Grand Theft Auto 6 has been the subject of a lot of leaks lately, about what may or may not be planned for the next entry in Rockstar's megahit open-world series. Ignoring all the supposed insider information, let's talk about what should and should not be a part of the next Grand Theft Auto.
6 Things We Want to See In Grand Theft Auto 6
It's been seven years since the launch of Grand Theft Auto 5, which has become the second best-selling video game of all time, behind Minecraft, and is widely considered one of the best games of its generation. In those seven years, Rockstar put out Red Dead Redemption 2; lost its co-founder Dan Houser, who left the company in March of 2020; and come under heavy fire from journalists and critics for its reliance on "crunch." According to an April 15 report in Kotaku, Rockstar spent much of 2019 getting its house in order, replacing several studio heads and managers and slowly working to reform its internal culture.
The same Kotaku article mentions offhand that Rockstar's next big project is still early in development, and is a new Grand Theft Auto game, if not necessarily GTA6. While some rumors have a GTA6 announcement coming late this year, with an eye towards a 2021 release, the Kotaku piece is the closest thing to official word we've seen so far. The next GTA, then, is being built by a very different Rockstar Games, and without any further involvement by Dan Houser, who wrote or co-wrote most of the GTA series. We're moving into uncharted territory here, and if there were ever going to be big changes to GTA as a series, it'd be now. Here's what we'd want to see in a next-generation GTA6.
A Strong Single-Player Campaign
Grand Theft Auto Online is a license to print money, even now. I'm convinced that it's most of why GTA5 hasn't left the top 10 in NPD's video game sales charts for the last seven years. My first point of concern is that Rockstar would take all the wrong lessons away from both GTA and Red Dead Online, and make the next game in either or both franchises into a primarily or strictly multiplayer experience. While I'd be shocked if there wasn't an online mode in the next Grand Theft Auto, with or without alien invasions, my hope is that it'd be an add-on for the single-player, rather than an outright substitution.
Embrace the Fun
There was a version of this list where I got all the way to my second item before I realized I was describing a dream plan for a new next-generation Saints' Row. GTA could actually learn a lot from that franchise, even if SR did start as a shameless GTA clone. There's a certain deliberate embrace of monotony in the basic Rockstar formula that's never quite sat right with me, and which Saints' Row seems to deliberately avoid. Rockstar loves to put in a lot of simulated everyday tasks to make its worlds feel lived-in and genuine, like long drives or dull minigames, but Saints' Row pitches much of that out the window in favor of making all of its fun immediately accessible.
GTA5 has a good first mission, but then you end up hip-deep in busywork like yoga minigames, and the less said about the first 3 hours of RDR2, the better. That isn't to say that GTA6 should start with you playing as the President of Space or something. (I do want to see that, now that I'm thinking about it--set it on a colony on Deimos and call it Grand Theft Auto: Mars Rover--but probably not in a mainline series entry.) A GTA game where you aren't initially some kind of low-tier criminal scumbag in a relatively mundane world is more of a departure from the series's core identity than even I want to see. What it could stand to do, however, is accelerate past all that boring mundanity as quickly as possible.
A Narrower Focus
One of the major takeaways of the April 15th Kotaku article is that Rockstar has at least thought of making the next GTA as a relatively small game at launch, and then building it out over the course of regular updates to the kind of massive game world that you saw in GTA5. The idea is to cut down on development time and creative stress by making the final product a little more modular. It's a decent plan, but what I'd like to see more than that is a smaller, more populated world. GTA5 has an enormous amount of in-game space, but most of it's empty at any given time. A typical player's going to see most of it once, then fast-travel past it for the rest of the game. The best-case scenario is that all that carefully rendered roadside scenery will be a high-speed blur during a car chase.
It'd be worth seeing what Rockstar could do with the GTA equivalent of a "bottle episode," where you spend much or all of the game in a densely populated neighborhood or small city, rather than a sprawling simulated chunk of the state. I'd rather have a smaller, focused map, like 2018's Spider-Man on PS4, than hundreds of kilometers of next to nothing.
A Protagonist You Can Root For
More Niko, CJ, and Franklin, less Michael and Trevor. If we're going to spend a couple of hundred hours in someone's shoes, it's always great when you can stand them, and two out of the three GTA5 protagonists are people that you wouldn't want to beseated next to at a diner. While Trevor in particular is often funny, that's not enough to hang an entire protagonist on. GTA is at its best when its viewpoint character may be a monster, but one that you can empathize with and understand.
Dan Houser has his strengths as a writer, but when he goes for satire, particularly in GTA, he wields it like a sledgehammer. That isn't to say that it isn't funny, or effective, but it never fails to take me out of the game. Every commercial, billboard, ad, and product in GTA5 is winking at the camera so hard that it might sprain something, like a background gag in a Mel Brooks movie. Whether it's Sprunk, Bleeter, LifeInvader, or Taco Bomb, most of the businesses in GTA's warped version of Americana are explicitly busting on themselves in their own ad copy. It's like they're all trying to sell products via reverse psychology by claiming how dumb they are to their own prospective customers. Vangelico always sprung out at me in particular here, as a jewelry store that explicitly advertises that it sells blood diamonds and has the tagline "Replacing charm since 1852."
Making fun of everything it can reach is a proud, honorable GTA tradition, but it needs to be just a little more subtle than this to work as part of what's ostensibly a pseudo-realistic tone. It's fine to have a game world where everyone in it is stupid, selfish, corrupt, psychotic, or all four at once, but I shouldn't be wondering why every restaurant in the game appears to be in a suicide pact with its advertising firm.
Bring Back GTAIV Physics
There are a lot of little things that GTAIV does better than GTA5, and with the additional horsepower of next-generation systems, the time's right to bring some of them back. While GTAIV has some of the most hilariously exaggerated crash physics in video games--you haven't seen a GTA bike crash until you've seen Niko fly through the air for several hundred yards--the cars all have much more of a sense of weight and heft than GTA5's. They feel like they're actually heavy objects.
I'd also point here to how the two games handle their NPCs. In GTAV, the cops are notoriously aggro, prone to answering routine traffic violations with sustained bursts of gunfire; in GTAIV, they're programmed to be more reasonable at first, until you give them a reason not to be. Pedestrians also have more of a sense of self-preservation in GTAIV, and tend to be calmer at first. It's really more of a testament to how much bigger and louder GTA5 is than GTAIV. Everything except the ragdoll physics is louder, more extreme, and more over-the-top, from NPC attitudes to car crashes to cops' reactions. Much like the game's approach to satire, it'd be more effective if it was dialed back a notch. If you had GTA5's ragdoll physics coupled with GTAIV's calmer NPCs and more solid-feeling cars, you'd strike a happy medium for those moments when you're just out looking to cause some trouble.
While we're waiting to hear more actual news about the next Grand Theft Auto, check out some of the other games that are coming out later this year. We've got a ton of news here on PrimaGames.com, including:
- Here are all of the gangs that have been confirmed for Cyberpunk 2077
- There's a new Tony Hawk game coming this year, apparently
- If you're stuck indoors, we've got some go-to games that work well over video chat
Really, my dream version of Grand Theft Auto 6 would be one in which you're a bunch of kids menacing the neighborhood with paintball guns and stink bombs, using your reign of terror to extort free ice cream from local shopkeepers. Then again, I think that's just Skrillex's music video for "Bangarang." Share your personal favorite ideas for GTA with us via our official Twitter, @PrimaGames. We promise not to make a billion-dollar media empire with them.