New York. Los Angeles. Miami. And back again. Are we discussing the migratory habits of the Video Music Awards? Or the perpetual travel itinerary of Rick Ross’s torso stylist? No, it’s the dismayingly familiar pattern of Grand Theft Auto games. Since the dawn of the series back in 1997 while the gameplay and creativity have improved by leaps, bounds, and stabbings, the geography has remained stagnant. Sure, the names are made-up (“Liberty City,” “Los Santos”) but the landmarks and the relative filth of the sidewalks make the actual identities of the city obvious and familiar. And so, the news that the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V will be set in “some version of LA” is hugely disappointing. There are so many other metro areas deserving of illicit terrorizing! Below, just some of our suggestions.
Grand Theft Auto: Carnaby Street
Set in the swinging sixties, the hard-boiled protagonist (voiced by Michael Caine) must battle mods, punks, rockers, and his own orthodontistry. Smash up pubs, pull fetching birds by the boatload and, for once, drive the London streets on whatever side of the road you want. Even better: the nineties expansion pack in which you inhabit the skin of a surly roadie from Manchester who must conquer his own demons — and his better-looking brother — in his quest to become the most violent rock star in history. Featuring the voice of Patsy Kensit as Patsy Kensit.
Grand Theft Auto: Boston
You play Brian James Fitzpatrick “Sully” O’Sullivan, an ordinary hood from Southie with a good heart and a Mighty Mighty Bosstones tattoo that he already regrets. After falling in love with a brainy Brandeis co-ed, Sully must use all the skills in his arsenal, including Duck Boat driving, accent-mangling, and long, soul-searching walks by the Charles — to prove to both his crimelord father, Sully Senior (voice of Tommy Heinsohn), and the ghost of Johnny Pesky (voice of Ben Affleck) that he’s more than a murdering mook. Bonus: in this edition, Harvard students can be used as both mugging victims and projectile weapons!
Grand Theft Auto: Zanesville
The county seat of Muskingum County, Ohio might seem like a sleepy burgh — but that’s only on the surface. Spend a few nights there and you’ll discover the place is a jungle. Literally. Hunt down wild animals for sport — or hijack them for easy conveyance. Usable weapons include pitchforks, bullwhips, and incredibly poor judgment.
Grand Theft Auto: Bodymore, Murdaland
You are a newcomer to the mean streets of the West Side of Baltimore, a bullet-scarred urban war zone where if the corner boys don’t get you, the artery-clogging power of pit beef sandwiches will. Power up with Newports and Honey Nut Cheerios and distract the cops with bottles of Jameson and made-up stories about serial killers. But be careful! One wrong move and you’re liable to end up boarded up in a vacant townhouse. Each copy of the game comes packaged with a free subscription to Harpers, a comprehensive six-disc set of unedited Go-Go jams, and a 300-page instruction booklet explaining the futility of the drug war, the death of the American city, and how, in a pinch, Old Bay seasoning can be used as a weapon.
Grand Theft Auto: Midnight in Paris
Inspired by the delightful Woody Allen film of the same name, this new adventure puts you in control of Gil, a struggling author with a soul full of romance and a fist full of automatic weaponry. Take control of gypsy cabs, Studebakers, and errant horses as you tackle pulse-pounding side-missions including out-drinking Ernest Hemingway, chasing a manic Zelda Fitzgerald through the 13th Arrondisement, and bear-wrestling Gertrude Stein. Keep an eye out for the exclusive Nintendo DS expansion pack Grand Theft Auto: N----s In Paris, in which playable characters Kanye West and Jay-Z must heroically liberate every watch in France before someone else either buys them or mentions them in a lyric.