London is one of the world’s most aesthetically unique cities. It is a city in constant contrast – with Victorian museums standing regally under glittering skyscrapers and tudor homes staring out to some of Europe’s busiest roads. It is gritty from its industrious past, yet chic in its modernity. It is the perfect city to gather inspiration, the perfect city to mimic and a perfect place to play. Despite all of this, London has often been overlooked as a city in which to base a video game – with only a handful of games ever developed depicting the capital. Some of the earliest text adventures such as Hampstead (recently re-released for iPad) made fun of the social climbers of affluent London boroughs, while the late 80’s brought more graphic depictions such as those found in Werewolves of London. As time has moved on however, games have brought a true sense of being to the streets of digital London – from showing just a small segment of the city as in the Broken Sword series, to portraying it in its entirety as in Assassins Creed Syndicate.
Here are a few of our favourite pieces of digital art from the video games that have portrayed London with exceptional beauty.
Alice: Madness Returns (Spicy Horse)
The intensely beautiful Alice: Madness Returns spends much of its time fleeting between a darkly gothic vision of Victorian London and a colourful yet twisted wonderland. The London scenes are some of the darkest in the game, representing a sinister network of cobbled streets, bleak asylums and industrial skylines that are filled with bellows of black smoke and the ever-churning grind of machinery. There aren’t many landmarks depicted in the game, though the in-construction version of Tower Bridge looks wonderful on the skyline.
Assassins Creed Syndicate (Ubisoft)
Assassins Creed Syndicate takes gamers for a veritable tour of Victorian London. From the charm of Westminster and The Strand to busy London Bridge and Piccadilly Circus. The level of detail here is absolutely stunning and both the architecture and atmosphere of the time have been painstakingly recreated to create a truly immersive gaming experience.
Broken Sword 5 (Revolution Software)
The Broken Sword series by the excellent York based Revolution Software has often depicted England in its games – from London to Glastonbury with stops in the British Museum and small fictional Irish villages in-between, as well as gorgeous recreations of Paris and Catalonia. 2015’s Broken Sword 5 took advantage of advances in technologies to send the series back to its hand drawn roots – stepping away from the 3D efforts of Broken Sword 3 and 4 to once again offer delicate hand-drawn art that colour London with a Disney-like playfulness, only this time in beautifully sharp high resolution. The Broken Sword games have always focused on adventure – with travel as a major theme. The gameplay is traditional point and click and the story is on par with even the best mystery fiction – making the game enjoyable for almost anybody. Take a closer look at the cover image above and you’ll notice a pig flying above the power station – a homage to Pink Floyd’s Pigs on the Wing.
Broken Sword 2 (Revolution Software)
As mentioned above, the Broken Sword series has been to London before – here we see one of the main characters, charismatic French journalist Nico Collard investigating a depiction of the British Museum underground station (no longer in use), as well as a rainy scene outside of the museum and an exhibit inside the museum.
Grand Theft Auto London 1969 (Rockstar Games)
GTA 2 with its London 1969 expansion pack took the series to London for the first time. The game incorporated everything from black cabs and double decker busses to typically British slang (“busted” was changed to “nicked” for example) and a little pixel map of London and the Thames. The top down art suited the wit and charm of London well with things such as Union Jack paint jobs and the iconic shapes of double decker red busses working wonderfully well. However, don’t expect an accurate map of the city – more so a re-skinned version of the original GTA 2 map.
Honourable mentions go to Medievil 2 for its darkly comic representations of the British Museum and the streets of the capital, Unchartered 3 for the gorgeous digital version of the London skyline and the Gherkin and Tomb Raider 3 for its unfortunately aged and hideous portrayal of the Docklands and the underground system.