The Grand Theft Auto series has revisited Vice City, San Andreas, and Liberty City across its 25-year lifespan. One city that has not been revisited is the real-life City of London. As of now, Grand Theft Auto has only gone across the ocean once in 1999. With Rockstar Games hard at work on Grand Theft Auto 6, it should really consider bringing fans back to the streets of London in either a full game or an expansion.
The first Grand Theft Auto game launched in 1997, and introduced the foundation of the franchise. The game took place across three different fictional cities in the United States. These cities were called Liberty City, San Andreas, and Vice City. They took inspiration from the real-life cities of New York City, San Francisco, and Miami. The game itself was top-down and 2D, with only six linear levels to play through, with the highlight of the game being the open world. Post-launch expansions brought the formula to the real city of London.
Grand Theft Auto proved to be a success and a sequel was ordered, which hit store shelves two years later. Grand Theft Auto 2 is the only game in the series to take place in an unnamed city; the only name that is given for it is Anywhere, USA. While the city was unremarkable, the game did improve on the Grand Theft Auto formula and gave the player more things in the open-world.
Grand Theft Auto 3 was the first 3D title in the series, and it brought the GTA franchise back to Liberty City. This version of Liberty City was a huge step up from the version in Grand Theft Auto, as it was fully realized in 3-dimensions. The city consisted of three different districts known as Portland, Staunton Island, and Shoreside Vale. With the new third-person camera, players were given even more freedom in the city and had even more to explore.
In 2002, the series went back to Vice City in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. This was the first time that Vice City was recreated in 3D and was the biggest Grand Theft Auto world at the time. This Vice City included two main islands and several small areas that would be unlocked as the player progressed through the story. Neon lights sat everywhere, and the game felt like taking a trip to Miami Beach. Vice City has become one of the cities that players have been calling to be remade in a larger scale entry for years.
Two years later, Grand Theft Auto returned to San Andreas with the aptly titled Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This time, San Andreas was expanded to be an entire state containing the cities of Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas. These cities were inspired by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. The game itself offered even more freedom to the player, they could complete the story at their leisure and instead spend their time exploring San Andreas. The game and the world it creates, are often considered the best in the series.
The series went dormant for four years before returning with the Grand Theft Auto 4. Once again, the series made a return to Liberty City, but this time the city was even larger than it was in Grand Theft Auto 3. Three main islands made up Liberty City, and players could also explore the neighboring state of Alderney, which was inspired by New Jersey. The city was made up of four different boroughs called Broker, Dukes, Bohan, and Algonquin. It was not the largest map in the series, but it was one of the most lifelike and realistic ones that Rockstar had created.
In 2013, the series returned with Grand Theft Auto 5. This time, the franchise took another trip to San Andreas, but this version of San Andreas was unlike any before it. Players could freely explore the large city of Los Santos and the countryside of San Andreas, as well as the fictional Blaine County. Many of the locales of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas can be visited, but the world that Rockstar created with Grand Theft Auto 5 is much larger in scope.
San Andreas and Liberty City have both been used three different times in Grand Theft Auto. While each iteration vastly improved upon the last iteration, those two cities have seen a lot of love from Rockstar Games. Both London and Vice City have not received the same amount of love, and that is a missed opportunity.
Rumors have been circulating that Grand Theft Auto 6 will take place in an HD version of Vice City. Vice City has only been seen twice before and has not received the HD treatment like its fellow iconic cities. A new version of Vice City could take advantage of the new hardware and offer a more expansive playground for Grand Theft Auto fans to explore. The feeling of Miami Beach could be fully realized, and Rockstar could also go all out in designing the countryside. This makes Vice City a very likely candidate for the next game, and fans will most likely be excited for that.
London is the only real-life city that Grand Theft Auto has visited, but it was only visited in an expansion pack for Grand Theft Auto. A series of packs brought players to London in the 1960s for more criminal shenanigans. It is the only Grand Theft Auto content set in a non-American based city, and is seldom talked about by the fanbase. While the focus is on Liberty City, San Andreas, and Vice City, London is often left forgotten.
Grand Theft Auto brings players to fictional versions of U.S. cities, and Red Dead Redemption lets players explore a fictional version of the old west. Rockstar loves to satirize American culture and its landscape, but it has not tried its hands at European culture. Bringing Grand Theft Auto back to London allows for Rockstar to stretch its legs, try out some new jokes, and provide players a non-U.S. centric open-world to explore.
Ubisoft brought Watch Dogs to London with Watch Dogs: Legion. While the game was criticized for the storyline and gimmicks, the world that Ubisoft created felt different from what players have seen previously. Ghost of Tsushima brought players to an open-world version of Japan during the first Mongol invasion and received immense praise for its world and story. The Assassin’s Creed series is always praised for the landscape that it brings players to. None of these landscapes are American centric, and they accomplish their job of feeling different and enthralling.
Rockstar Games always knocks its world building out of the park, and its fictionalized American worlds have become iconic. It has not tried its hand at non-American centric stories since 1999, and now is the time to do it. Bringing Grand Theft Auto back to London after all these years would be a huge step for the franchise, and one that would set the sixth entry apart from all the others.