max Payne 3 has been ported to PC properly, I hope that GTA V will be ported just as well. That said, I bought GTA V for PS3 and will buy it again on PC because the game itself is great. The waiting time for a PC release is just ridiculous though.

Avatar image for chuckles471

@SPBoss If you are going back to the DMA design days of Leminings, maybe... But it was GTA on the PS1 that got them famous with the general public.

Avatar image for notorious98

<< LINK REMOVED >> What are you talking about? Only 1 of the GTAs was released only on the computer (London 1961). GTA was originally released on both PC AND PS1 AND Gameboy Color. GTA 2, released on PC AND PS1 AND Gameboy Color. Midnight Club wasn't released on PC at all.

By all means, could you please point to all the Rockstar games that were PC exclusives? Don't worry, I'll wait.

Avatar image for always_explicit

<< LINK REMOVED >> This is absolute rubbish....GTA did not get where it is today because of PC gamers. GTA on the playstation sold extremely well as did every other version of GTA to date. Its not a PC vs Consoles issue. Rockstar dont owe PC gamers anything....

Avatar image for ssdd_again


Give it a rest, Rockstar got to where they are today because of multiple IP's and multi-platform releases. The original GTA games were also available on PS1 and still didn't break the half a million mark in total sales.

The reason is more likely to be money, or just shear difficulty in providing the excessively high quality that the 'PC master race' demands (and knowing that even if they do release it you lot will find something to stamp your feet about).

Probably the reason(s) they never bothered releasing RDR on PC as well.

Rockstar don't owe PC gamers anything.

Avatar image for advocacy

Cthulhu. The next GTA game definitely needs more Elder Gods.

Avatar image for OuroborosChoked

<< LINK REMOVED >> Yeah! And as a protagonist ;)

Avatar image for sweet_tastin

Good article.
In terms of location setting and size. I hope they continue with a contemporary setting so it fits with a potential "GTA world" idea, perhaps trading some size for detail, but so long as they are world building in a way that they can go over old assets, improve and add to them, perhaps utilising buildings more in the future then that's ok.

It may just be me, but I found V a refreshing return to form, and I wonder if that was simply down to the relative bleakness of IV? A game I kind of enjoyed but did not stick with, whereas V got played inside out and thoroughly enjoyed, so that might be a concern. The amount of time you want to actually spend in and experience the location may be shorter if it's not as enticing.

On the writing, I love the bitterness and cynicism in GTA, it works so well juxtaposed to the all out crazy that inhabits it's cities and think that rather than take a more serious slant they should keep that as a consistent theme.

I do agree a deeper look at perhaps two protagonists would be fantastic, especially with such a developed and vibrant, yet morally bankrupt and dark world developed around them.

I'd love them to have a female protagonist, but not if it's just a check-box exercise. If there is real meat to the female protagonist's role and experiences in this world and can be written with authenticity. If they desire to tell the story of this female protagonist then I am all for it, but not if they do it with an aim to appease, that would just be a disservice.

I do wonder if it would take accomplished female writers to do this authentically though, shame Amy Hennig joined Visceral.
Avatar image for moonlightwolf01

Smaller world but one with a lot more interiors and details would definitely be good, a female protagonist would be fine so long as she actually worked with the story, we don't want one thrown in as a token gesture do we. The humor isn't likely to change because a fair amount of the design team is Scottish or living in Scotland and having experienced several Scottish comedians in my time I can tell you that it's just what they find funny. Some of the satire could be tightened up but the tone isn't likely to change.

Avatar image for garysingh34

Caro, Im'ma tell you what your issue is right here. You want a female protagonist at the helm of a title such as GTA to wave your flag in front of one of gamings biggest audience. Not because GTA would be a better game because of it. Give Rockstar a break already.

There is no issue with GTA's male heavy composition as that is what the game demands. There was no room in that trio for a female lead.

I would be more than happy playing as a female character in the next iteration if the game suits it. But lets change things for the right reasons hey?

So Caro, please stop trolling. Please.

Avatar image for Mr_Mark_Legion


Avatar image for profchrisk

With respect to Carolyn, the issues I have with the GTA series are more of a technical nature than story. Sure, a lady badass protagonist would be a fresh take on the genre, but I'd like to see the next title allow me to walk into a building, of my choosing, which was accomplished to a degree by the Saints Row series. I'll give GTA credit where it's due in the sandbox genre, but it needs to raise the stakes by making the environment more immersive..GTA5/GTAO was a great jumping off point, Now is the time to refine that accordingly.

Avatar image for tgwenz

Yeah Rockstar! A female lead GTA Next and Caro will review it a 10.

Avatar image for phantompain888

They are trying to put every gta city in a single game and u r hopping for a linear gta next time.....i mean why?

Avatar image for console_war_vet

Knew what the article was going to discuss before even reading it. Misogyny for the win.

Avatar image for dfooster

I hope the map is smaller if anything. I'd like a really dense map with lots to do, buildings to enter businesses to run properly rather than just completing a mission and seeing cash go into your bank account. It doesn't have to be a full on business management game but they could definitely make the player feel like they are building an empire.

You could build up your crew and have them doing all the dirty work so the main character doesn't become as unlikeable, think tony soprano level of involvement.

It also needs a clear protagonist, someone who could potentially take out hits on your guys and you on theirs to make the killing more acceptable and sympathetic.

I would also move away from encouraging the player to go on rampages by punishing the player more severely with prison time for crew members or paying off the police for uncalled for crimes which affects your businesses with police shakedowns for creating too much carnage.

I would definitely give more weight to the players actions and have more meaningful shoot outs and car chases rather than every single mission being a tale of auto carnage to the point where it becomes mundane. Sometimes less but with greater consequences is better than more over the top action.

Avatar image for alien33

<< LINK REMOVED >> Running your own business and building slowly your empire are very good points. Also more interior halls.

Avatar image for dani_i89

Halo, Mas Effect and The Witcher are among my favorites. Exceptional games right there

Avatar image for Zombrex

@dani_i89 The Witcher series and the first Mass Effect were good. Halo had a good story(albeit copied from Enders Game) but the games themselves were crap. You can only run through the same shiny futuristic/alien or African looking landscapes so many times before you want to throw a controller through the screen.

Avatar image for dani_i89

Why do people only like the first Mass Effect?? 2 and 3 eclipsed number 1 in every single way possible (except for the ending of number 3). As much as I loved number 1, it's the worst of the series. Halo re-defined the shooter and is the most innovative and original shooter since it'seems inception. There are 3 shooters worth caring about: Halo, Half life and Bioshock. Halo in my opinion is the best and most influential and innovative. It didn't copy anything, it's the game that is still being copied to this day. It may be repetitive at times, but ita so good that it doesn't matter.

Avatar image for dani_i89

It wasn't incredibly deep at all. There weren't as many story choices, the weapon variations were all exactly the same and only extra damage/accuracy being the height of variation. The characters weren't as interesting, Shepard'a dialogue was more synthetic, the combat was almost painful at times, the inventory system sucked, too much running around in empty/uninteresting areas (much like in GTA). 2 and 3 really cut out the fat and made the game a lot more engaging by polishing the strengths of number 1. Some of the character development was a bit more streamlined, but the powers all felt different. The powers in number 1 felt really underwhelming and all round uninteresting. I don't know anything about Ender Game, but it's the first I've heard about its similarity to Halo. And story isn't the only good thing about those games. They all share a few common traits: originality and character, which is really lacking in a lot of games these days..particularly shooters.

Avatar image for Zombrex

<< LINK REMOVED >> The first Mass Effect was incredibly deep. 2&3 were insanely dumbed down and short compared to the first.

You said it all with Halo, Bioshock and Half Life though. It all makes sense now. Games where the only thing going for them is story.

And Halo did heavily copy from the Enders Game series of books. Heavily.

Avatar image for Zombrex

I would like the option of choosing which golf club I beat women with.

Avatar image for musalala

More gangsta sh*t please!!!

Avatar image for nazgoroth

Would give more diversity as in people to run over... hey it's gta, bring back HareKrishnas and the bonus for running over all of them!

Avatar image for dani_i89

I'd like to see this god awful franchise eradicated. Most over-rated games to date.....by far.

Avatar image for tom2750

<< LINK REMOVED >> you have bad taste

Avatar image for arjunrajshekhar

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Taste is subjective. Popularity in taste doesn't mean superiority in taste.

Avatar image for dani_i89

Ouch. That really hurt. On the contrary, these games are mind numbingly dull. I've played them, I've tried to get into them, but it's the same shit over and over again with a bigger map. This game is a true display of quantity over quality, and the masses will continue to buy it provided you can continue to bone prostitutes and kill them to get your money back. That was mildly amusing once when I was young, but even as a child I saw the apparent flaws of this game. I have no idea how people keep shelling out money for this drivel.

Avatar image for Zombrex

<< LINK REMOVED >> What games do you enjoy then?

Avatar image for wexorian

We want to see more misogynistic theme and gameplay!!!