Five For Friday: Scenic Views in Video Games

This week’s Five For Friday: virtual vistas, unspoiled plains and views to explore from the comfort of your own home.

Five For Friday geek culture views

I read an interesting article on the Guardian this week – a strong reaction to some British business type’s claim that all games are made by spotty nerds, lack “artistic flair” and won’t do the UK industry any favours. His generally being hugely mistaken aside, that middle bit for was an especially incorrect assumption. There are plenty of video games out there which pack all kinds of artistic flair – from iconic soundtracks to character and story developments that wouldn’t look out of place in one of those HBO dramas that the kids seem to love so much these days.

Nowhere in gaming is true art more immediately appreciated than the graphics, and while the best visuals are derived from moments of action and interaction, in some games there’s nothing like climbing up to the top of a hill and admiring the view. This week’s games chosen in Five For Friday possess just those moments; open-world games set on planets near and far which, even during the heat of the action, may cause you just to stop, tilt up on your controller and just…wooooah.

Fallout 3 – Outside Vault 101

Okay, so we’ll start with a location that doesn’t exactly inspire a visit to the travel agents any time soon. But once your character’s made their escape from the relatively safer confines of Vault 101 at the start of the game, the view that awaits them outside is very impactful in its own right.

fallout 3 vault 101

Look at that. Spooky, isn’t it? It’s just the beginning of a potentially horrifying adventure. Man I can’t wait for Fallout 4.


Mass Effect 2 – Ilium

The Mass Effect trilogy has more than its fair share of stunning vistas, especially when engaging in space combat. But one of the highlights for me comes from the second game when you visit Ilium to see what Liara’s up to. When you first enter the spaceport Nos Astra and start making your way through the market, the view out into the city is just amazing.

mass effect 2 ilium view

It’s one of the most striking sci-fi game views I think I’ve ever seen, just stunning, and it gives me a real thrill to imagine it happening somewhere out there.


Mirror’s Edge – the city skyline

In what’s already a fantastic game, the views were what really grabbed me the most in Mirror’s Edge, just the rush of getting out onto the rooftop and seeing this gorgeous blueness before you.

mirror's edge review

At the time, all games were about running through murky environs with your fellow soldiers or gang members to perpetrate whatever ‘gritty realism’ was involved in the story, but this rush of stunning colours was the perfect antidote. Hopefully the recently-announced follow up will be just as refreshing!


Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture – just about everywhere

This game was name-checked in that Guardian article as a token of that British artistic flair, and after finishing it myself earlier this week, I’ve got to agree – there’s so much of this interactive mystery that I just had to stop and stare at. The trails of light, the sound design and most of all, that beautiful Shropshire countryside – particularly at night, but showing a glimpse of that might just be a bit of a spoiler.

everybodys gone to the rapture

from PS Blog

For the purposes of this list, the best thing about Rapture is that I can’t even pick out one single view to call – most of the exterior is simply stunning to look at, and the interiors so well-detailed that estate agents should hire developers The Chinese Room to furnish their virtual show homes in future.


Minecraft – your own creation

To finish off, there’s nothing more creatively impressive than building your very own virtual view for the neighbours to get jealous of – and in the gaming phenomenon that is Minecraft this can very easily be done. But it, and games in general, can do so much more.

minecraft church

St Ben’s

The writer of that Guardian piece mentioned earlier, Keith Stuart, has written before of the benefits of Minecraft allowing his autistic son to have some much-needed order and control over what must be a very trying day-to-day life by playing god with these blessed bricks. It’s a very touching article and yet more evidence that not only does gaming deserve its artistic attributes but it can do so much more to help people, as evidenced by the fine work that the likes of Special Effect perform every day.

Been a while since I did one of these, hasn’t it! Don’t worry, I’ll soon forget again.

‘Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’ – beautifully bleak

I’ve never played a game that’s as promising for the future of indie development on console as Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture.

everybodys gone to the rapture review

True, it’s because I haven’t actually played all that many indie games on console – I’ve had my Playstation 4 barely a month, and had shied away from downloading games or playing online on my rickety 360 in case it suddenly exploded.

But having traded in said (unexploded) 360 over the weekend for a selection of PS4 titles, I was ready to see what awaited me in the comparatively brave new world of non-triple As. And with the latest release from The Chinese Room all ready to go, I was very pleased to land on a veritable Plymouth Rock of the digital frontier.

As I walked ever deeper into the mystery of a quaint English village I found myself gripped by the storyline in a way I haven’t felt with a console game in a long time. In fact, not since the heady days of the Portal games have I felt such a strong affinity to storytelling as I did here.

In Rapture you’re tasked with exploring an English village in the 1980s, whose inhabitants have all upped and gone somewhere. As you open cottage doors and set out to explore the farmland, accompanied by supernatural visions of the events leading up to the apocalyptic event, it’s up to you to piece together what’s happened to everyone.

I don’t want to spoil anything here, but the stylised mix of ordinary and extraordinary you see in every frame of the game is absolutely glorious, with suitably spooky graphics and sound; the simple piano and strings music is especially a huge hauntingly beautiful highlight of the gameplay for me. Even if there weren’t such a brilliant story behind it, the graphical rendition of the scenery is fantastic and the sound design so well put together.

Although a fairly linear experience, the interaction with your surroundings has been very cleverly created, and it’s through the little touches like switching on a radio or reading a notice on the church board that you start piecing together the story, along with the visual and aural echoes of recent conversations and actions between the villagers.

The tension gently simmers away as the pieces of the jigsaw come together, before building up to some absolutely stunning sequences which link each chapter of the story – and a finale that honestly took my breath away. The whole game is beautiful yet bleak, and I enjoyed it so much.

One of the things that turned my head Sony’s way in this gaming generation is that, from the outset, they set out to win fans over by helping the next generation of indie developers connect with a new audience.

Games like Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture have absolutely repaid that faith and made me realise there’s more to console gaming than killing Nazis and driving a Batmobile – though there’s plenty of room for that too, as we’ll all find out over the coming weeks.