World building. What's one game that built a convincing world around you? And by "convincing," maybe your patch of garden in Viva Pinata rings more authentic than Liberty City's risky stereotypes. Maybe BioShock's Ayn Rand dystopia ain't got nothin' on LEGO Batman's blocky portrayal of Gotham.
Just giving it the Goldilocks Test: What game world (for what it was trying to accomplish) felt just right?
Sean Colleli: This one is tough, with System Shock 2, KotOR, Mass Effect and Half Life 2 vying for top spot, but I have to say Deus Ex, hands down. Yes the environments are ugly and everyone looks the same, but in terms of how they constructed the narrative and weaved the water-tight game logic into it, Ion Storm built an amazingly cohesive world. All of the conspiracies fit together, almost everything you did had a consequence, and the few plot holes were more like ambiguities to leave you guessing. Newspapers covered current events you had seen, datalogs left by other characters reflected their personalities, heck, the game even had classic novels scattered around. That, and almost every item in the game had some kind of product literature to read, and every nano-aug power JC had was explained in painstaking detail. Nothing was taken for granted, everything was fleshed out. It was like being in a Neal Stephenson novel...come to think of it, why the hell hasn't anyone made a Snow Crash or Diamond Age game yet? [Currently playing: Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, Monsters vs. Aliens, and still playing Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars oh god someone help me I need GTA rehab.]
Adam Dodd: I wanted to say something like Shadow of the Colossus, which had only a handful of characters but still managed to create an stunning and thouroughly convincing world, but I've decided to go with something else... Once you get past the sometimes awkward gameplay and Esurance-inspired cutscenes I think Mirror's Edge did an excellent job in creating a unique, government-monitored world. The music and vivid environments really helped me stay immersed in the game, even when I was in the more frustrating parts of the game. [Currently playing: Civilization RevolutionBurn Zombie Burn.]
Charles Husemann: The work that the folks at Valve did in crafting the Half-Life universe is about as good as it gets. You don't have to know about the Seven Hour War but it provides a lot more context to the game if you know what went down. The world is fairly complete and the developers are constantly expanding it rather than re-using bits and pieces of the old games (something that frustrates me to no end with the Halo franchise). [Currently playing: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, Left 4 Dead.]
Randy Kalista: Though some would deride Thief: Deadly Shadows as a decline in the series' quality (pshaw!), it still served as my late-to-the-party entry point into independent master thief Garrett's fantastical steampunk world. I came for the ninja-black gameplay but stayed for the rich political machinations between the palm-greased noblemen, the heavy-hooded church, and the sanctuary-seeking pagans. Nothing felt better than a stolid creep under the radar through the black shadows, into the blacker markets, and around the blackest bad guys. (That's, uh, not a racial comment.) And never have I seen -- outside of the Splinter Cell series -- light and dark coalesce so intrinsically into the height, width, and depth of an entire city; a city teetering on the precipice of a Dark Age. [Currently playing: Paper Moon, Velvet Assassin, EVE Online: Apocrypha.]
Dan Keener: While there is a special place in my heart for games like Myst, Age of Empires, Diablo and Dungeon Siege, many of the games that have come with the next generation of consoles have presented us with some of the most lush and beautiful landscapes and game worlds you can imagine. So, while I was very tempted to say The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, there has been one game, and especially one area of that game that had me absolutely loving it. That game was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and specifically the Pripyat, Ukraine level. I think the primary reason is that I did a project in college on the Chernobyl disaster and I had seen many photos of the area surrounding the plant, as well at Pripyat where the workers lived. So being able to actually go in game and move around the ghostly remnants of what once was a 50,000 person strong city was something special. By the time you get that far in the game, you have settled in and know exactly what you are doing so that level coupled with the mission felt right. Essentially, it allowed me to visit a place created in striking detail that I would never be able to go to in real-life. [Currently playing: Rock Band 2, Hasbro Family Game Night, Flick NBA Basketball (iPod Touch), several pieces of equipment and accessories.]
Matt Mirkovich: So yeah this one is a little recent. But the city of Inaba in Persona 4 just felt perfect. With the bulletin board for part time jobs, and the one gas station to the shopping center. The place was rural, and at the same time really felt like a world you inhabited as the main character. Sure it's a PS2 title so it's not going to have the random factor of townspeople like say, GTA4, but it gives you a sense of familiarity. You would expect to see the same people day in and day out if this was the town you lived in. [Currently playing: Super Robo Taisen: OG Saga Endless Frontier (longest DS game title EVER), Killzone 2, Valkyria Chronicles, Patapon 2.]
Nathan Murray: The first moment I set foot into the Citadel as Commander Shepard I was completely in awe of how the designers created the layout to look and feel like a outer space metropolis. From the clean lines and curves of the walkways to the decor it felt both familiar and alien like I was walking inside a galactic mall. What I really enjoyed though was the atmosphere of mixed feelings for the appearance of humans on the seen coupled with fantastic character molds, great voice acting, and well written dialog the NPCs gave me the feeling that I was there to prove myself and that is one of the greatest feelings you can give a player, a reason to play the game. While the story of sentient robots threatening to go independence day on the galaxy was kind of over the top, the political atmosphere of Mass Effect had me hooked. [Currently playing: Rock Band 2, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, Final Fantasy Tactics, Far Cry 2.]
Sean Nack: I didn't want to use any of the predictable answers (Bioshock, Fallout, etc.), so i put some brain-work in and came up with: the Halo series. Some people take issue with the plot (I think it's fine), but for me as a beat-up ol' infantry guy, I see realism in every bit of what they do. The Mjolnir armor is far-fetched, but something similar is in development, the human weapons are all variants on real-world tech, and did anyone else put together that the UNSC acronym might stand for United Nations Security Council? Sure, the story is about crazy alien technology, but taking a close look at every human vehicle and every weapon reveals a thoroughly imagined, realistic depiction of what future human technology might look like. [Currently playing: Grand Theft Auto IV.]