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.
Did you know that a majority of foreigners, to this day, think that Sydney is the capital of Australia? It seems that this whole "new planned capital city" thing just doesn't work out most of the time. Sure, it turned out well in the case of Washington D.C., but look at Brasília and Canberra. Not too shiny.
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Anyhow, the city is indeed the largest in the country, and was once considered for being the capital alongside Melbourne. Since the two cities couldn't decide between themselves due to a long-standing rivalry, a compromise was made to found an entirely new city approximately halfway between the two which would act as the new capital. While Melbourne has been called the most livable city in the world five times in a row and is considered the technological, cultural and scientific center of Australia, even pro-Melbourne folks like me must acknowledge that on the international stage, Sydney is quite simply more famous.
Sydney, like many other cities we examine, is very much a city of "mosts". It is built around the world's largest natural harbor. It is the country's, and in fact Asia Pacific's, largest economic and financial hub. It is the oldest city in Australia, the most visited tourist destination in Australia and the most multicultural city in Australia.
Boasting a population of just - and we mean just - under 5 million, Sydney is a sprawling metropolis covering 12,367.7 km2. Encompassing two main bays and countless smaller ones, Sydney features a highly varied coastline, including the world famous Bondi Beach. It stretches pretty far inland, all the way to the Blue Mountains National Park, and spawls both southward and northward as well.
From a geographic point of view, Sydney is ideal for a GTA map. Turning the area into an island wouldn't be too hard, nor too much of a stretch in terms of realism. With the prominent bays and large coastline, Sydney and its surroundings feature plenty of water, while the nearby national parks provide not only natural borders, but areas of wilderness too.
As for additional settlements, there are plenty of small ones lining the coast with a new cities as well. Wollongong, Gosford and Newcastle would serve a secondary locations. Now, if you think Wollongong is an oddly names place, let us tell you that the City of Lake Macquarie has a suburb called Wangi Wangi. If Rockstar ever makes a GTA game set around Sydney, you can bet that they will capitalize on the crude humor potential there.
Sydney itself features many different districts and neighborhoods, such as Springwood, Blacktown (not a politically incorrect version of Chinatown, don't worry), Campbelltown, Parramatta and more. Some of these were cities themselves, however they are now considered part of Sydney itself as "Greater Sydney", of which the original Sydney city is also (obviously) part.
Sydney's economy mainly relies on trade, finance and tourism. The mercantile aspect is prominent due to it having been the only major industry in the city's early years. While it was difficult initially due to poor soil, the eventual discovery of gold as well as the cultivation of wool initiated something of a trade boom in the city. With the economic upturn, industrial manufacturing became feasible, and while this venue was pursued through World War 2, it is no longer a staple of the city today.
Rather, international finance and business has taken its place, as well as national. Almost half of Australia's top 500 companies are based in Sydney, and hundreds of massive multinational corporations have their regional centers in the city. Banking is a major industry, and has greatly contributed to the city's ascension to spot eleven on the Global Economic Power Index. Besides finance and tourism, recent years have seen a boom in the tech sector. While it isn't threatening the spot of other major industries just yet, it's rate of growth suggests that Sydney may arise as a global technological development hub within a decade or so.
Okay, okay, we're joking. Kind of. While Sydney has all the staple criminal cases that any large city is plagued with, meaning that thieves, pickpockets and burglars are omnipresent, albeit sparse, and that you should lock your doors at night, overall it is a pretty safe place to be.
Now, seeing as Australia has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world (1,1/100,000), you wouldn't be surprised to hear that they are pretty rare in Sydney too. Just to put things into perspective, it took a total of two (2) murders to bring a new law into order, which cracked down on the sale of hard alcohol after midnight and more. On the flipside, an average of two lethal school shootings per month in the USA and still no change in gun laws...
There is still some violence and gang activity going on in the poorer suburbs, but it's all small-time due to the extremely strict restrictions on firearms in Australia (*cough*cough*). Pretty much all violent crime is very rare in the city.
Even property crime, which is usually high in low-violence cities to balance things out has been dropping lately. Vehicle theft is way way below global averages. There really isn't much danger in Sydney.
Of course, this all looks cheery if you're planning on visiting or moving to the city, however since we're looking at it as a possible location for a GTA game, this isn't all too shiny. While Rockstar could still choose the city for their game, it would lose a bit of credibility when you have droves of gun-toting gangsters roaming around Bondi Beach, which probably hasn't even ever seen a firearm (since it is in a wealthy and safe neighborhood).
While Sydney loses points in terms of crime, it more than makes up for it all in terms of recognition - I mean, it's Sydney. Everyone knows about the big, white, sail-like Opera House which is always strategically placed in the foreground of the Harbour Bridge in promotional photos.
Bondi Beach is one of the most popular and frequently visited beaches in the world. The Royal Botanic Gardens are a favored location for both locals and tourists wishing for some rest and relaxation in a natural environment without having to stray far from the city. The Anzac Bridge is another well known landmark, as is Sydney Tower, which boasts the second tallest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. Seriously, we highly doubt even international players would have a hard time recognizing Sydney, even with all the names replaced.
Seeing as crime rates are pretty low, the story could go the way of a criminal endeavouring the set up their own syndicate in Sydney. It could be called... the Sydnecate. Or not, since obviously the city would be called something else in-game. Either way, it would be interesting to implement the changes the player brings to the city in terms of gameplay mechanics. I believe I brought this up in the past when discussing another city with low crime rates. Early on in the game, it would be difficult to acquire weapons, however things would also be relatively calm with few contextual random criminal acts between NPCs, and police would be more relaxed.
However, as you proceed in the story and expand your criminal network, things get out of hand in the city as well. Violence goes up, more PEDs start stealing from other PEDs, the police are better organised and more aggressive, guns become more commonplace on the streets, rival gangs would start popping up. There would be two mission archetypes - Influence and Stability - which would bolster different aspects.
Influence would increase your renown as a criminal kingpin, and would therefore involve violent and illegal activities. These would also increase chaos in the city, making it more likely that you'll be attacked by rivals, and cops will be better armed. Stability missions would not necessarily help you increase your power over the criminal underworld, but would rather be focused on making the city safer. This is important because even as a criminal, complete anarchy would be bad for business, meaning you need to maintain some level of public safety and order as to operate at peak efficiency.
Over the course of the story you would meet various solo criminals who specialize in various fields of illegal crafts, and you would complete missions for them in exchange for hiring them into your syndicate. There would be multiple characters for each profession, though you'd only be allowed to hire one, meaning that the others will likely turn up as enemies later on in the story. This would also lend the game quite a bit of replay value, as players would experiment with the various advantages and disadvantages of the characters in question. I think this mechanic would suit the game especially well since GTA 5 was a pretty character-driven game, and the guys at Rockstar have repeatedly shown prowess in writing strong supporting characters.
Pros: perfect geography, great recognition, great story potential
Cons: very low crime rate
Usually when you have that many positives up against a single solitary negative, that grade tends to slip over into the A side of things. However, a low crime rate is one thing, but the Sydney crime rate is so low it is a whole other category. While the relative safety of the city is also what lends it its interesting story potential, it is just far too off for a GTA game to be considered a minor concern. Few guns, few murders, relatively few vehicle thefts? Yeah, I'm not seeing GTA in that. Of course, the great geography and stellar recognition do much to salvage the situation, but we're afraid it isn't quite enough to make Sydney an ideal GTA setting.
Which foreign city would you like us to evaluate as a GTA map next week?