Mizu Goes Meta and Visits Cities in Video Games

by Khushi Mundhwa

With the world moving into the metaverse, Mizu thought of visiting a video game store in Seoul to purchase games with urban simulation. Video games had always been a form of vicarious travel for Mizu. She had traversed vast landscapes through simulation and had seen ancient ruins, alien topography, and cities of fantasy. When she entered a store on Hongdae street, she was amazed at the vast collection of games lined up like a trail into the outer world.

The store owner was convincing a 30-something-year-old man to buy a new arrival. He had used words like strategic thinking, quick learning, and creativity. Mizu also heard him say something on the lines of… “simulations reduce the risk of accidents during driving” . She headed down the aisle and picked out a few games that would take her to cities without ever having to visit them.

Let’s see what journeys await!

Stroll through Seattle with inFAMOUS Second Son

Based in Seattle, a bustling city in America, this VR video game is flush with superpowers. Delsin Rowe could show you all of Seattle in a matter of minutes.  It’s a stunning display of visual effects, but it’s nice to take it slow so you can enjoy the care that went into this recreation of the city. 

Developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation 4. It is the third installment in the Infamous series. The game was released worldwide on March 21, 2014. The player-controlled protagonist possesses superpower abilities that players use in combat when traveling across the city. The story follows protagonist Delsin Rowe fighting the Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P.) in a fictionalized Seattle. Over the course of the game, Delsin acquires new powers and becomes either good or evil as player choices influence his morality.

The game very beautifully creates an American atmosphere by aptly depicting Seattle’s weather and mixture of “old and new” architecture. The team conducted fieldwork in Seattle’s nearby forests with audio and video equipment, which was used to reproduce local flora and the chirping sounds of local American robins. Seattle landmarks such as Pioneer Square, the Space Needle and Elephant Car Washes feature in the game. 

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Like Seattle, rain is frequent in the game. The lighting effects (such as neon light from Delsin’s powers), coupled with reflections, help bring color into Seattle’s dark and rainy atmosphere.

Have a Not so Roman Holiday with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

In this sequel to Assassin’s Creed II, the city of Rome is very well-represented – not only in looks, but in layout as well. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a 2010 action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. The game was first released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November and December 2010.

The plot is set in a fictional history of real-world events and follows the millennia-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight to preserve peace and free will, and the Templars, who desire peace through control. The primary setting is Rome, which has fallen into ruin due to the corrupt rule of the Borgia papacy and the Templars over the Papal States and concentrating all the wealth in the Vatican. The makers of this game consulted a Renaissance scholar, with an aim to accurately depict the city design through history.  While the plot isn’t set in the present day, it’s an ancient location, so much of what you see can still be visited, like the Colosseum and Capitoline Hill.

The players, while focusing on this extremely attention-claiming game, also get to travel to the harbor of Naples; a part of Navarre, Spain; Valnerina, Lake of Nevi and present-day Monteriggioni, the town of Viana in Spain, and the Pantheon in Rome. 

The game passed the one million sales mark in less than a week after its release. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has become Ubisoft’s fastest-selling European title ever.

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Sneak through Hong Kong with Sleeping Dogs

This true-to-life game is a very hypnotic and enticing one which takes roots in the unresting space of Hong Kong. Sleeping Dogs is an action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games and published by Square Enix’s European subsidiary.

The story follows Wei Shen, an undercover Chinese-American police officer on assignment to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. Gameplay focuses on Shen’s fighting, shooting and parkour abilities, and on gadgets that can be used for combat and exploration. 

The development team put in a tremendous amount of effort for both research and execution, resulting in a Hong Kong environment that feels eerily real. From the large, recognizable landmarks like Bank of China Tower, for example, to the sounds of the street and accents of speaking characters, it features a condensed HK.  Art designers spent seven days in Hong Kong, where they studied the city’s environment, and took more than 20,000 photos as references for the physical environment in the game. 

They traveled on foot to various locales, such as clubs and malls, and interviewed ex-Triad members and retired members of the Hong Kong Police Force Anti-Triad unit, which inspired narratives and character design. The sound designers spent ten days in the city overseeing the dialogue sessions on weekdays and capturing ambient noises around the city at weekends. 

Journey through Panama, Istanbul, Borneo and more with Uncharted

Uncharted is an action-adventure game series created by Amy Hennig, developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation consoles. The main series of games follows Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter who travels across the world to uncover various historical mysteries.

In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the game is set off the coast of Panama, in the Amazon rainforest, and an uncharted island off the coast of South America. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, was the first in the series to experiment with several locales. The game is set in the snow-capped mountain landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau in southernmost China, a museum in Istanbul, the jungles of Borneo, and the urban landscapes of Nepal. Subsequent games followed this concept, with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception featuring the streets of London and Colombia, as well as a château in France, a castle in Syria, a city in Yemen, and the sprawling deserts of the Rub’ al Khali.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End features a Panamanian jail, an estate in Italy, a cathedral in Scotland, several locations in Madagascar, and many uncharted islands in the Indian Ocean not far from Africa, to reflect Libertalia. Boston and New Orleans are also included, in both the past and present respectively, where the titular character resides.

A novel titled Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth was published in October 2011. The novel is written by Christopher Golden and published by Del Rey Books, and follows the search for Daedalus’s Labyrinth, a maze used to hold the Minotaur, a monster from Greek mythology.

Explore NYC with Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel’s Spider-Man is a 2018 action-adventure game developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man, it is inspired by the long-running comic book lore series adaptations in other media.

In the main story, the superhuman crime lord Mister Negative orchestrates a plot to seize control of New York City’s criminal underworld. When Mister Negative threatens to release a deadly virus, Spider-Man must confront him and protect the city while dealing with the personal problems of his civilian persona, Peter Parker.

Marvel’s Spider-Man had a unique challenge of making a realistic New York City that corresponds with Marvel’s lore. The city includes Avenger’s tower and Time Square, making it a nearly perfect recreation of New York City within Marvel’s lore. The game’s beautiful graphics and accurate scale of the skyscrapers is an astonishing achievement.  The massive buildings also make for a fun web-swinging playground. The realistic city and fun traversal mechanics make the dream of becoming a superhero come true. It’s no wonder fans love using the game’s photo mode. 

Apart from depicting the realistic settings of the ever-restive NYC, Spider-Man depicts fictional locations and entities from the Marvel Comics universe, including Avengers Tower, the Wakandan Embassy, the Sanctum Sanctorum, the law offices of Nelson and Murdock, Alias Investigations, the superhero cleanup company Damage Control, the Roxxon Energy Corporation, and Empire State University. 

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This blog takes you through games that have a dash of realism to them. Navigate your way through expanses of modern day cities, ancient ruins, deep forests and jungles without so much as moving from your seat. Experience the almost tangible crisp air, tall edifices, and deathly dark alleys. And the best part about these games? You can explore them as a player protagonist and have the liberty to decide what twists and turns you would love to experience. 

Hopefully this blog inspires the adventurous side of you and lets you explore the wild, imaginative but surprisingly vérité world of these VR video games. And with this little piece of information, I bid you all a farewell!

Until then, Readers

Happy gaming!

Published by Mizu City

Dear Reader, I have a little something to share about cities. These are my own thoughts, emotions, troubles, and passions. If I don't write, they burden my mind. I try to pen them down into stories. I hope they resonate with you.

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