GTA 6 City of the Week is a weekly article series here on GTA BOOM. Every week, we will evaluate a different city in the United States, gauging how well it would fit GTA 6 as a setting.
After last week's excursion up north, we return to the contiguous United States. In the past few weeks, we've pretty adamantly stuck to the east coast, so it was time to mix things up a bit and go west, to an area that is no stranger to the GTA franchise.
Sacramento follows that trend that we've noticed regarding states in the USA, namely that the capitals of the various states are almost never the most famous or widely known cities in said state. Sacramento has it pretty tough, being up against heavy hitters like Los Angeles and San Francisco - both of which served as the basis of a city in GTA.
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Falling north of the rough area that was cut out of the USA for the same GTA San Andreas, Sacramento sits in the central reaches of California. The city is not located on the coast, but rather further inland, on the eastern bank of the Sacramento River. A large metropolitan area has since grown out of the city, but instead of Sacramento proper being in its center, the urban growth mostly expanded northeast of the city.
The population of the city itself doesn't even hit half a million, while the Greater Sacramento Area is home to over 2 million souls. Like so many other things in California, the name of the city - and the river from which it got its name - came from the Spanish, who first colonized the area.
The city's origins can be traced back to another settlement, and a feud between father and son. A pioneer named John Sutter arrived in the area during the tail end of the 1830's, and founded a settlement to the north of where Sacramento would later be located. Fort Sutter soon grew and won its founder great wealth, who sought to expand his realm.
Later, his son, John Sutter Jr. would found Sacramento 2 miles to the south of Fort Sutter, much to his father's detriment. Eventually the son's city outgrew all of his father's settlements, which failed one after another. In spite of gold having been found at Sutter's Mill, the massive influx of settlers during the gold-rush benefited Sacramento instead of Sutterville.
Sacramento's growth after its founding is mainly attributed to the California Gold Rush, which led to the discovery of the Mother Lode, a massive cache of gold and other resources upstream. While the area is prone to dangerous tectonic movement as well as severe flooding, the city's population grew steadily throughout history, and is still growing today, primarily thanks to immigration and to people moving inland from the San Francisco Bay area.
Sacramento's history with foreigners, be they American citizens or otherwise, has been bumpy. Even though the city was named the most diverse in the country in 2002 by TIME magazine, it was not always so. During the two opium wars of the 1800's, a massive influx of Chinese immigrants resulted in the construction of a large Chinatown district. Little of this remains, as efforts to "drive out" the Chinese included the construction of a railway through the district.
Eventually the neighborhood was consumed by a fire, presumably set by white locals who wanted to scare away the immigrants. Sacramento was also home to one of the 15 temporary internment camps in the USA during WWII which housed people of Japanese descent, even if many possessed an American citizenship.
In spite of Sacramento being the capital of California, an odd trend of bureaucratic decentralization has dogged the city for years, with all kinds of state agencies moving out of the city to other, larger locations in the state. After all, Sacramento is only the sixth largest city in California. The local government has been spending quite a bit to convince the remaining authorities to stay.
In spite of the exodus of the state agencies, the State of California remains the largest employer in the city, followed by the administration of Sacramento County. With the top two employers providing jobs to almost one hundred thousand individuals, the third place falls short by a massive amount. The US Davis Health System has just under 8000 employees in Sacramento.
Sacramento one was home to three separate military bases, including two Air Force bases and an army depot. However, all three were closed down by the end of the 90's, leaving Sacramento without a major military presence. While having a military base on hand is by no means an absolute necessity for a GTA map, they are often used nonetheless.
In spite of the differences in the past between Sacramento and Sutter's Fort, the former has since consumed the latter, and landmarks related to Sutter are major tourist attractions in the city. While it isn't as popular among foreigners as San Francisco and Los Angeles, Sacramento is still a popular tourist attraction.
Sacramento is also a cultural hotspot, with more than 30 museums in the greater metropolitan area around the city. Annually, Sacramento hosts a Museum Day, where a varying number of establishments - 26 in 2015 - can be visited for free.
In terms of geography, Sacramento isn't exactly the most idea. Sitting far inland, turning the area around it into an island wouldn't exactly be a smooth transition. That said, the transformation Rockstar put the southwest USA through to craft the map of GTA San Andreas was even more extreme. As such, you could always slice a piece out of California lengthways ranging from the coast all the way to the Eldorado National Forest east of Sacramento.
This way you'f get a unique map shape, anchored by the city to the west. There would be plenty of wilderness, with two national parks on the two ends of the island. Santa Rosa and Vacaville would perfectly serve the roles of secondary locations. Though mountains are sparse, the landscape would be broken up by the occasional lake here and there.
And yes, there is indeed a settlement near Sacramento called "Yolo". Let's move on now please.
Whatever points we docked Sacramento for geography, it's going to win back in terms of crime. Not only has the city consistently had an above-average violent crime rate, but in 2015 and 2016, rates have been on the rise - what's more, in 2015, Sacramento saw the largest rise in crime rates among all major cities of the USA.
There was a greater than 25% increase in violent crime rates between the January and June of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. If you're interested in hard data, the violent crime rate in the city hiked up to 379 per 100,000 residents, placing it well above national averages.
Sacramento has seen ever increasing rates of gang activity. While California is pretty well known for the influence of various criminal syndicates, the other two big cities are most often associated with gang activity. Nonetheless, much of Sacramento's crime can be chalked up to gangs.
Drug trafficking is a major illegal business. Though much farther from the Mexican border than San Diego and Los Angeles, Sacramento is still an important link between the USA and the Mexican cartels. Weapons trafficking also prominent in the city.
Corruption is also a major issue in Sacramento. Due to the decentralization of government agencies, "taking a bit off the top" is made much easier, officials also have a greater chance of getting away with it. With the proliferation of white collar crime, cooperation between corrupt officials and criminal syndicates strengthen both sides.
In a returning theme, Sacramento is overshadowed by its larger and more popular counterparts in California in terms of recognition. While the cityscapes of both Los Angeles and San Francisco are iconic and instantly recognizable for even foreigners - which is probably why they were chosen as GTA settings before - Sacramento just isn't that easily identifiable.
In fact, one of Sacramento's most recognizable landmarks when viewed from afar carries the same name as another similar, and much more famous landmark. The Tower Bridge is a a large yellow, metal vertical lift bridge spanning the Sacramento River. It also looks absolutely nothing like the London landmark of the same name.
Other notable landmarks, which would look particularly good in a virtual environment due to their unique shapes, include the Ziggurat, an oddly built office building; the West America Bank Building and the US Bank Tower.
Historic landmarks in the city include Sutter's Fort, which was mentioned before, the Eagle Theatre, which was the first permanent theatre in the whole state, and the Big Four building. The latter two are reconstructions, as their original counterparts were both demolished.
Other notable landmarks include Raley Field, the City Hall and the California Capitol building. The Capitol bares a strong resemblance to the White House, which isn't coincidental - it's based on the US Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
All this considered, the city isn't particularly well known overseas. Even if certain buildings would be telling for American players, chances are few foreigners would be able to identify the city off-hand.
Not much about Sacramento really stands out which would immediately suggest a storyline. That said, Rockstar may draw on the ever increasing crime rate as well as the gang activity. One possible route would be for them to take GTA in a direction it's never gone before.
The protagonist could be an undercover cop, tasked with infiltrating the criminal syndicates of the city in an attempt to feed the police information, to help them curb the rapid increase of crime. Secretly, the protagonist would also have a personal motivation, as the leader of the syndicate he infiltrates personally executed his partner years before, and he wants to exact revenge by tearing down the boss' organisation around him.
Due to his own motivation, the protagonist would not "go easy", and is willing to take even the most destructive and brutal jobs for the syndicate in order to gain trust. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the protagonist, there is a corrupt element in the police department working with the syndicate, however for their own reasons, they don't reveal the identity of the undercover cop.
Eventually the story would become a tangle of motivations and double-crossing, with threads running between the protagonist, the honorable police, the corrupt police and the syndicate. Eventually the corrupt element approaches the protagonist, offering to help him exact revenge in exchange for handing over control of the syndicate.
The second-in-command of the syndicate learns of the protagonist's identity, and instead of blowing his cover, offers an alliance. The protagonist has his vengeance without dismantling the organisation, and hands control over to the second-in-command.
The protagonist would be faced with a choice: help the honorable police, the corrupt police, or the second-in-command? Either path chosen would require them to perform jobs for the syndicate, thus enabling typical GTA-esque missions full of gunfights, violence and thrilling car chases.
The game could also feature a reputation system, introduced after all three potential allies reveal themselves. Certain side missions, as well as various choices made during main story missions would sway you towards one of the three allies, granting you greater bonuses if you eventually choose their ending.
For example, if a side-mission has you intercept a weapons shipment from a rival gang, you can either submit it as evidence (thus helping the honorable police), hand it over to the syndicate (thus helping the second-in-command) or selling off the shipment to a third party, depriving both the syndicate and the police of the valuable haul (thus helping the corrupt police).
Pros: Story potential, crime rate
Cons: Unideal geography, relatively poor recognition
Sacramento has some beneficial aspects, such as the pretty good story potential as well as the ever rising crime rates, however overall the less than prime geography coupled with the potentially poor recognition among foreign players places many cities above Sacramento. Maybe for a spin-off?
Would you like to play a GTA game set in Sacramento?