In 1997 the gaming world was changed forever, or mine was anyway. Still in the first years of my working life, Like so many others I had a PlayStation before it had a One on the end and most pay-days saw me buying a new game.
Few concepts had ever excited me more for a game than Grand Theft Auto, which boasted all the childhood thrills of "toy cars" and "cops & robbers".
The PS was in the living room on the big TV back then and my dad went nuts on how evil this game was. Immediately what struck me was the soundtrack, with snippets of White Lines hidden in there and the infamous country song with the unforgettable lyric "Menfolk found their women scary, cos they were so big and hairy".
That original game changed what was possible in terms of violence and tone, but also of how a game could be extended. A year or so later came the first ever 'expansion", this time set in London in 1969. It was a faff, having to change discs but from the opening theme you knew this was a step up, in fact it's still my ringtone today.
On playing the game you could see the in-jokes and little touches that showed Rockstar as the most creative developer of their era. From the Austin Powers inspired Shaguar to being able to steal and kill with a red double decker bus. For Brit like myself it was a lot of fun spotting the references from films and TV in the game.
Arguably the biggest change, however, was the use of properly licensed music in the game.
The radio stations had their own personality, far more than in the original game. While still limited to a vehicle, you found yourself wanting to be in a certain car for certain songs, especially "Bush Sahhhnds" (see video below).
As a budding musician, I learned so much from this game getting into Ska most notably from the use of The Upsetter's "Return of Django", Simayrp's "Skinhead Moonstomp" & Harry J. All Stars "Liquidator".
GTA 2 upped the ante but it wasn't until my first day of University that I bought a PS2. This also happened to be GTA 3's release day, and I was stunned what GTA had now become. It was like going from black and white to colour!
Today GTA is a juggernaut of the gaming world, rivaled only by Metal Gear Solid and Fallout 4 as the most anticipated next game.
GTA 5 raised the bar of what was possible but was still not a next-gen creation. The new game will be the first exclusive to the PS4/Xbox One and while this is hook enough, there is one thing that will put it over the top.
Return the series to London
It is ground that hasn't been covered for such a long time that there would be an instant buzz that Vice or Liberty City won't have. We've seen them too many times.
With the size of GTA 5's map and the extra power the new consoles provide, the whole of London could be covered and into Essex, Sussex, Maybe even Kent in some way.
Maybe not all accurate to the street, but all the major areas could be there. Who wouldn't want to see the GTA version of Buckingham Palace and have a mission to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London? Or have to take out a target at a soccer stadium like Wembley? Or break into Parliament to disrupt an important vote?
The interesting choice would be to stick with the modern era or to go retro.
While much of the GTA-verse is now bound up in characters like Carl, Trevor, Franklin and the like it is entirely possible that a 70's set game in London could work. Think of the radio stations and music around, Punk, Glam, Pop. You could have "pirate" stations and the stuffier pop stations.
Some of the characters may be a little restricted now (not seeing a Jimmy Saville type in there now) but there is enough pop culture from Life On Mars and other such series and 70's events to really set the scene.
A Gene Hunt style cop on your case, blags rather than heists and more of those double-deckers & red telephone boxes.
1977 to be exact, would be ideal, the year of the Silver Jubilee - hence the Crown Jewels missions. There'd be scope to use some real figures like The Sex Pistols (I can see John Lydon loving the idea) to really get the tone right. Add in some shadowy MI5/Bond types, liberal use of real TV themes and the bawdy humor of the seventies and you have a great game.
Now I don't advocate the WHOLE game being a retro game, but as they like the multiple character arc, why not have a character in the modern world as either DLC or as the 2nd part of the game and you play their father in the earlier time period, feeding into the main story?
Early reports is that London is indeed a serious option. While I'd also eventually like to see a Fallout game set over here, I think GTA is the one I'd most like, even just to see how everyone deals with the whole "drive on the left thing" in game.
Surely an announcement is gonna be due sometime this year? Finger's crossed!
What do YOU want to see in a new GTA game? tell me in the comments below!