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.
Hopping back to Europe after last week’s vacation in the Caribbean to break things up in between the other cities of the archipelago, we’re taking a trip to the southern coast of France for even more sunshine. Let’s see how well GTA integrates with the land of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
The second largest city of the country, Marseille, anchors the third largest metropolitan area of the country. Oddly enough, Lyon, the third largest city of France happens to anchor the country’s second largest metropolitan area. The city, oft written as “Marseilles” in english, is home to nearly a million souls, and is the largest French city on the coast of the mediterranean sea.
Throughout history, Marseille – or “Massalia” during the Greek and Roman periods – was an important port, and it still is. While we mentioned the Greek Antiquity, the area where current Marseille presides has been inhabited by humans long before that era as well. Signs of human habitation reaching all the way back to 30,000 BC have been found in the area.
Marseille was hit pretty hard during World War 2. Most of the city’s historic architecture was demolished by bombings, however some of it survived and was restored during the rebuilding efforts in the 1950’s. Due to the great economic importance of the city, as well as the reparations paid to the city by the former belligerents, Marseille had more than enough capital to not only regain its former glory, but to expand further.
Marseille’s importance as a port brought in not only goods, but it also attracted immigrants, mainly from Algeria, leading to the designation of a French-African district in the city that has become a well known and oft visited area. This, and other various districts throughout the city offer a varied environment to traverse.
Understandably, the economy of Marseille is mainly based on the port. Historically it serves as “the” port of the French Empire, connecting the colonies with the mainland. Though the original harbor, now called the Old Port, was overtaken by Port de la Joliette, it is still a staple of the city.
While the Old Port is now a private marina mixed with tourist attraction, the new port is not only the busiest in all of France, but the fifth busiest in Europe as a whole. Over 100 million tonnes of cargo and goods pass through the new port annually.
That said, freight isn’t the only major pillar of the economy. Coming hand-in-hand with a major port are the industries of shipbuilding and fishing. One of the city’s main tourist attractions is the daily fish market, however the main buyers are still the locals, driving the food economy.
Recently, Marseille has began to rise in other fields as well. Countless startups have recently popped up across the city, with IT being prominent. With more than 90% of the several thousand of companies have fewer than 500 employees, with most of them only licking the lower ends of even that criteria.
In terms of geography, Marseille fits the bill pretty well. The city sits on the southern coast of the nation, the beachline of which is characterised by bays and various inlets, and slightly inland the area is home to several national parks.
While the concave nature of of the coastline makes turning the Marseille region into an island a bit of a stretch, but when you actually go and make the geographic change, it looks pretty good as a game map. it incorporates other settlements as well as various other natural formations to provide a varied and interesting countryside area to explore.
Marseille is also a popular tourist attraction, and is known for its cultural importance. The city was recently named the European Capital of Culture. Alongside tourism, the city is also a major research hub thanks to the presence of the Université d’Aix-Marseille.
Marseille has something of a poor reputation as well as being known as a tourism hotspot. The city has been named the crime capital of France, with organised crime, violence, thievery and petty crimes all being present throughout the city.
While concrete crime rates are difficult to come by, Marseille sits pretty high on the western European top-list, and official police reports have stated that a third of all murders in France take place in the Marseille area.
Drug trafficking is prominent, the major port is a hotbed for smuggling, gangs are extremely active and pickpockets are about as common as the cold during winter. Vehicular theft rates are high, property crime is record breaking and the city is home to several international criminal syndicates.
Marseille doesn’t have that modern metropolis vibe with the concrete jungle dominated by skyscrapers. That said, it has a pretty iconic cityscape, with the Notre-Dame de la Garde dominating the skyline from pretty much every angle.
Both the new and old ports are also main staples of the city, with the old being more of a tourist attraction and the new being the city’s sole economic pillar. The surviving forts are also popular among the visitors.
The CMA CGM Tower represents the city’s recent growth in the area of modern corporations and its rise as a business center, while the newly built MuCEM represents the city’s ever important role as a cultural center for the entire continent.
All that said, while it would be pretty apparent that we’re in a French city, it might be hard for most players to nail it as Marseille. That said, seeing as the city is a major tourist attraction, its chances are increased in this regard.
Marseille’s wide array of crimes makes it a perfect blank slate city. There are numerous venues to explore in terms of a GTA story, weaving the gangs, the smuggling, the drug trafficking and the crime syndicates into the plot.
Take the typical starting point: the protagonist is a low ranking member of one of the gangs in Marseille. With such a generic beginning, you can craft any kind of story to follow. Say, your gang, when waiting on an incoming shipment of drugs, instead receives a payload of weapons with trackers on them. Police suddenly crack down on the operation and the protagonist just barely escapes.
Once things quiet down, the protagonist learns that a number of other gangs were also hit, with most members either arrested or forced underground. The one gang that remains at large is obviously behind this.
It would be revealed that the gang that orchestrated the mass arrests has a deal going on with a group of corrupt cops, planning to take out their competition in the city in order to steal the market for themselves. The protagonist would then be tasked with helping the other gangs rebuilt while taking down the traitor syndicate as well as the corrupt cop ring.
Pros: Geography, crime rate, recognition, story potential
Cons: none, actually.
Overall, Marseille fits the GTA bill perfectly. While it doesn’t have overwhelmingly good characteristics to warrant adding some pluses to that A, it definitely deserves the straight A. The perfect blend of crime, recognition, geography and a great foundation for a storyline make this a prime choice.
Would you play a GTA game set in Marseille?
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