Rockstar has finally confirmed what we all knew in our hearts: a new Grand Theft Auto is on the way. “We are pleased to confirm that active development for the next entry in the Grand Theft Auto series is well underway,” teased Rockstar in a new community update. That was it: no other details or dates. We know it’s happening, then, but otherwise we’re free to speculate on what GTA 6 could—perhaps should—be.
Where will GTA 6 be set? What era will it take place in? Will its online mode be good enough to support the millions of players it’s sure to attract? We don’t know, but we can sure tell you what we want.
GTA Online but it’s good
Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: As much as I’ve enjoyed GTA Online over the years, I can’t help but wonder what it could be if it wasn’t a hot mess. The multiplayer branch of GTA 5 clearly outperformed Rockstar’s initial ambitions, and it shows every time you log in. It’s in the way various actions are tied to entirely different menus depending on whether they were envisioned back when the game was first made or bolted on later. It’s in the way there’s no consistency to the reward structures of various releases, leaving older content feeling unrewarding and unwanted. It’s in the way groups are forced into weird ad-hoc corporations, which have to be swapped out over the course of the session if your friends also want to be rewarded for their business investments. It’s in the way every session is guaranteed to start with at least 30 minutes of trying to join up with friends on the same map.
GTA 6 offers a real chance for Rockstar to build an online mode that is deserving of GTA Online’s immense popularity; to build systems and structures that can support an evolving and expanding world. GTA Online could have been incredible, but instead it was a thing that allowed for genuinely great moments around mountains of bullshit. If Rockstar can get the underlying infrastructure right, GTA 6’s multiplayer could be unstoppable.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: I got a real kick out of Red Dead Redemption 2’s sometimes-annoying commitment to treating Arthur Morgan like an actual human in the world. Pulling left trigger to bark a few basic greetings at folk getting on with their day was an effective way to give a Rockstar protagonist some verbs other than run and shoot, even if my Arthur did seem to belt out the same version of “heeeey miSTER” a few too many times. I loved completing Arthur’s little chores during long horse rides, like crafting bullets or polishing his revolvers. Grand Theft Auto could use more world interaction like this, and if the explosive popularity of GTA Online’s roleplay servers are any indication, players are into mixing mundane tasks into their chaos murder games.
Not to begrudge the occasional five star police escape, but I’d love more non-violent activities in whatever coastal city we’re headed to next. Rockstar has kind of already learned this in GTA Online. One of its biggest appeals is simply curating a wardrobe or collecting customized cars. Last year Rockstar added an official car meet mode to the game (that players ended up farming for XP, oops). I had a lot of fun goofing around with GTA5’s triathlons and golf courses, but it’d be even cooler if things like work and leisure were integrated into a proper life sim in GTA6.
Less open world
Andy Chalk, US News Lead: The hallmark of Grand Theft Auto is its massive, teeming open worlds. And they’re great! But they’re also incredibly distracting. I’ve never finished a GTA game, because I inevitably end up farting around with bowling or driving an ambulance or whatever, and after dozens of hours of that I lose interest in the whole thing—I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing and I can’t be bothered to find out because I’ve got 150 hours sunk into the game, I’ve accomplished basically nothing, and man, I am done.
To be clear, this is 100% a “me” problem. I love huge, sprawling game worlds filled with things to do, but I can’t be trusted with them unsupervised. I need gentle guidance—a little nudge now and then to remind me that, hey, this is fun but there’s shit to be doing and you need to get doing it. The Witcher 3 is probably the best example of this that I’ve encountered: I walked The Path freely, but destiny was always there, dancing in my peripheral vision. Even when I was climbing mountains or roaming through forests just to see what was out there, I was engaged and on track. It had a sense of purpose, I guess, that I’ve never felt in a GTA game, and honestly I don’t hold out much hope for GTA6 making it happen. But if it can—if Rockstar is willing to shrink the scale of the game in favor of a deeper, more focused (and, yes, if we want to use that word, linear) experience—then you can count me in.
A strong female protagonist
Mollie Taylor, Trainee News Writer: Years of playing GTA Online as a female character has made me want a fully-fledged, well-written female protagonist to be in the next mainline game so bad. Nothing brings me more joy than smacking the shit out of guys as my biker gal OC, and I think a badass woman would be the perfect addition to GTA 6. In an ideal world, I’d like to see the ensemble cast trend continue, with a strong, smart woman who absolutely terrifies the other playable characters.
I’ve seen people claim that a female protagonist wouldn’t feel right or fit in with the universe that Rockstar’s built, but I think that’s just plain bullshit. Women aren’t excluded from being criminals or gang leaders, and I think it’s time Rockstar reflected that. Previous rumours seem fairly aligned with what I want, too—an ensemble cast with a female protagonist taking on the role of a hacker. Sounds pretty damn rad to me. Now gimme.
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: There’s going to be a woman in the lead cast. I’m not asking—I’m telling. Having a prominent woman is pretty baseline at this point, even for big developers moving at Rockstar’s pace. Tim has reminded me that I’ve yet to catch up on Ozark, which I know we aren’t all watching for Jason Bateman playing the same uptight stick in the mud he gets typecast as. I’m there for the kickass, flawed-but-awesome women of crime, and I’ll turn up for GTA doing it too.
A Euphoria-like breakthrough for NPC interactions
Rich Stanton, News Editor: The contemporary incarnation of Grand Theft Auto began way back when with GTA4, which was a quantum leap forwards from GTA: San Andreas as a technical achievement. There are all sorts of things to flag but Rockstar North went big on the third party physics technology Euphoria, and made the world’s NPCs react much more ‘realistically’ to whatever was going on. I still get a slight thrill when I drive slowly near pedestrians and they put their hands on the bonnet (and, yes, sometimes floor it and cackle.)
I think Grand Theft Auto 6 has to have a similar leap in how we think about NPCs because, frankly, Rockstar’s are still the best. The current state-of-the-art in video games is still full of repetition, lines that are inappropriate for the context, and tonal deafness to the world’s atmosphere and your character’s actions. These can be daft and funny and laugh-out-loud, sure, but the next step from this has to be dealing with extraordinarily subtle judgments about what NPCs should say and when, and how they should act around a given player.
I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that NPCs are one of the world’s most important features: Whether you’re eavesdropping on a chat, mowing down a crowd, or just standing at a crossing watching the world go by. So much of the player’s enjoyment of anything comes from how the NPCs react and what they say. The more subtle, the more contextualised, even the more long-term those reactions can be—the more magical it will all seem.
For me Grand Theft Auto 6 has to have elements to it that no other game is even thinking about attempting. Because Rockstar North has set the bar for so long, and must continue to. Making a leap in NPC technology is one of the ways I’d love to see the studio go.
More customization in my bazillion dollar apartment
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: I am a simple woman. I like building things. I build things in The Sims. I build things in Valheim. I participate in combat to the extent required to unlock bits, bobs, and trophies to stuff into my designated space. Both GTA Online and Red Dead Online give players very constrained control over their space in the form of themes you can buy and apply to the properties you own. If we’re dreaming up the biggest and best GTA 6, I want whatever its online side winds up being (and hey, singleplayer too) to give me control over designing and fussing with properties. I want to know the pain Mollie felt when she bought a house in FF14.
A more welcoming online experience
Harry Shepherd, Guides Editor: As a long-time GTA Online-liker, Phil highlights the main flaws of the current multiplayer offering, but it’s worth emphasising just how unapproachable it is for newcomers. I’m more of a singleplayer person generally, as I was when GTA 5 came out. I inhaled Trevor and co’s adventure in 2013 and put it down when the credits rolled. I loved it, so I don’t have loads more suggestions for the story mode beyond: more of that please.
Since then I’ve been well aware of how successful GTA Online is and the great times people have with it, so I’ve re-downloaded the game several times to try it myself. Each time I’m put off with GTA Online’s mess of menus, irritating players trolling me, and just a general lack of an idea of what to do next. With no idea of how any of that can be addressed, I just hope GTA 6 Online will be friendlier to new players at every stage of its life.
Leave America behind
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: Aside from the 1997 GTA expansion, London 1969, Rockstar’s not shown much interest in the world beyond America, specifically its facsimiles of New York and Los Angeles. I’ve always been fine with this because these aren’t really American cities; they’re parodies concocted by Brits, with insights and gags that are much easier to make when you’re an outsider. But in a medium that almost exclusively cares about the US and Japan, I’m desperate to see more of the world.
I can get my fix with Assassin’s Creed, I guess, but it seems like the only time we get to travel to these places is if we also travel back in time. This is why I played 30 hours of Watch Dogs Legion, a game I think is absolutely rubbish. I could hang out in London, and boy was that a novelty. And London is the worst! Visiting London is a punishment. But after so much time spent in the States it was a breath of fresh air. Even better, though, was the opportunity to explore Edinburgh in Forza Horizon 4, the very city Rockstar North is based in.
Now, a parody of Edinburgh would be a terrible setting for a GTA. It’s a dinky little city with terrible roads and far too many students, and most of the crimes are probably rich people committing fraud. But 45 minutes away on the other side of Scotland we’ve got Glasgow, once the knife crime capital of Europe. We’re very proud. Not much gun crime in Scotland, though, which might be a problem. But does anyone really play GTA because they think the shooting is good? Because it ain’t. Imagine GTA Online but everyone’s just got big knives. That’s an MMO I can get behind.
Really, though, I’ll take anywhere outside of America.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: This is the exact point I wanted to make, Fraser. I’ve gotten my fill of off-brand New York and Los Angeles and would love to see something other than the same tired pastiche of American culture once again. I feel like there’s only about a 1% chance of it happening, though—Rockstar probably doesn’t have the cultural insight or inclination to tackle a city like Hong Kong or Seoul. Could we see a GTA Paris or Berlin? Somehow that just seems wrong.
If GTA has to be set in America, at least travel back in time to the ’60s or ’70s. The cars will be cooler and we won’t have to worry about our damn cell phones ringing every 10 seconds. Again, though, I don’t see it happening. The absolute dumpster fire that is the United States in 2022 is probably irresistible. The political talk radio station is going to be bleak.
A cheat code that makes all the cars fly around and crash and stuff
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: The proper way to play GTA is to blow through the intro mission as fast as you can, enter a bunch of cheat codes, and then launch a knock-off Bugatti into restricted airspace while ignoring anything to do with the story forevermore. I’m sure GTA 6 will have cheat codes, because they all do, so it probably isn’t a request that needed making. I just wanted it on the record.
Actual mod support
Chris Livingston, Features Producer: Modding has always been a huge part of GTA, but the hoops modders have to jump through to create them and the difficulty players have to get them running is bizarre to me, when much of that could be made easier with some proper mod support. When I tune into Twitch and look at the top GTA Online streams, they’re always heavily modded roleplay servers. Players and viewers love them, so why not support them with a nice suite of modding tools? Rockstar tolerates mods (Take-Two, not so much) but tolerance isn’t the same thing as true support. I’d love to see a change in their philosophy when it comes to mods when the next GTA launches.
Let me be a corrupt cop
Tim Clark, Brand Director: First, let me echo Mollie’s call for a playabable lady. I’ve already bored my colleagues in Slack with my love of Ozark (despite its utter ridiculousness), and it overflows with potential archetypes to riff off. Darlene Snell the hillbilly drug queenpin, Ruth the plucky criminal savant, and Wendy Byrde the soccer mom turned history’s greatest televisual monster. And that’s just one show for Rockstar’s cultural magpies to thieve from. Honestly, assuming we get another trio of player characters, it will be ridiculous if they’re all dudes again.
That aside, I think a brilliant twist would be if one of the characters is also a cop. Massively corrupt, obviously—stealing drugs, carrying out extra-judicial killings, and generally being a lazy piece of shit. Again, fiction overflows with juicy reference points, from The Shield to Line of Duty, depending on which side of the pond you’re sat. Location-wise I’m not too fussed, and in the absence of a standout option, I hope they go with multiple cities à la San Andreas. My suspicion is they’ll pick Trump heartland for the ripe satirical material. The greatest risk, aside from series writing overseer Dan Houser leaving, is going to be that the world is arguably beyond satire in 2022.