While locations outside the USA have a very low chance of actually becoming a GTA setting, seeing as the game franchise is deeply rooted in satire and social commentary on the USA, with a large library of fake joke companies and references which are ostensibly American. However, the possibility remains and we intend to explore the various non-US candidates for the setting of GTA 6.
And so, without further ado, GTA BOOM presents GTA 6 Foreign City of the Week!
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Rio De Janeiro
As you see, we're getting right down to business. The short recap of the week's news is a feature that will stay exclusive to the main City of the Week series.
The Marvellous City is all in the news these days due to it hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. However, whenever doping isn't in the headlines, the former capital of Brazil and even the Portuguese Empire at one point is still a notable city.
Known for the carnivals, beaches, the large Jesus statue and kidnappings, Rio is an extremely popular hotspot. While it has lost the status of being the capital of the country some time ago, it continues to be the capital of the state of Rio De Janeiro. The greater metropolitan area surrounding the former capital is the second largest in the country of Brazil, being home to 12.6 million souls.
Part of the city has been declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site back in 2012, and rightfully so. Rio is considered to be the economic and cultural center of the country, in spite of São Paulo outstripping the city in terms of economy and Brasília becoming the capital. It's surely the first Brazilian and probably the first South American city to come to the minds of anyone over-seas. It has become a highly iconic and popular tourist destination.
Rio's unique geography has certainly helped in making it a hotspot for visitors. Encompassing a wide peninsula with bays on either side, which are littered with mountain-isles. With the sea to one side and mountains to the other, Rio has somehow retained that atmosphere of being a safe, hidden refuge nestled in a cradle of natural defenses in spite of being a sprawling metropolis.
Incidentally, Rio's geography is absolutely perfect for a GTA map. A peninsula is only a lick of land away from being an island anyway so Rockstar would have no issue here, and Rio is unique in the sense that it isn't a massive centralized and continuous urban area, but is littered with large spaces where nature still rules - usually mountains - including a national park.
All around the city are various other settlements which may or may not be conjoined with it, opening up plenty of possibilities for Rockstar to add other urban areas beyond the main city area. Between the bay, mountains, nearby lakes and forests, there is plenty of wilderness nearby to satisfy that need as well.
The city itself is also prime for GTA. there are vastly different neighborhoods in relative close proximity. Downtown Rio is advanced, modern and quite reminiscent of your typical "big-city" skyline feel that a game like GTA needs. However, you've also got your rich districts oozing with luxury as well as your Favela regions and pretty much everything in between. A tad separated from the city proper is the new resort and residential Barra de Tijuca, for example.
Essentially, the job of separating the districts is already done. With the Center, West,North and South being the four official districts, each much different from the others, the map makers at Rockstar could basically just slap a carbon copy of Rio into their game, remove half the streets, rename the rest and voila. You have the perfect city for GTA.
Rio's reputation has two sides. On the one hand, there is the sprawling, idyllic vacation destination with the colorful carnivals and sunny beaches.
On the other hand, there is the proliferation of gang violence. Foreigners are advised to keep out of the poor districts lest they be robbed or kidnapped for ransom. Stories of tourists getting themselves into such predicaments are common. People tell tales of getting robbed at gunpoint not 5 minutes after crossing into a poorer district.
While petty crimes like armed robbery or murder are part of the equation, the larger gangs who control entire favelas generally keep away from these acts of low rewards in order to avoid needless entanglements with the law. In fact, gangs tried to keep up good relations with the people living in the favelas under their control to make defending their "turf" easier.
Of course, this is belied by constant power struggles, campaigns to take over other favelas, increase the territory of the gang which leads to more customers for their illegal drugs and so forth. Almost all crime in Rio is in some way related to the gangs.
Now, this perfectly suits GTA, which has always had a strong element of organised crime and gangs were always central to the games either as enemies or as friendly factions. The whole territorial conflict aspect could be moulded into a game mechanic where players have to "conquer" regions of the map for their gang and defend said regions from rivals.
Drug trade is pretty much the biggest illegal business in Rio, as not only is the city a destination, but a portal to other markets as well. One of the most frequently transported narcotics is cocaine.
Of course, when entire sections of a city, encompassing multiple neighborhoods is known to be "ruled" by a drug-trafficking crimelord, the only way such a situation could be maintained is if the right officials were looking the other way.
As such white-collar crime and corruption both in the government and police force is extremely wide-spread. This is in stark contrast with the honorable members of both organisations waging their own "war" against organised crime, leading to clear divides within official organisations as well.
Rio De Janeiro is an extremely iconic city primarily due to it being a favored tourist location. The "Christ the Redeemer" statue that towers over the city has become synonymous with Rio, however that is hardly the only point of interest. The Sugarloaf mountain is also a favored location for visitors, as are the beaches of the city. Other notable locations are the Maracanã Stadium, Rio-Niterói Bridge and Paço de São Cristóvão.
While they aren't exactly tourist destinations and in spite of appearing in many other cities, Favelas have also become linked with Rio. Seas of haphazardly built buildings rising and falling with the slopes of the mountains as if they were waves in the ocean are instantly associated with the city and are often the subject of many photos.
Oh, there is plenty going for Rio in this regard. The obvious choice would be going with a character-driven tale focusing on a member of one of the smaller gangs in Rio, and how said character rises through the ranks of the gang while also elevating his group to become one of the leading gangs in the city. This tale practically writes itself and with the talented team of writers Rockstar has, would allow for some truly iconic characters to be born.
Another alternative path could be that the player is a newly arrived police cadet who came to Rio from the country. As a newcomer, he is given the worst possible assignment which results in a run-in with a gang the members of which force him to become dirty, otherwise they would kill him (or a colleague they took hostage?) . You'd have to do jobs for the gang while paying attention to upholding the guise of a police officer, and through your actions you can choose to gravitate more towards the gang and become really "dirty", or if even in the face of danger you try and stay honorable.
Pros: High crime rate of the right kind, highly iconic, perfect geography, great story potential
Cons: Little variance in wilderness
We know we scored Honolulu higher than Rio in spite of not being as good on paper, but that's our own preferences at work. However, looking at all aspects together, Rio is among the best candidates for a GTA setting we've explored in this entire series. If this is such a good kick-off, you can expect some other great contenders popping up.
The geography of the city with the mixture of diverse urban areas and wilderness all the while being on a peninsula makes it a great choice, even if you won't have such variety as a desert in the middle of the map or something. The other factors like recognition, crime and story potential all add up to make Rio a prime choice.
Which US city would you like us to review this Friday?