I’ve been spending a fair bit of time trotting around San Francisco in the recently-released Watch Dogs 2, snapping selfies in front of cultural landmarks and other assorted places of interest. It’s a vibrant, colourful city, and Watch Dogs 2 does a great job of bringing the place to life. It should be said that the first game did a pretty great job of doing the same with Chicago, and so, with that in mind, this week’s Top Five is all about the best recreations of real-life places in video games.
5. Sleeping Dogs – Hong Kong
Set in dramatically condensed version of Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs presents an almost eerily accurate representation of the island. The visual design is there, certainly, with lots of bright lights, plenty of neon, and the streets filled with people and bustle. But it’s the sound work that really nails it. The hawking calls from street food vendors, the music from karaoke bars spilling out into the streets, the range of dialects and accents. There are famous landmarks to behold, of course, but it’s in the details that Sleeping Dogs’ Hong Kong really shines.
4. Forza Horizon 2 – The Riviera
Ask anyone this side of the Atlantic where the best driving roads in the world can be found, and chances are they’ll point to Southern Europe. For anyone who has dreamed of coasting along the French Riveria, and taking supercars for a spin on the roads of Provence, Côte d’Azur, and Liguria, Forza Horizon 2 brought that dream to life in stunning fashion. A petrolhead’s dream, this game is pure wish fulfilment as you roar down the coastline, marvelling at the sun-dappled beaches and the gorgeous vineyards.
3. Infamous: Second Son – Seattle
Sucker Punch drew upon the inspirations of their hometown Seattle for Infamous: Second Son. A city that hasn’t been featured too much in video games over the years (thank god it wasn’t New York again), the developers went for an ‘abstraction’ of their city rather than a full-on recreation. That being said, in capturing the city’s flavour, personality, and style, many of the city’s famous landmarks are featured in the game, and you can go check out the Space Needle, Pioneer Square, the Gum Wall and more in between mucking around with superpowers.
2. L.A. Noire – Los Angeles
Set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, L.A. Noire gives us a recreation of the City of Angels in its stylish heyday. Team Bondi’s sandbox perfectly captures the architecture of the period, and the layout of the city at the time, with locations such as Pershing Square, the Los Angeles Public Library, Roosevelt Hotel and the La Brea Tar Pits faithfully brought to life. A few of the names have changed, but this antique depiction of Tinseltown is meticulous. You can even enjoy it in black and white.
1. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – Rome
Brotherhood might just be my favourite Assassin’s Creed game to date. The second game made a bigger leap in terms of quality, but for me Brotherhood is the pinnacle of the series, and a huge part of that is down to the team’s lovingly crafted depiction of Renaissance Rome. Ubisoft really did their research with this one, consulting Renaissance scholars in a bid to create something historically accurate, and the results are breathtaking. Perched atop the Colosseum, surveying the beauty before you, it’s hard not to be impressed.
In all honesty, there are so many places that could have made this list. Examples like Kathmandu in Uncharted 2, Kabuchiko District in the Yakuza series, and the African wilderness depicted in Far Cry 2 spring to mind. But that’s the beauty of lists like these; everyone has their own take. What would your picks be?