Ever wanted to jump into a video game because what you're viewing on the screen is just too amazing not to experience up close and personal? It's a common reaction to the insanely pretty graphics we're seeing more and more often. Here are 10 games based on real life locations that not only offer a great gaming experience, but inspire travel as well!
The Last of Us
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic environment, you might wonder what's so inspiring about the real life locations featured in this game. As its characters traverse the U.S. – going through places like Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh and Boston – the realism shines through no matter how ravaged the landscape appears to be. For instance, Boston features the Massachusetts State House (pictured above) as well the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. Not to mention, everything looks super lush.
inFAMOUS Second Son
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. The developers are based in Seattle, giving them home-field advantage to really nail it. Their versions of the Space Needle, Seattle Center Monorail, Mt. Rainier, Lincoln's Towing Pink Toe Truck and even the Gum Wall are incredible. They'll inspire you to experience the real thing.
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. The makers of this game consulted a Renaissance scholar, so even the city design is historically accurate. While the plot isn't set in present day, it's an ancient location, so much of what you see can still be visited, like the Colosseum (pictured above) and Capitoline Hill.
Forza Horizon 2
Photo courtesy of Maggie Tyner
"Gorgeous" doesn't begin to describe the landscapes featured in this game. The world includes six locations based on real life spots like Nice (pictured above), Saint-Martin and Castelletto. Visual effects dazzle with the sunlight sparkling on the water as you roar down the virtual coastline in the vehicle of your choice (1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C for me). Other highs include the crazy beautiful vineyards in Montellino and the breeze-caressed lavender fields of Sisteron which are beyond vivid.
The phrase "almost totally immersive" could be used to sum up how true-to-life this game actually is. 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 (Bank of China Tower, for example) to the sounds of the street and accents of speaking characters, it's a decidedly condensed HK.
Far Cry 4
Set in the fictional country of Kyrat, but inspired heavily by Nepal and other real-life locations in the Himalayas, these animated landscapes are truly breathtaking. Dense fog floats below glacier-capped peaks, which prove difficult to climb. As you wander the winding roads, you encounter wildlife like elephants, tigers, honey badgers and bharal, all realistic for the area. Far Cry 4 just gets it right – even down to the offerings found at roadside shrines – making adventure-seekers thirsty for the real thing.
In L.A. Noire, you play as an officer from the LAPD, solving crimes in an environment heavily influenced by film noir: Los Angeles in the 1940's. You can even play the game in black and white, if you want! The familiarity of the setting combined with the glam lure of the era encourage a visit to present-day L.A. Notable landmarks found in the world include Pershing Square, Los Angeles Public Library, Musso and Frank Grill, Roosevelt Hotel and the La Brea Tar Pits (though some of the names have been tweaked a bit).
Assassin's Creed Unity
If you've ever wondered what Paris was like in the 1790's, leading up to the French Revolution, here's your glimpse. We don't mean the plot per se, but the representation of daily life and the city itself during the time period. Seeing landmarks like Notre-Dame, the catacombs, Palace of Versailles, the Louvre and the Hotel de Ville will trigger a desire to see these places in person. And once you do visit Paris, you might even feel like you've been there before. This game is just that pretty.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Graphics and platforms have admittedly advanced since this game was released, but it's wanderlust-inspiring nonetheless. The neon lights of the quite realistically replicated Ocean Drive beckon you from their delightful beachfront perch. The vibrant colors of the cars and clothing, the sprawling mansions of Starfish Island (aka Star Island), the scantily-clad beachgoers. . .they're all reminiscent of the vibrant Miami we know in reality – 1980's or not. If Vice City doesn't make you nostalgic for this decadent bygone era, it will at least make you crave a visit to the beach.
Although there has been some controversy about a downgrade in graphics from the demo version of Watch Dogs to the actual release, the display is truly jaw-dropping. You'll find a good bit of Chicago landmarks which have been replicated fairly realistically. Places like Millennium Park with Cloud Gate (or the bean), the Chicago River, Willis Tower. . .even the game's skyline bears a good resemblance to the real thing. Better yet, you don't even have to be a hacker (like the game's protagonist) to enjoy a visit to the city. But playing the game is a solid second best.