Dear Rockstar, This Is What We Want In the Inevitable ‘Grand Theft Auto: London’
Obviously they're going to do a game in the English capital at some point. And when they do, for God's sake, stand on the right.
Except, obviously, probably, you won't have "London" in the title – it'll be something like Grand Theft Auto: Right Honourables and Rowdy Hooligans, or some such wording (with fewer syllables) that conveys a sense of place and culture while also being distant enough to not cheese off any legal departments. Just like Grand Theft Auto V's Los Santos isn't actually Los Angeles, but it is; and Liberty City most certainly is not New York, only of course that's exactly the setting for GTA IV. Or, what the hell, maybe it'll simply be called Grand Theft Auto VI. That's probably easiest for everyone, isn't it?
Anyway, as and when Rockstar do make a three-dimensional, present-day Grand Theft Auto game that's set in a virtual, quite possibly renamed version of London – and you've got to think that's fairly inevitable given the studio's habit of having new GTAs revisit previous settings* – there are a few plotline beats and environmental essentials that absolutely have to be there. (*Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 came out in 1999 as an expansion to the original top-down game.) Now, I can't take full credit for this list – much of it came together while drinking wine and eating reindeer with a couple of other British games journalists. They know who they are, but you don't, so shout out to Joe Skrebels and Stace Harman. Follow them, they'll appreciate it.
Let's list, then, shall we?
The lead character shouldn't be a criminal, exactly
I know that GTA IV's Niko Bellic doesn't start out a crook, but he's soon enough happy to murder his way through Liberty's Russian mafia in search of some guy who sounds like an active ingredient in toothpaste, and later the overall big-bad who's actually called Rascalov, like the creative juices at Rockstar North had entirely evaporated that day. For a London-based GTA, I'm thinking that a bent copper would be the ideal flawed protagonist – someone who has to balance daily police work with shady deals made down back alleys after dark. Yes, this way of thinking is exclusively influenced by watching the latest mini-series-cum-special of the BBC's Luther, where Idris Elba's title character both tracks down a psycho and goes above standard procedure to get information on who's responsible for the recent death of a close friend. He files his paperwork, sure, but he also fucks people right up, with whatever's hard and close to hand. I like the idea of having to respond to a call to check out a Green Lanes mugging of an afternoon, completing a little L.A. Noire-style scene investigation; and then causing a bloody scene at a King's Cross snooker hall around midnight.
Chicken shops as a front for some sort of organised crime shenanigans
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars incorporated a neat drug-dealing mini-game that enabled the player to raise money for whatever their extracurricular needs were while not on a Triad-pleasing/murdering mission. In Grand Theft Auto IV, the Pegorino crime family uses the Liberty City Sanitation Department as a public-facing front, masking a whole heap of substantially less-legit business. With London home to no fewer than four million fried chicken shops – that's an excessive exaggeration, obviously, but you know what I mean, you greasy-fingered fast-food junkie, you – it makes sense for the American games' Cluckin' Bell chain to be transplanted to every other corner in GTA: Mare Street or Thereabouts. Call it something that leads to an "amusing" acronym, like the Fried Excellence Chicken King, "FECK"; or alternatively, something significantly snappier that isn't slapped down on a page after 20 seconds. Look, I'm not going to do all of Rockstar's work for them, here.
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An eastern European oil-rich oligarch at the centre of a questline about erecting a statue of a famous pop singer outside a football stadium
Roman Abramovich loves The Rolling Stones. He's completely fucking minted and owns a world-famous football team. We'll call them West London Blues for the game, him Ruben Ahamavitz, and Mick Jagger can be Dick Waggler. Didier Drogba appears as his own damn self in a scheme-busting cameo that completely shatters the billionaire's plans to impose his stupid whims on a club rich in heritage and pride. This mission writes itself, doesn't it? My job here is done.
Hooligans, obviously, hooligans
The Houser brothers have most likely watched Green Street a couple of times, so yeah, hooligans. But here's the twist: there's a heart of gold to some of the prime alphas amongst the hardcore, and when they hear about crooked shit involving kids and drugs, they're willing to help the game's leading man (or woman, I mean, come on, that could be a thing, it would be a thing, a good thing, wouldn't it?) to piss all over the filthy weasel at the centre of the side-quest. By which I mean throw him into the back of a rusty Transit and roll it into the Thames.
Some sort of Del Boy wheeler-dealer in a flat cap who keeps crossing your path with offers of toasters that only brown the bread on one side and smartphones that can't connect to WiFi whenever Jeremy Kyle is on the TV, which is practically all the time
Him, or One Pound Fish Man. Either/or.
Standing on the left is bad for your health
Seriously, Rockstar, this is probably the most important thing you can put into your coming-sometime-in-the-next-seven-years London cops-and-robbers caper. Forget about wanted levels and having the Met's finest pursuing you in modified Ford Focuses; the biggest risk to the player in Grand Theft Auto: Soho You've Been a Naughty Boy should come from members of the public, your average commuters, who are absolutely livid at your persistent standing on the left on Underground escalators. (Oh yeah, also: a fully operational albeit stripped back to just, like, the Northern, Central and Victoria lines tube network, OK?) Stand on the left of one of these automated stairways for just a second and a countdown will begin. Three seconds, that's all you have to start moving. Two. Are you sure you don't want to shuffle over? One. There's a bit of a queue forming. Zero: piss suitably boiled, the guy directly behind you smacks the back of your head with a briefcase, sending you tumbling down to platform level, and when the mob catches up with you it is game over, my friend – a pile-on of medieval brutality, brogue boots and swooshed trainers alike kicking you into a swollen mess. Someone snatches a small but sturdy umbrella from inside their "Fallcraven" backpack and forces it, closed, into your mouth; and then they try to open it. Mate, mate. Stand on the right, yeah? This isn't the poxy Glasgow Subway; this is London. Or somewhere very much like it.
The Royal Family, or at the very least something about a stray corgi or twelve
Not the Queen. Come on, now. The Queen's not about to be drawn into this malaise of comedy mobsters and lawmen gone so very wrong. Prince Andrew, though? You can picture it, can't you? Something about taxes. He needs you to see that some sensitive documents don't find their way into certain hands. It's not that you have to bump off that chap in the HMRC, although you'd be doing the freelancers of the country a favour in doing so am I right. It's more that, well, needs must, and the grand old Duke of York really must have this matter resolved without becoming directly involved himself. Failing that: corgis going wild in Green Park. Be sure to round up at least seven of the dozen runaway dogs within the two allotted minutes or Footman Dave is going to be raging.
Bearded hipsters running stupid businesses that piss off a bunch of mardy messageboard lurkers and half of Twitter
Ubisoft put it in Assassin's Creed Syndicate, so it has to be in Grand Theft Auto: Everything Inside the M25, seeing as it sits so comfortably, steadily rising towards the heavens, within the capital's infamous ring-road slash permanent state of vehicular limbo. Croydon was the new Barcelona back in 2007, apparently; today, it's undergoing a property rush that's making it one of the most expensive places to live in the whole of the UK. Which isn't to say it's a lavish part of the world, but have you been to East Croydon station lately? It has a cash machine that exclusively dispenses fivers, which is just showing off. And trams, it's got those. GTA: Cockney Wide Boys needs trams. And chain pubs. And shit clubs. And meal deals. And tube strikes. And Beefeaters losing their decorum at the Tower of Lond... um... at "William's Tower". And casual racism. And poppers. And unlicensed mini-cabs. And banjo-carrying moustachioed men trying to be bloody Mumford & Sons for the nth time. And gallons of PG Tips. And dickheads riding their fixies on the pavement to jump the lights. And this guy. And we really could be here all day.
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- One Pound Fish Man
- Just made all this up
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- stand on the right