Being an interactive medium, video games have their work cut out for them if they’re to make an impact in a player’s mind. Besides the worldwide standard of being fun and engaging to play, they tend to require good sound and music, fitting aesthetics, pleasing graphics and other parts that work in tandem to provide an excellent play experience. In particular however, having a rich and detailed environment can really provide a sense of grandeur and atmosphere which can turn a good video game into an excellent one. Below are ten video games that have implemented mind blowing game environments, in no particular order.
The opening of BioShock is one of the most intense moments of gaming that I’ve had the pleasure of experience. Every moment, from the solemn descent into Rapture to your first encounter with a splicer paints a picture that this was a supposed utopia that had gone horribly wrong from decades of isolation. The BioShock developers did an excellent job on making every little detail in the environment play towards this idea. The setting does a great job of imbuinga sense of abnormality and mystery, as you attempt to unravel the secrets behind Rapture. It also doesn’t help that you’re stuck very, very far under the sea.
The Witcher 3
If you’re looking for a beautiful, fantasy landscape to traverse through, look no further than The Witcher 3. The Witcher 3 has simply gorgeous outside environments, and you can tell that they’ve been crafted with meticulous details into every stone, tree, and river. Even weather effects like rain, snow, and beautiful sunsets are beautiful to look at and fits the environments like a glove. And this beauty is by no means limited; there are a wide variety of different zones in The Witcher 3, from simple grasslands, tundra, mountainous regions, swamps, and from the newest expansion, Toussaint’s warmer climates. There are few games where I’ve simply enjoyed riding on horseback and enjoying the breath-takinglandscapes, but I’m happy to say that The Witcher 3 was one of them.
For an example in one of the older games, Deus Ex was an excellent choice for me. Not only was the gameplay, role-playing and storytelling elements superb, Deus Ex manages to create an excellent environment that fits ‘dystopian sci-fi’ theme of the game perfectly. It primarily takes place at night, which is a purposeful design choice given the mood of the game. Everything from the down-trodden buildings of Manhattan, to the busy alleys of Hong Kong, just clicked together with the ambience and atmosphere that Deus Ex attempting to create. Deus Ex may be dated, but many modern games should take a page out of its book, and strive to create environments that fit well with their overall theme.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Rockstar games have managed to always create large, sprawling urban environments for their Grand Theft Auto series, but it was GTA IV where it really came together. Being able to drive around the streets of Liberty City, visit shops, hop on a boat, or even fly over the city in a plane was what really made the city feel alive and bustling. The cool thing about the environments is that there was a surprising amount of detail put in the small things as well, like hidden alleys, shortcuts or alcoves that you can usually find some hidden collectibles. Coupled with the fact that they didn’t restrict you much in terms of exploring (once you reached certain points of the game), it made for an enjoyable sandbox to play in.
Wake up, Mr. Freeman… From the opening lines to the ending credits, Half-Life 2 delivered an exceptional experience that still remains with us today, almost 12 years later. The unique aspect of Half Life 2’s story telling was the fact that everything was in real-time, and in first-person view. There were no cut-scenes, and barring very specific moments, you would retain 100% control over your own point of view. It should come as no surprise then, that Half-life 2 boasts one of the most compelling and atmospheric game environments. From witnessing the Combine and citizens go about their day, all the way to riding into the sunset with a dune buggy, Half-Life 2 takes the player through an epic journey of varied environments, all with their own special charm. It also helps that Half-Life 2 was the game that premiered the Source Engine, a physics engine that was considered ground-breaking at the time.