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 punksterdaddy

Don't we have enough politically correct games out there?

Rockstar rip into everything with GTA, as does Matt and Trey for South Park. Would we ask them to stop making the show without the crude humour?

I have to keep wondering why you Carolyn, are the one that has to keep doing things GTA related when it is obvious to anyone that you want the game to be different than what it is for your own reasons, not for what is best for GTA itself?

I am really starting to think that you were asked to write this because after the GTA V review controversy, in an effort to gain as much fanboy traffic as possible and have even more controversy!?

If you don't want to play a game with sort of thing in it, then don't! There are plenty other games out there that don't do these things.

The thing is you have loads of interesting points here, a female character would be interesting etc. but all of that will be overshadowed once again, because you want a different GTA without the crudeness!

Again I say if you wouldn't change a show like South Park, then why change what's funny in GTA games?

Avatar image for Zombrex

<< LINK REMOVED >> It should go play Lego City Undercover if it hates GTA so much.

Avatar image for gajbutler

80s VC once more and then something totally different.

Avatar image for NTM23

I don't know how they can properly make a GTA character that doesn't 'enjoy' killing to some extent, since as a player, and most players really, will choose to take part in freely running over, punching, taking a bat to, or shooting people in the open world. It was a problem people had with Niko. So it just wouldn't make sense. I'm not saying it wouldn't be great to see such a thing, where the main protagonist is actually likable in rightful way, but I don't see how it can happen.

Avatar image for chieflion


How about enterable buildings!?

A city, not even a state circa san andreas, or a big chunk of land like gtaV, just one goddamn city where every building is built to scale with realistic enterability and security. You could try to steal shit for real, and stealth the shit out of everything, or get a combat suit and a hockey mask and rampage the shit out of offices, homes, and movie theaters.

This is what gta could be, this is what gta should be.

A woman isn't going to make the series edgy.

Neither will realistic characters.

Its all about game design, new mechanics, new levels of detail now possibly possible with the next generation.

Avatar image for Zombrex

<< LINK REMOVED >> I loved that several buildings were enterable in GTAIV. Gave a new sense of realism. They wouldn't have to make the game bigger if they simply added more detail like that.

Avatar image for NTM23

<< LINK REMOVED >> I would love that, to enter buildings. Many would disagree with me, but that's what I loved about Dead Rising 3 as compared to GTA5.

Avatar image for NTM23

You ask for a female character, and yeah, that'd be different, but if you ask for it and get it, it's not really surprising anymore. I wouldn't mind a female character, but it's not a huge concern of mine.

Avatar image for lpool8

<< LINK REMOVED >> i agree. developers just seem to be throwing in females just for the f*** of it also lets be honest most gangs/criminals are male i even watched a documentory of females gangs the other day and all the do is mind drugs or sleep with the male gang members the only way it would work is to play an ex prostitute getting revenge or a modern day bonnie and clyde type affair also this would keep the character switch

Avatar image for NTM23


Well, people say gang, but just because that's what people think of when they think GTA, doesn't mean the character has to be a gang member; just saying.

Avatar image for lpool8

<< LINK REMOVED >> i mean criminals in genral though

Avatar image for diego_corleone

I don't want to see a woman character in the game, tell me a good movie or game with gangsters women....

Being a gangster is a man thing, having a sexy wife and a lot of bitc***.

Avatar image for platinumking320

Jackie brown? Mama from Dredd 3D?

Avatar image for NTM23

"[I'd much rather that the next GTA go deeper. Instead of a bigger.]" Whoa whoa, where we goin' here :P.

Avatar image for sonicblast19

Will I live long enough for the next GTA to come out?

Avatar image for GYTISLEE

heal it

Avatar image for BattleSpectre

Carolyn's answer to everything in life: "Just make it Female".

Avatar image for rad8045

Is it just me or do gamespot want fun video games to evolve into serious thought provoking art pieces ?

Avatar image for NTM23

<< LINK REMOVED >> They want both. They want to be entertained, but also think about.

Avatar image for hippiesanta

To the guy who named himself Mr Carolyn Petit ....... embrace your manhood and stop accusing people of mysogyny.

Avatar image for Trickymaster

Here's what I'm thinking, babe. They should change the level design of GTA. LEMME FINISH! Are you still reading? Good.

Instead of building a large round area, they should try building a long strip, an elongated map, that could resemble something like East Coast - West Coast or hell Europe Spain to Norway, or hell South America. As the story progresses you would move along that strip starting in LA, then visit Vegas, stop in Colorado, hustle in Chicago and then finally end up in New York. In between would be the whole range of society, agriculture, rural areas and such.

You might say, why not make a big round map. Well. I think as much as people want to explore our brains are linear. We need a direction, landmarks that are physical and that we can connect to emotionally. After you finish the story the first thing most people would do is try to drive back and you would meet people you met in the story mode on your way back giving you optional quests and telling you stories of what happened since you left, you would also want.

See if you have a map that is like a stripe, you will make people to revisit the places they have gone to automatically and they won't be confused on whether they have already been there before or not. An elongated map would also increase the travelling time from one and to the other, easily by more than 1 hour if you were racing and 20 hours if you were exploring your way up.

The other option would be something like Wind Waker or AC4 where you have many islands spread around and that's how you travel from place to place.

Avatar image for Zombrex

<< LINK REMOVED >> Not a babe. A dude.

Avatar image for NTM23

<< LINK REMOVED >> Did you call Carolyn a babe?

Avatar image for berserker66666

More misogyny.....

Avatar image for Spartan-1657

You want a strong female role? How about when Franklin's girl left him because she was tired of his shit? There you have it, a woman who is smart enough to avoid the thug-life scene and strong enough to move on...... And guess what!?

That's the point of ALL the characters in this game. They don't hang around with those types of women. Look at who the characters are! Their personalities, their desires, everything. If they were going along with a female who was " a strong, determined, intelligent, non-sexualized woman", it just wouldn't fit. They have nothing to gain by being around a woman like that. And gain is all they're looking for, at the expense of every one else.

I can understand you wanting to have more independent, strong women in games but it just does not fit in the GTA world. Of all the games out there to think should include this, you've possibly selected the one that is least likely.

Avatar image for ggregd

<< LINK REMOVED >> It seems like you're assuming the men have to be the lead characters with the women as their wives and girlfriends.

Avatar image for Duck_Zero

<< LINK REMOVED >> I see what you mean, but I don't think that's the point. The point isn't necessarily to have a "strong, independent, non-sexualized woman" in GTA, 'cus I agree, that wouldn't really fit with the GTA world. But wouldn't it be cool to see not only bad men, but bad women as well, ie equal representation? Don't tell me there's no room for female anti-heroes...?

Avatar image for chieflion

<< LINK REMOVED >> good comment, making a woman a destestable gangster or a criminal or killer in a videogame doesn't give them anything, however if rockstar continues its multiple character model, i see no reason why one of them could not be a woman.

Avatar image for n0xinab0x

"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."

I'm not sure exactly what Carolyn wants here, hasn't GTA pretty much touched base on every crime out there?

It IS called Grand Theft Auto after all, what the **** you want?

This isn't the SIMs.

Avatar image for jeremyc99999

What I'd like to see in the present Grand Theft Auto..............is a PC version...........like soon.

Avatar image for Netret0120

<< LINK REMOVED >> Hermits still begging

Avatar image for Evdne971


Avatar image for dpaudiophile

GTA's humor is much more than "misanthropic" and "bitter", it has always been an excellent and subversive outlet in the media because of its unwavering social commentary, and its mix of subtle and extreme tones when showcasing it's satirical side. we need more games with this kind of self-aware humor, not less, and it only helps drive the story and characters even further. not hurt it.

Avatar image for klasco

GTA is boring :P

Avatar image for kingcrimson24

I want GTA to go back to 70s :/

Avatar image for platinumking320

London 1970. Itd be good to hear some 70s funk and rock on the radio

Avatar image for crolin88

<< LINK REMOVED >> hell ya

Avatar image for deactivated-597794cd74015

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

You mean GTA IV ?

Avatar image for XNEXUS666X

Oh yeah, the game is Called 'Grand Theft Auto', most criminals are male, so to have a playable female character engaging in crime might be considered sexist by some...

Avatar image for megamatics

<< LINK REMOVED >> I did a Bing Search on "Crimes most Committed by Women"

So the next GTA will feature a Child Abusing, Embezzling, Prostitute. Game of The Year...

Avatar image for lpool8

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> i watched a documentory on female gangs and all they do is hide drugs or get f***ed by the males or pimped out.. so yeh to the pure act of makeing a gta character a female would be considered sexist in itself by most (mainly carolyn)

Avatar image for Lord_Python1049

<< LINK REMOVED >> no it wouldn't be. Equality means people don't care.

Avatar image for vscott453

GTA in Chicago now. Maybe even detroit.