Grand Theft Auto 6: a wishlist

If you haven’t heard that Rockstar just confirmed the worst-kept secret in gaming – that Grand Theft Auto 6 is in production – then you must be living under a rock! The news has been everywhere in recent days, and even made it into mainstream (i.e. non-gaming) news outlets here in the UK. It makes sense: Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best-selling entertainment products of all time, eclipsing films, television shows, and even entire franchises. What comes next is going to be of interest to a great many people.

It’s been eight months since I last looked ahead to Grand Theft Auto 6, and with the game’s official announcement doing the rounds I thought it could be fun to put together a short wishlist of things I’d personally like to see the next entry include. It goes without saying that all of this is subjective – I don’t have any “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that the next Grand Theft Auto game needs to have any or all of these features. It’s just a bit of fun from a sometime fan of the series – and given that we know next to nothing about what the game will actually look like, why not throw some ideas of my own out there?

So without any further ado, let’s jump into my Grand Theft Auto 6 wishlist!

Number 1:
A proper single-player campaign.

A single-player mode is an essential part of the Grand Theft Auto experience.

At this stage there’s been no indication that Grand Theft Auto 6 will go all-in on its inevitable online mode… but I’m still wary. Grand Theft Auto V didn’t become the second-best-selling video game ever because of its single-player campaign (Minecraft is number one, in case you were wondering). It was the online mode that kept fans coming back – and crucially from Rockstar’s point of view, kept them spending money.

There has to be a temptation to skip the single-player campaign altogether, or else direct the vast majority of development time and resources into Grand Theft Auto 6′s online mode. I hope that some senior folks at Rockstar are pushing back on that!

Grand Theft Auto V’s online mode has been crucial to the game’s success.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that less than one-third of players have actually completed the Grand Theft Auto V single-player campaign. Rockstar’s other big release, Red Dead Redemption II, has comparable figures for completion too, so it seems that a significant number of players either don’t make it to the end of the campaign or, more likely, only turn up for the multiplayer online mode.

Despite that, Grand Theft Auto 6 would lose something significant without a decent, long single-player campaign – and I don’t just say that because it’s the part of the game that I’m most interested in! There’s still a lot of people interested in single-player titles, and Rockstar has demonstrated time and again its ability to write truly excellent stories. Moreover, a lot of people would want to play the game in single-player mode to learn the ropes before jumping into multiplayer, or just for fun in between multiplayer sessions. There are plenty of reasons to make sure that Grand Theft Auto 6 retains a solid single-player mode.

Number 2:
A customisable protagonist.

Despite its faults, Cyberpunk 2077 has a great character creator.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Grand Theft Auto 6 will include – shock horror – a girl as one of its protagonists. Cue the usual outrage from sexist morons and Twitter trolls. But I’d like to see the game go further than that, and use the character creators from games like Cyberpunk 2077 and the Saints Row series as inspiration, allowing players to craft their own, fully customisable protagonist.

A customisable character could be male, female, non-binary, trans, or anything else players want them to be. With a relatively small amount of effort, it should be possible to craft a story that a custom character can slot into, and I’ve long felt that a custom character can make a game feel more immersive. Rockstar has allowed a limited version of this in Grand Theft Auto Online – but I’m thinking bigger!

I’m thinking of a massively expanded version of the current Grand Theft Auto Online character creator!

With Rockstar’s resources, the company could build the best character creator that any video game has ever seen. Grand Theft Auto 6 could set a high bar and become the new gold standard that other games would be compared to. Maybe I’m getting over-excited, but I think there’s a lot of potential for a truly outstanding character creator considering the amount of money that Rockstar has at its disposal.

The Grand Theft Auto series is known for its sense of humour and sarcastic style, and that could absolutely carry over to the character creator too! Making incredibly silly-looking characters, or replicating the appearances of famous figures could all become part of the fun. And it would be an easy way for Rockstar to include trans and non-binary people – allowing us to feel represented in the new game.

Number 3:
Multiple protagonists.

The trio of playable characters in Grand Theft Auto V.

If a custom character creator is off the table for whatever reason, then I hope that Grand Theft Auto 6 won’t abandon the multiple protagonist approach that worked so well in its predecessor. Being able to unlock different characters, then switch between them on the fly, added a fun element to gameplay, and with each character being different and coming from a different place, there was scope to tell three very different stories that ultimately came together.

My preference would be for a custom character, I think. If handled properly, and if the character creator was well-built with plenty of choices and options, that would be the best way for Grand Theft Auto 6 to truly represent as many different folks as possible. But a group of three or four main characters, including at least one female protagonist, would be a good option too.

How about we play as a female character for once?

That being said, I can already predict that there will be a backlash from so-called “fans” in the gamer community if Rockstar shows off a female protagonist or a group of protagonists that include people from different backgrounds. “Grand Theft Auto 6 is going woke” will be the familiar, disappointing cry from too many people.

A custom character would get around that, in large part, and that’s another good point in its favour. But there’s still something appealing about having multiple playable characters, as I feel that was a feature that worked well but went underappreciated in Grand Theft Auto V.

Number 4:
Way more clothes and other customisation options.

Grand Theft Auto 6 can do better than this!

Continuing a trend from the entries above, I’d love to see Grand Theft Auto 6 offer players a lot more outfits, weapon mods, vehicle designs, and the like. Red Dead Redemption II offered a pretty wide range of outfits and some gun modification options, but I’d like to see this expanded in a big way for Grand Theft Auto 6. Again, Rockstar can look to games like Cyberpunk 2077 for inspiration – despite the myriad problems with that title, there’s no denying it has a lot of customisation options!

Part of the fun of an expansive open-world title like Grand Theft Auto 6 is getting lost in the world and feeling like you’re participating, living out an alternate life. How your character appears is a big part of that, and being able to change up the protagonist’s style – going from street to preppy to old-fashioned and beyond – is a big part of that. Making my character look the way I want them to look is all part of the immersion.

Customising a rifle in Red Dead Redemption II.

This can extend to vehicles and weapons, too. Red Dead Redemption II allowed for a degree of cosmetic weapon customisation, and that was great, but that title was set in the 19th Century and thus the cosmetic options were somewhat limited! But for a game with a more modern setting, it should be possible to have cars and guns in every shade of the rainbow for starters, and with plenty of designs, logos, and more to add to them and fully customise them. Forza Horizon 5 offers a pretty extensive vehicle customiser, and it never ceases to amaze me to see the creative designs that folks in that game have come up with!

So let’s think about adding plenty of different clothes in a variety of styles and from a variety of fashion trends! Depending on when and where the game is set there could be limitations on this, and that would be understandable, but I’d still like to see an extensive range of clothes, vehicle designs, weapon skins, and the like so I can really get stuck in and make my character stand out!

Number 5:
A brand-new setting.

Grand Theft Auto Reykjavik, anyone?

I’m kicking myself for not taking a screenshot because now I can’t find it, but I saw a poll on social media within the last couple of days asking participants where they’d like Grand Theft Auto 6 to be set. Vice City – the franchise’s Miami analogue – put in a creditable showing, but by far the most-requested setting was “somewhere new.”

Grand Theft Auto V was successful by reimagining Los Santos – a city that had first appeared in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2005 – but I’d like to see the next entry in the series pick a brand-new setting to explore instead of returning to somewhere that fans of the series have already been. The franchise should also avoid, in my opinion, settings that would be too similar to its recent Los Angeles stand-in, so I’d recommend avoiding coastal, tropical cities.

I wouldn’t take Grand Theft Auto back to Vice City this time if it was up to me!

I also believe that the Grand Theft Auto series works best in an American setting. The series is geared up for America, and trying to transpose it and set a new game in Asia or Europe would, in my view anyway, take away something significant that defines what Grand Theft Auto is. I know there was that London spin-off in the days when Grand Theft Auto still used a top-down perspective, but every other title has been set in the United States.

There are several really interesting choices for cities that a new game could be based on. A Washington DC analogue could look at things like power and corruption, or the game could hop over to Chicago for a story about the mob. A city based on Detroit could look at the decline of America as a manufacturing powerhouse and what effects that has had. Or Grand Theft Auto 6 could show us an updated, modern-day look at Red Dead Redemption II’s Saint Denis – a stand-in for New Orleans! Those are just a few interesting ideas, and it could be really neat to see any show up in a future game.

Number 6:
A different time period.

Back to the eighties or nineties?

Some of the best-loved Grand Theft Auto games didn’t use a modern-day setting. Vice City was set in the 1980s and San Andreas was set in the 1990s, and both games are well-remembered – despite being soiled by a recent sub-par remaster. In addition, Red Dead Redemption II took Rockstar’s signature open-world concept all the way back to the 19th Century and proved it can still work! So there’s a lot of potential, in my view, for the next Grand Theft Auto game to step out of the modern day.

There’s a lot of eighties nostalgia floating around at the moment, with films like Ready Player One and TV shows like Stranger Things cashing in on that, so that’s one possibility. It would also be interesting to step back into the 1990s and re-live the turn of the millennium all over again! There’s a lot of potential in taking advantage of a distinct time period or moment in time, and Rockstar has already demonstrated an ability to do so with past titles.

How about the seventies?

Grand Theft Auto 6 will have a difficult task to distinguish itself from its phenomenally-popular predecessor, and one way to immediately change the look and feel of the game and make it distinct would be to set it in a completely different decade. Combined with a setting that would take players away from the palm trees and beaches of California (sorry, San Andreas) I think an earlier time period could be an exceptionally interesting way to draw a line under Grand Theft Auto V and demonstrate that the new game has something very different to offer.

Somehow, Grand Theft Auto 6 has to do things that its immediate predecessor couldn’t offer. That realistically means that the new game needs either a brand-new setting or a time period that the series hasn’t visited in a while. Ideally, Grand Theft Auto 6 will offer both.

Number 7:
Cameos are fine, but let’s have new characters and a new story.

Claude from Grand Theft Auto 3 (right) had a cameo in San Andreas.

There’s going to be a huge temptation for Grand Theft Auto 6 to be an overblown sequel, stuffed full of callbacks, references, and nostalgia plays for Grand Theft Auto V – and other entries in the series. Depending on when and where the game is set, this could mean the return of familiar characters.

Cameos and the occasional reference are okay – and good fan-service in some respects – but I hope that the new game’s story will be able to stand on its own two feet. Grand Theft Auto isn’t a series that needs this kind of backwards-looking nostalgia, and every game thus far has been a distinct, standalone title. Because of the success of Grand Theft Auto V, though, there may well be some senior figures at Rockstar who aren’t prepared to fully let go.

Number 8:
Visual and gameplay improvements.

There have been some visually amazing games in recent years.
(Pictured: Kena: Bridge of Spirits)

Grand Theft Auto V is now almost nine years old, and was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Updates, patches, and new versions have certainly kept things fresh, but the game is now showing its age. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were decent consoles, capable of producing some excellent games, but with the technological improvement of two full console generations, there’s scope for Grand Theft Auto 6 to be bigger, prettier, and a better all-round experience.

Realistically this means that Grand Theft Auto 6 has to be an Xbox Series S/X and PlayStation 5 exclusive – trying to make a game that could also work on last generation’s consoles might be tempting, especially given the perennial problems of shortages and stock availability that have plagued the new consoles since launch. But going down this road will be a massive mistake – as Cyberpunk 2077 developers CD Projekt Red found to their cost.

Cyberpunk 2077 looks good (when it works).

Cyberpunk 2077 was crippled at launch by a catastrophic litany of bugs and glitches on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One specifically, and a big part of the reason why that happened is because the game is right at the technological limit of what those machines are capable of. If Grand Theft Auto 6 is going to be the game that fans are expecting, it needs a world at least as big and dense as Cyberpunk 2077′s. That means it needs to be built from the ground up with new hardware in mind.

Part of the appeal of Grand Theft Auto games is how silly they can be – so I don’t necessarily think that Rockstar needs to implement a realistic physics system or anything like that. But there are some areas where the standard open-world gameplay could be improved, and in addition to next-gen graphics it would be great if the game could feel like something new as well.

Number 9:
Proper difficulty and saving options.

Examples of difficulty settings present in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

Most Rockstar games don’t offer proper difficulty options. This was a complaint I had with Red Dead Redemption II as well as Grand Theft Auto V – and as I’ve said on several occasions, in 2022 there’s no excuse for not providing players with the option to change the game’s difficulty. This is such an incredibly basic feature that has been part of so many games going back decades that it amazes me that Rockstar didn’t bother with it.

Red Dead Redemption II had a feature where, after failing a specific part of a mission 3 times, it would be possible to skip ahead to the next checkpoint – and this is the only reason I was able to make it to the end of the story! But Grand Theft Auto 6 needs to do better. Difficulty settings are an accessibility feature, allowing players with disabilities and players of different skill levels access to a game. Rockstar needs to realise this and act accordingly.

Games that are too difficult aren’t fun for many players.

Also, if I save a game in a specific location, I feel like my character should still be there when I load up my save file later on. I can’t count the number of times in Red Dead Redemption II where I loaded up my save and then had to figure out where I was, where my horse was, and where my next objective was, all because the game seems to pick arbitrary locations for the player character to be when loading up a save file.

Grand Theft Auto V had a “quicksave” option which got around this – but past games in the series have relied on players returning to a safe-house or other specific location in order to save progress and load up save files. This wastes time and is an inconvenience – one that modern game design allows practically all titles to get around. So a decent save/load option, please!

Number 10:
A simultaneous PC release.

Don’t leave out PC gamers!

Grand Theft Auto V was released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2013, but didn’t come to PC for almost eighteen months. Red Dead Redemption II likewise didn’t arrive on PC for more than a year after its debut on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. But with PC gaming having grown ever more in just the last few years, it would be a mistake to leave PC players behind.

With the game having taken so long to develop already, what’s an extra few months if it means a PC version can be released alongside consoles? It would make so much sense to bring the game to all three platforms simultaneously, making for a bigger and bolder launch than either Grand Theft Auto V or Red Dead Redemption II enjoyed. And yes, I admit that this one is pure bias – my primary gaming platform these days is a PC!

So that’s it.

Remember when Grand Theft Auto looked like this?

That’s as close as I can get to describing my “perfect” Grand Theft Auto 6! It took me well over two years from Red Dead Redemption II’s PC launch to finally get around to playing it, so don’t expect an instant review here on the website the second the new game is out! But I daresay I will pick up a copy – provided it has a single-player mode, at least – and share my thoughts and impressions.

Rockstar has previously announced games fairly close to their expected release window, so I wouldn’t be stunned to learn Grand Theft Auto 6 is currently gunning for a release before Christmas – but take that with a grain of salt. There’s been online chatter and rumours suggesting late 2023 or early 2024 as possible release windows, so I guess we’ll have to watch and wait for more information.

I’m curious to see how Rockstar will follow up one of the biggest games of all time. Grand Theft Auto V has been a juggernaut, clocking up sales for almost nine years and hardly ever dropping out of the top-ten or top-twenty bestsellers and most-played games lists. Rockstar will be hoping that Grand Theft Auto 6 can recapture the magic this time around, and will bring its significant financial resources to bear to ensure it happens. As for me, I’ll be happy if the game is fun – and if it meets some or all of the entries on my wishlist, I daresay it will be!

Grand Theft Auto 6 is currently in development and is the copyright of Rockstar Games and/or Take-Two Interactive. Some screenshots and promotional art courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.