It should come as no surprise that after months, if not years, of rumours and leaks, that Grand Theft Auto 6 really is happening. A decade after GTA V first released on console, Rockstar Games has finally confirmed it will be premiering the trailer for its highly anticipated sequel in December, just in time for the company’s 25th anniversary.
Given the accolades awarded to GTA V, having sold more than 185 million copies across three console generations, a new GTA is a big deal. Not just for the game itself and the countless hours we’re all likely to lose to it, but because Rockstar has such a high bar of quality that it sets a new standard for the industry.
We don’t know how much of GTA 6 we’ll get to see next month, though it’s hardly surprising that it’ll continue the series’ cycle of climbing your way up the criminal underworld while stealing cars and fleeing from the cops. But where else could it go from there? Here’s six things we’d like to see the series do next.
A smaller, but denser open world
Sure, the appeal of GTA is the freedom to explore a huge open world made up with diverse terrain and neighbourhoods. On that, V’s Los Santos is probably Rockstar’s largest and greatest accomplishment. But rather than trying to top that, what if GTA 6 reined in the overall square feet in favour of something with more depth?
There’s an opportunity for a denser and more detailed environment, something a little more like the Yakuza / Like A Dragon series. You can grow familiar with the environments and denizens populating it. There could be a lot more interior locations as well, rather than just a lot of buildings that are little more than set dressing to drive past.
This may be unlikely, given the demands for any sequel to be bigger than the one before it. And to be fair, a game reliant on car chases and air travel works best with more space to play in. Still, we wouldn’t rule this possibility out if reports are true that GTA 6 will be returning to Vice City, which is one of the smallest maps in the series.
Time to grow up
Critics had already called out some of GTA V’s juvenile tone back when it first released. A decade later, it’s clear a lot of it hasn’t aged too well. You might argue that bleak, nihilistic no-holds-barred satire of America has been an integral part of the series identity (with the exception of a 60s era mission pack set in London released for the very first game). But unless you’ve been in an underground bunker all this time, a lot has changed. How do you satirise the world, and America especially, when the real world itself is beyond satire?
Rockstar is definitely capable of more thoughtful and mature narratives when going by the Red Dead Redemption series. Even Michael’s arc in GTA V had depth as a retired thief going through a mid-life crisis. But we can surely all agree the series’ misogynistic undercurrent has no place today. That’s not to say the next game shouldn’t have strip clubs, because this is after all an adult game dealing with the murky criminal underworld. But can it find something interesting to say about sex work that isn’t just crude titilation?
A strong female protagonist
If GTA 6 follows its predecessor and gives us multiple protagonists, it should surely be a given that one of these should be a woman. But even if it goes back to one protagonist for a more focused narrative, why not be a woman?
Just looking at television in recent years, we’ve had excellent portrayals of powerful, dangerous, complicated, compelling female characters caught on both sides of the law, such as Killing Eve, Orange is the New Black and Yellowjackets. There’s no reason why GTA 6 couldn’t also raise this bar in games, instead of continuing to fall back on tropes from films from decades past.
Not only would it add a new perspective and feel to a usually testosterone environment, but it might also open up new ways of thinking about how we interact with GTA 6 that isn’t just macho shooting and blowing things up.
Deeper NPC interactions
GTA V gets a lot of praise for how reactive its non-player characters (NPCs) are, sometimes giving the impression they have their own lives even if you weren’t there. There’s definitely room to expand on this. Instead of just one button where you’d basically just shout at or harass passersby, it would be great if GTA 6 adopted Red Dead Redemption 2’s system where you have different interactions to choose from that aren’t just misanthropic by default.
We don’t expect this to suddenly be a wholesome game. But look, life’s hard, even for gangsters. If you’ve already got problems with the law, it doesn’t mean the whole city has to be insufferable. Imagine playing in a city that you actually want to spend time in and not just turn into a dumpster fire for kicks. That said, we don’t want to rule out some mischief, just like how GTA 4 let you shove pedestrians, we’d still like the choice to be nice, and nasty.
Improved online but not always on
A reason why GTA V has continued to keep selling so many copies years later is arguably down to GTA Online, and as such pretty much all updates have been geared towards this side as players continue coming back to Los Santos to build their own criminal empires and just let loose in the city as the ultimate digital playground.
Of course, it’s easy to forget that the online mode had many teething issues when it first launched and despite its success, it’s actually far from a user-friendly online game to get into, and we just mean the messy structure and systems rather than other players trying to mow or gun you down. We won’t be surprised if an online mode is prioritised to be part of GTA 6’s package from the get-go.
But while it might be sensible to have both solo and online integrated as one, we think it’s best to keep the two separate. Given Rockstar’s penchant for authored narratives, we can’t imagine anything worse than having a memorabnle story beat interrupted by notifications of online events or other players getting in the way. Also, is it too radical to suggest not every game has to be always online?
Past GTAs have already had customisable vehicles, and the choice to customise character clothes and haircuts, but what about properties? Whether you start out in a squalid flea-bitten studio apartment or a penthouse by the beach, why not have the freedom to deck it out in a way to make it your own and not just a few prescribed themes?
We’re not saying it has to be The Sims, but if you’re going to have to shell out millions on a house, then heck, we’d like the freedom to be our very own interior decorator. And no, we don’t mean just decorating the walls with the blood and guts of our enemies.