While GTA 6 City of the Week looks at one location in the USA and evaluates it as a possible setting of the next installment in Rockstar Game's popular open-world action adventure franchise every week, Foreign City of the Week, as the name suggests, looks beyond the borders.
Staying close to the USA after last week's foray into Canada, we're going down southeast to the fruit basket of the Americas, the West Indies. These islands, many nations on their own, offer several great candidates for a GTA setting, and we'll be moving through most of them - though not back-to-back for the sake of variety.
Now, we say "Kingston" since this article series is called "City" of the Week, but when looking at a good location for a GTA map, the entirety of Jamaica looks pretty promising. The island nation is not too large, and the city of Kingston, its capital, already makes up a good chunk of it.
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As the third largest island of the Greater Antilles and fourth largest in the entire Caribbean, Jamaica hits that gold ratio of not forcing the game developers to condense it too much to fit into a map, while still being large enough to offer a varied and interesting landscape. Of course, we're sitting here saying all that years after Ubisoft crammed the entire caribbean, plus a slice of Florida and Central America into a single open-world map in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.
That said, GTA as a franchise has always retained settings where almost all locations on the map were accessible via car, even when the maps spread across multiple islands. Taking the whole Caribbean would not work for a GTA game due to the large stretches of open sea between the islands, plus, you know, it has been done before.
Kingston is a city of almost a million, and the largest in the country. As the capital, Kingston is the beating heart of Jamaica in more ways than one, and serves as the true center of commerce, culture and governance. The city, being the capital of an Anglophone nation, is the largest city southward of the USA to be predominantly english-speaking.
Kingston's economy is in stark contrast with the rest of the country. While the capital also maintains a strong stake in tourism, most foreign visitors travel through Kingston to one of the many resort-villages scattered throughout the island instead of staying in the city itself. Kingston is the hub of finances in Jamaica, and the vast majority of financial services and transactions of the whole nation are found and take place in the capital.
Jamaica as a whole is mainly based on mining, agriculture and tourism in terms of economy, with the third accounting for a whole half of the nation's income. The export of agricultural products and resources yields much of the remainder, with financial services having a small slice of the pie.
In terms of geography, Kingston, and by extension Jamaica, are perfect for a GTA map, as we touched on earlier. As an island already, Rockstar would not need to alter Jamaica to a major extent in order to make it into a map, and Kingston being the largest city by a long shot anchors the urban area well. The other settlements throughout the country would serve as secondary locations, and there is enough variety throughout Jamaica to offer an exciting landscape.
One thing to note however, is that beyond the old-town area of Kingston which is arranged in the standard colonial grid-style, the city's roadplan is a veritable nightmare for cars. Roads and streets wind around all over the place, and there are several blocks and neighborhoods with few points of ingress.
It should go without saying that Kingston, and by extension, Jamaica, is internationally famous for Reggae music, due to being the home country of Bob Marley. Beyond Reggae, Jamaica is also the cradle of Ska, Mento, Rocksteady, Dub, Dancehall and Ragga, and had a major influence on the appearance of Punk Rock.
Pre-independence Jamaica had a reputation for being one of the safest countries not only in the British Empire, but in the world. Ever since the country became independent, crime rates rapidly grew until such a point where for multiple years the country had the highest murder rates globally according to the UN.
With 1,428 murders in 2010, the country is still on the upper end of the leaderboards. Much of the crime is centered around major cities and urban areas, especially Kingston. The main reason for widespread crime in the country is mainly a high level of gang activity. Drug trafficking is a major issue, as Jamaica is both a destination and a thoroughfare, acting as a portal towards the USA for drugs coming from abroad.
Jamaica has been combating crime for a good long time, and while efforts have borne some fruits leading crime-rates to decrease steadily, they're still really high on a global scale. The importance of tourism has motivated the government further to crack down on crime, in order to ensure that popular visitor destinations and resort towns are safe.
Kingston itself, as a city, isn't exactly the most iconic. Much effort has been poured into its revitalization and modernization, however it doesn't exactly have a memorable skyline. In spite of the high number of tourists coming to the country, few actually stay in Kingston, so this doesn't exactly help in this regard.
That said, some points of interest in Kingston are the Bob Marley Museum, the National Heroes Park and Devon House. In terms of the whole country, a number of beaches - including one named after James Bond - are pretty well known, as well as the estate where the original novels written by Ian Fleming were penned.
The structural architecture of the international drug trafficking pipeline running through Jamaica involves a number of independent gangs and syndicates operating out of the country being hired by larger ones operating in the destination and origin nations of the products.
The story of a GTA game set in Kingston and Jamaica could take place shortly after one Jamaican gang began aggressively expanding in the country, eventually taking over the entire Jamaican criminal underground. The new ruling gang would start charging significantly higher prices for smuggling operations when it comes to international trafficking, since the foreign syndicates no longer have a choice to hire someone else.
One such international gang, maybe operating out of an established GTA city like Los Santos or Liberty City, sends an operative to Kingston in order to team up with local contacts to rope in the arrogant new gang. The player will be tasked with supplying splinter groups and the remnants of former gangs with weapons, vehicles and cash in order to give them a fighting chance, while also sabotaging the dealings of the rival gang.
Pros: Geography, high crime rate, gang activity, story potential
Cons: Poor recognition
While Kingston doesn't really score well in terms of recognition, it gets great marks across the board in all other factors. It's proximity to the USA is also a boon. The high level of gang activity in the city, and the country, works perfectly for a GTA game, and it offers a great basis for a solid storyline.
How would you like to play a GTA game set in Kingston?