While we stick to the nation where the all but one games in the franchise took place for GTA 6 City of the Week, in Foreign City of the Week, we look beyond the borders of the USA in order to find the ideal candidate as the setting of the next installment of Rockstar Games' flagship franchise.
While taking a break from the Caribbean once more following Havana as our previous candidate, this week we bring a unique edition of Foreign City of the Week. due to the unique position of the two capitals being so close to one another, we decided to mix things up by taking a look at not one, but two cities which could potentially inhabit the same GTA game map, offering two main urban areas as well as a unique dynamic to the story and gameplay.
Buenos Aires and Montevideo
Both cities are the capitals of their nations. Both cities sit on the coast of the large bay formed by the Río De La Plata. Both cities are the most populous in their respective countries, and both rank particularly high on the list of most liveable cities in South America. They've both seen major modernization efforts, they are major ports, and both are major tourist attractions.
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Their proximity to one another presents us with the unique opportunity of evaluating the two cities in the context of them being on the same map. While most entries in the GTA franchise featured a map with a single city - or, rather, the whole map being just the city - the first two games in the series as well as San Andreas featured multiple urban locations.
The large bay separating the two cities could be used as the main geographic anchor of the map (and damn, would its use make for some stunning screenshots) with an inverted "U" shape as the rough landmass. Alternatively, the area could be reimagined as two islands connected by a bridge - however, we get ahead of ourselves.
Buenos Aires, also known as the City of Fury, making this city the one with the most bad-ass nickname we've ever encountered in City of the Week, is the capital of Argentina. With a population nearing 3 million, it's also larger than many of the American cities we've looked at recently once we started running out of the truly major cities.
Buenos Aires is an autonomous federal city much like Washington D.C. back in the States. This means it's independent of the surrounding Buenos Aires Province - which has it's own capital - and acts as a unique administrative body.
Buenos Aires has a number of attributes that make it seem like a great choice for a GTA game on first glance. It's rated as one of South America's most livable cities, it's an Alpha global city in terms of economy and it's a major tourist attraction, second only to Mexico City on the whole continent. As a bonus, the city will be hosting the 2018 Summer Olympics, which could easily be touched upon in the story (corruption, anyone?).
Buenos Aires is also known to be the most diverse city in South America. Historically, it saw some of the heaviest immigration on the continent, and many foreigners stream to the city even today. As a melting pot of cultures, the city has benefited much, however, there are also drawbacks. Buenos Aires is struggling with poverty. Looking at the entire metro area around the city, more than 20% of the population lives below the poverty line - and those are just the ones we know of.
Rapid urbanisation. the growth of "Villas Miserias" (the local equivalent of slums or shanty towns) and the limitation wrought by being an autonomous city has led to the rapid decrease of green areas in the city. Add to this an ever growing population, and Buenos Aires fell into the situation of having troublingly little greenery.
The WHO estimates that the minimum healthy limit of green area in a city per resident is 9 metres squared, while 10-15 is ideal. In Buenos Aires, this metric is 2. Yes, 2. Keep in mind that the livability ranking does not pertain to environmental concerns, just economic ones.
Buenos Aires' economy is big. The city alone accounts for a quarter of the country's economic activity and is the 13th largest in the world. It acts not only as a major hub for Argentina but for pretty much the entire continent.
Buenos Aires functions as a major port, with the harbour and docks providing the most jobs and income for the city. The city's historic port has been expanded and modernised, and a new one was constructed southwards of it. The two together handle almost 30 million tonnes of cargo each year, placing them among the busiest ports in South America.
The services and manufacturing fields are the two other major pillars of the city's economy. As the financial hub of the country, financial services make up for the bulk of that field, while the busy ports feed the manufacturing industry, which is grouped around the newer, southern harbour.
Switching over to Montevideo, we're met with a similar yet unique candidate. The city has a population of slightly over a million and is a Beta world city in terms of economy. While Buenos Aires has been often ranked among the most livable cities in South America, Montevideo has been consistently rated as the most livable city in South America.
While Buenos Aires acts as an industrial and economic hub for not only its nation but the entire continent, Montevideo plays a similar role in the realm of politics and trade. The headquarters of both Mercosur and ALADI are present in the city. These organisations are the main mercantile blocs in South America (think something along the lines of the EU) granting great influence to the city.
In terms of economy, Montevideo finds common ground with Buenos Aires in terms of having a major port and being a prominent banking hub. While Buenos Aires has the bigger port activity, Montevideo is more prominent in terms of banking. More than 20 private banks have their main or regional headquarters in the city, and Montevideo has been dubbed the "Switzerland of America".
Another common point between the two cities is the importance of tourism. Tourism is a major source of income throughout Uruguay, and the city's administration has doubled down on making visitors more likely to purchase state services to see the sights Montevideo has to offer.
Montevideo does not suffer from the overcrowdedness, the prominence of poverty or the general lack of green areas like Buenos Aires does. The city is known for its many parks, often decorated with monuments and the like. The city is also more modernised than Buenos Aires and features significantly fewer slums.
When placing the two on the same game map, we can consider what kind of dynamic the two locations would provide for. Buenos Aires would be the larger, more urban, more industrialised area with a grittier, down-to-earth feel (naturally the modern downtown area would still be accurately portrayed) with the slums shown on the outskirts. Montevideo would, on the other hand, be the pristine banking city. It would be somewhat smaller, but the design direction would be more modern and pristine.
Since we are talking about Rockstar here, they'd satirise both extensively. They'd probably put a "corrupt and spoilt bankers" spin on their version of Montevideo, while they'd pursue an exaggerated working-class stereotype with Buenos Aires. You can also bet that they will greatly up the natural rivalry that exists between the two capitals.
In terms of geography, a neat route would be to slice bits out of Uruguay and Argentina, turn them into two islands, and connect them with a bridge. This would allow Rockstar to weave the event of unlocking the second island into the story somehow like they've done in previous games.
This way you'll have a clear marker of progression, the two islands can be made different and diverse, the two cities would be clearly the anchors of their respective islands and mission locations could be made more interesting. The map proposed has plenty of wilderness areas as well as a number of other settlements which serve as secondary locations.
Kicking things off with Buenos Aires, we're off to a tough start. Not because there isn't much crime - there's plenty - it's just that official statistics are very rarely released, and when they are, the reports regarding the data vary giving us anything but a clear picture.
However, to get a rough idea of where we're at, the OSAC rates the crime situation in the city as "critical". Buenos Aires hasn't been able to escape the markers that are true for almost all major South American cities. Gang activity, violence, drug trade, weapons trafficking and more are ripe, even more so than in inland cities due to the active port.
Murder is most often related to gang affiliation, though non-gang related violent crimes are also pretty common, with rates estimated to be well about USA averages. Organised crime is a major issue in Buenos Aires.
Which leads us to another key criminal field: corruption. No matter how we twist things, South America has a reputation for being a hotbed of corruption, and unfortunately, that rep is well earned. Corruption is a major concern, as prominent politicians often are discovered of having ties to various syndicates. Much of Buenos Aires' taxis are also thought to be under the control of crime bosses, however, this has yet to be verified.
Montevideo is a slightly different story. The OSAC rates its crime situation as "high" instead of critical, and the general consensus is that foreigners will generally only experience petty crimes such as pickpocketing or burglary. However, the two major issues present in Buenos Aires are present here too - gangs and corruption.
Both of these issues in both cities are rarely something that is seen or it apparent to tourists or even foreigners who live there for a year or two, however they are present nonetheless. While both cities struggle against these crimes, the truth is that they both fit the GTA profile perfectly, so both Buenos Aires and Montevideo is scoring well in this regard.
Yet another category in which both cities will shine. As the capitals of their nations and popular tourist destinations, both Buenos Aires and Montevideo will be relatively easy to identify based on landmarks alone even for foreigners who aren't completely sheltered.
Both cities are heavy on landmarks, and we couldn't possible hope to list them all. That said, a few highlights from Buenos Aires include the Palace of the Argentine National Congress, Palacio Barolo, Parque Centenario, Puerto Madero (the most modernised district), Puente de la Mujer, the Obelisco and the Casa Rosada.
Moving on to Montevideo, some major landmarks include Parque Prado, Parque Rodó, Obelisk of Montevideo, the Monumento La Carreta, the Palacio Salvo, the Plaza de la Constitución, World Trade Center Montevideo, the Legislative Palace and the port.
You might have noticed that not only are many of the landmarks between the two cities similar, but they both have an obelisk. Nonetheless, Rockstar would be able to differentiate the two cities visually by focusing on industrial elements in Buenos Aires and more modern elements in Montevideo.
We'll be damned if this pairing of cities doesn't have some serious story potential. It could play on the rivalries, the gangs, the corruption and more. It could incorporate elements of the massive recession that struck the region years ago, it could touch upon the 2018 olympics, and it could be framed around the activities of corrupt officials.
If we stick to the generalization - which, let us reiterate, isn't accurate and we don't wish to offend anyone - that Buenos Aires is somewhat poorer and more focused on industry, while Montevideo is richer, more modern and focuses on banking, we'd get an interesting dynamic. Buenos Aires would have more down-to-earth criminals like your standard gang-members and whatnot, while Montevideo would be full of the corrupt politicians and bankers.
The protagonist would start off in the wilderness are of the Buenos Aires island. Having arrived at a small coastal village by sea, the man with a criminal past was almost instantly mugged and beaten. A local small-time crime lord's men find him and take him to the boss. Based on his tattoos, the boss recognizes him as a member of the gang of a friend in another city, so he takes the protagonist in. Initially, missions would take place in the non-city area, with the city being eventually unlocked.
Once the city is unlocked, the protagonist is introduced to the larger narrative arc. For years, there was a deal between the gangs of Buenos Aires and the syndicates of Montevideo that worked to mutual benefit, however recently old rivalries have made the deal uneasy and it might collapse into gang warfare. Various gangs, corrupt officials, bankers, syndicates and crime bosses have countless needs, demands and interests, many of which are conflicting.
The player would get tangled in a web of debt and association, when paying off one debt means racking up three more. Eventually, through various missions for the different factions, tensions are seemingly being eased. However, it is revealed that an unknown party wants the deal to deteriorate, and uses the progress of the protagonist to simply push the Buenos Aires gangs and Montevideo syndicates further apart.
Suspecting that the unknown enemy operates out of Montevideo, the second island is unlocked. Doing missions there grants the protagonist more money, an easier life and many luxuries. His allies back with the gangs stop trusting him, because they think he's become like the bankers and corrupt officials, who in turn don't trust him because he's originally affiliated with the gangs.
Here, the plot would take on a theme revolving around deception, betrayal and blackmailing, as the protagonist navigates the strange world of the wealthy and the corrupt. As the story progresses, more and more former allies turn their backs on him as he gains more influence, more infamy and more wealth.
In a carefully choreographed revelation, the players are shown that there in fact is no "hidden enemy", but simply the gangs and syndicates are no longer capable of working together due to procedural changes in ideology, and that the acts of the protagonist were pushing them further away without his knowing.
Once everyone had turned their back on the player character, he realises that with the information he's collected throughout the game, he could either ignite a devastating gang-war and disappear, or coerce and blackmail everyone into a proverbial corner, turning him into the de-facto criminal kingpin of both cities. The player may choose which ending happens.
Pros: geography, crime, recognition, story potential, everything
Cons: Con? What's a "con"?
While they have the benefit of being in this together, the pairing of Buenos Aires and Montevideo has proven to be the single best candidate for the setting of the next major GTA game that we've looked at in this article series yet. They nail every aspect and then some. We have a winner. Cheers.
Would you like to play a GTA game set in these two cities?