Festive Feature #5 - Top 5 Game Worlds of 2010
Written Friday, December 24, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Immersion isn’t just a type of paint or a type of jet engine – baddumtish – oh no, it’s an important aspect for game developers in bringing the most of out their games. In sandbox games and RPGs especially, the worlds themselves are one of the game’s most important characters, and in 2010, we’ve seen some of the most immersive and beautiful game worlds ever conceived. What better than to lavish them with praise in our final top 5 of 2010 then? The simple answer is: there’s nothing better.
In what has been the most laborious and painstaking, yet absolute fun to create finale, we looked at a lot more than just the worlds themselves, but what the developers had done to bring them alive; be it with people, specific locations or whatever; we ripped these bad boys apart. It wasn’t enough for us to just explain why in this feature either, we felt we had to go one better and create a sample video of what made these worlds so great for each game.
Kicking off our countdown and coming in at number 5 is 2K Czech’s Mafia II and its hugely impressive Empire Bay. The game itself might not have been one of the year’s most inspiring adventures, but the game world did everything right.
The 1940s and 50s inspired American city had a touch of everything and boasted more charm than an Irish salesman. It wasn’t enough for 2K Czech to have two diverse seasons portrayed either – including both the snow laden streets of 1945 and the more warmer climates of 1951 – but the attention to detail on and around the streets was something to behold. Bumping into people shouting up at windows, shop keepers boarding up their windows and neighbouring couples allowing their disagreements to spill out into the halls of Vito’s apartment, are all part of the hugely personal Mafia II experience. It’s definitely a benefit and a by-product of having a scripted and heavily mission driven game, and 2K Czech have created a sense of illusion in what is usually an unpredictable sandbox environment.
Deciding on where to put Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’s Rome in our top 5 was quite the head scratcher. Sure, Ubisoft Montreal’s Rome was a cultural hotspot and they had perfectly reconstructed the city’s iconic buildings, like the Pantheon and the Colosseum, but the Renaissance didn’t feel as fresh this time around.
With such a charming array of characters that littered the streets though, from minstrels and fire-breathers, to street performers and artists, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood definitely deserved a place on the list. Thanks to the beautiful score from Jesper Kyd and Ubisoft Montreal’s great work with their day and night cycle, regardless of whether a Renaissance inspired Rome didn’t have the same impact as it did last year, it was still rather special.
It’s very rare outside of Stephen King books and films that we actually get to see portrayals of rather bizarre Pacific Northwestern towns like that created in Alan Wake. On the surface and in the day, Bright Falls is a bubbling hotpot of unique and quirky characters who you can’t help but warm to. It has everything you’d expect from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, with iconic locations and picturesque views everywhere you turn.
When darkness cloaks this little mountainous town though, Mr Wake is thrust into the depths of Bright Falls and the game excels on another footing, pushing you into eerie crevices that are absolutely delightful under the shining gaze of a beaming moon and its surrounding stars. Watching light clash with dark wouldn’t have been the same anywhere else and Remedy have done a fantastic job in recreating a rather bizarre town that has more character and more to it than the main character himself. In short, it’s a right beauty!
This wouldn’t be a top 5 game worlds list of 2010 without BioWare’s latest space opera making an appearance. In short, Mass Effect 2’s expansive universe is everything you’d want in a classic sci-fi setting, with space stations galore and wonderfully painted backdrops to boot. That’s not even scratching the surface though, as not only have BioWare created a handful of beautiful settings, fit for any sci-fi flick, but they’ve continued to do so again and again, and again, and again.
It’s not like they just created the neon soaked super cities found on the Citadel and on Illium and then rested on their own laurels, oh no, when you factor in places like Omega, The Migrant Fleet, Tuchanka, Horizon, Freedom’s Progress, Purgatory, Korlus, Zorya and more – which are all beautifully realised and truly unique locations – then it’s clear that the complete package is one that is simply quite stunning. That’s not including places like the Normandy-SR2 and a bunch of smaller planets which are all hand-crafted either, creating what it is easily the most visually impressive universe ever created. Yes, I said ever created. Nothing else comes close to portraying a living and breathing universe like Mass Effect 2 does... but still, only number 2? What gives? Well, it had some stiff competition this year and despite everything it did right, it still wasn’t quite enough to take home the gold.
In its rightful place at the number one spot, Rockstar’s portrayal of the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption is utterly sublime. When we say no other game world in 2010 came close, we say so wholeheartedly confident and with unreserved bravado.
Whether you’re talking about the game’s night and day system, that when coupled with the almost incredible weather system creates an ever-changing environment or the game’s illusion of a living and breathing ecosystem, Red Dead’s game world wows you from a technical perspective on so many levels. The sunsets are as picturesque and as awe-inspiring as the cataclysmic thunderstorms, and watching cougars chase down smaller indefensible creatures never gets old. It doesn’t just nail the wide open plains and deserts either, but its diversity will almost shock you into a coma. So expect clichéd dust-ridden towns with troublesome saloons, steep snowy mountains with windy mountain trails and swampy marshes galore. Factor in random events on the dusty roads, the huge range of wildlife that inhabit Red Dead’s vast environment and the charming and dastardly characters that you come across, and Red Dead is a resounding winner.
That about wraps up this year’s festive top 5s, check back on Boxing Day (AKA the 26th December) to see this year’s Game of the Year nominations, ahead of Game of the Year feature which goes ahead on the 31st December.