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.
Sticking to the east coast after last week's Charleston, we're moving a bit further up north for a deviant entry in our City of the Week series. Instead of looking at just one city, we're looking at a whole metropolitan area composed of several smaller settlements, which together form a pretty large urban area.
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As mentioned above, Hampton Roads is not a city itself, rather the name of both a geographic formation and a metropolitan region. The large bay is the confluence of the James, Elizabeth and Nansemond rivers. The bay is actually an inlet of the much larger Chesapeake bay, and is situated more or less at its mouth. Hampton Roads is a metropolitan area composed of 9 cities and a number of smaller communities, collectively being the home of over 1.7 million souls.
The nine cities - Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Poquoson and Williamsburg - are scattered throughout the southeasternmost corner of Virginia. Of these, Virginia Beach is the largest, anchoring the Hampton Roads area. That said, all of the settlements considered part of the area are more or less physically linked, so technically we're looking at a single city sliced up into various administrative zones.
The area is best known for its largest city, Virginia Beach, which is both a hot tourist attraction and a historically significant site. Cape Henry, located at the northernmost tip of the settlement, is where the historic event of "The First Landing" took place in 1607, which was followed by the establishment of the first successful English colony on the continent, thus marking the most absolute point of origin for the entire nation.
But that isn't where the historical significance ends - Yorktown, one of the northernmost settlements of the Hampton Roads urban area was the site of the British Empire's ultimate defeat during the American Revolutionary War. While the war continued following the battle, the massive defeat of the "lobsterbacks" at Yorktown sealed the outcome of the war.
The whole area is a anchor point for historic tourism, as there are countless monuments to both the foundation of the first permanent settlements as well as the victory in the Revolutionary War. Hampton Roads also has a number of notable "firsts" to its name, such as the first free public schools in the nation, as well as the world's first bridge-tunnel hybrid crossing structure.
The area is also known for the massive military presence which has become characteristic of Hampton Roads. Not only is the largest naval military base in the world present here, but so is one of the most important air force bases, Langley. One of the most frequently referenced military bases in popular media, Langley in real life most likely has significantly fewer ties to world-changing covert operations than in fiction.
20 major military bases are located throughout the area, with the navy being the most prominent. Naval Station Norfolk is possibly the biggest, being the previously referenced largest naval base in the world. All of the USA's nuclear powered aircraft carriers were constructed here, and the legendary USS Enterprise was decommissioned here - and the next Enterprise will be sent off from here.
In terms of geography, Hampton Roads is pretty damn great for a GTA map. The area is characterized by countless rivers, inlets, lakes and stream, while the whole thing is a coastal bay and peninsula. Cutting bits out of Virginia's coastal area provides us with a neat map featuring multiple islands, including the southernmost lick of the Delmarva peninsula.
Naturally, the southern amalgamation of the Hampton Roads urban area would anchor the map, with the wilderness part covered by the northern reaches. Certain other towns nearby, like Cape Charles and Kilmarnock could act as secondary locations. The area is varied enough not to be boring by any stretch, however it doesn't offer much diversity by way of topography.
In terms of economy, Hampton Roads is almost entirely and completely based on revenue, funding and business from and with the Federal Government. The massive military presence is the most apparent sign of this, though departments of energy, transportation, commerce and veterans affairs also have major offices in the area. NASA also operates several installations in and around Hampton Roads.
The other pillar of the region's economy lies in shipping and distribution. Hampton Roads is often described as the "world's greatest natural harbor". Shipping, ship-building and a number of other maritime activities are essential for the local economy. Huntington Ingalls Industries, a Fortune 500 company operating out of the harbor, is a major player in shipbuilding, and is one of the biggest contractors of the US navy.
In spite of the prominent military presence, the Hampton Roads area is known to have generally higher crime rates than the national average. Virginia Beach, the largest city in the urban area, is the only one which had murder rates below national averages. All others, especially Norfolk and Portsmouth, score well above. Murder rates are pretty high in these other cities.
Other crimes, such as assault and vehicular theft also score above national averages, all of which play right into the hands of GTA. You'd think that the high military presence around the area would promote safety and discourage this kind of behaviour, but apparently not. In fact, over the years there have been multiple crime on military bases involving civilians, such as a shooting at the Norfolk Naval Base.
I mean, who the heck attacks a military base!? Other than GTA players, of course...
The major ports and importance of shipping also make Hampton Roads a smuggling hotspot, though it's more of an "anthill", so to say. Lots of small-time deals are going on, as anything particularly major would be plucked out due to heightened security because of the important military assets present in the area. Drugs and jewelry are most typical when it comes to smuggling via Hampton Roads.
Seeing as we're looking at the area which can be credited with being the cradle of the nation on not one but two counts, I'm pretty sure the region of Hampton Roads is very well known to all Americans, as well as any history buff who has an interest in American history. All things considered, we're banking on many foreigners having some idea of the area, if only due to the frequent reference to local military bases in popular culture.
That said, none of the cities' skylines are even remotely iconic. The large bay area might be recognizable, especially if massive aircraft carriers passing by is a common sight in-game, however even though the area has massive historical significance, I'm not entirely sure most foreign players would recognize much of the city. Yorktown, mentioned previously in the article, may actually be the most iconic settlement of Hampton Roads, in spite of being one of the smallest.
All that being said, Hampton Roads has an absolute motherload of notable landmarks going for it. Colonial Williamsburg, Langley Air Force Base, Norfolk Naval Base, NASA Langley Research Station, MacArthur Center, the Historic Triangle, Cape Henry, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel and much, much more is going for the region.
With the massive military presence being a staple of the area, it would be almost criminal (no pun intended) not to make it a major aspect of the game. It could be tied in with the importance of shipping in the area as well.
Due to it being pretty much beyond the world of reason for organised criminal syndicates to worm their way into the military in terms of influence, such stories are seldom told by way of popular media. However, Rockstar might want to tackle the challenge of presenting just that in a believable way should they pick Hampton Roads as the setting of GTA 6.
The game would start off with the protagonist being the member of a smuggling ring operating out of Hampton Roads. The group would be a subsidiary of a larger criminal syndicate based elsewhere. Say the syndicate is taken over by an ambitious new leader who travels to Hampton Roads in order to meet up with the smugglers to tackle his next target - the US military.
Said crime boss would be extensively featured as a major NPC throughout the story, which would focus on corrupting, bribing, blackmailing and extorting various officers and cadets serving in the various bases of Hampton Roads. The motive could be that the crime boss wants to exploit the smuggling and trafficking potential in Hampton Roads, however for that to be possible, he needs the military to be in his pocket.
Obviously this must be executed in a way that is more focused on typical GTA themes, in order to prevent it spiralling into a military-themed game. For example, a mission could involve tailing a notable base-commander in off-duty hours as he makes a trip to a brother, record footage of him during "R&R" and then escape.
Pros: geography, crime rate, story potential, national recognition
Cons: Might not be too recognizable for foreigners
Overall, the Hampton Roads area would fit a GTA game pretty damn well. Scoring high in all factors, the only drawback of the area is that it won't exactly hit close to home for foreign players.
Would you like to play a GTA game set in and around Hampton Roads?