The new Red Dead Redemption trailer officially unveiled yesterday is fresh evidence of one thing: when it comes to turning an awesome setting, imaginary or otherwise, into an awesome game, Rockstar has no rival.
It’s a gift that should, nay, must be shared among less talented members of the development community. Many’s the time I’ve said, or read, or written a variation on the phrase “love the world, shame it’s no fun to play”. Here are five existing game settings that could benefit from the Big R’s magic touch. At least one of the choices is going to make you facepalm, but hey – horses for courses, and all that.
Callisto, from G-Police (1997)
That the G-Police franchise failed to survive the leap to the PlayStation 2 era is one of life’s great tragedies, right up there with Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and boot-cut jeans going out of fashion. This game pre-empted Grand Theft Auto III in many respects: while hardly as dynamic or detailed as Liberty City, its grubby yet grand Blade-Runner-ish domed colonies were the first taste, for many, of what 3D open world gaming had to offer.
The Caribbean, from Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987, remade 2004)
OK, so giving this classic blend of sailing and strategy an unequivocal thumbs-down would be more than most right-thinking gamers could stand, but there’s no denying it could do with a new coat of paint. Given Rockstar’s successes in the field of motorised and (if Redemption’s anything to go by) horseback transport, I’m dying to know what they could achieve with galleys, frigates and dreadnoughts.
Pandora, from James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game (2009)
Ubisoft’s take on Cameron’s CGI-tastic sci-fi epic isn’t the stuff dreams are made of, which is a shame given the riotous colour and vibrancy of the alien jungle environment. Those giant organic tapestries of island-sized granite deserve better.
Nosgoth, from Soul Reaver: The Legacy of Kain (1999)
Another old PlayStation warhorse fallen on hard times. The Legacy of Kain series boasts one of the most elaborate, wordy and gothic mythologies ever to send you fumbling for your school copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, and its immense, vaporous, ghoul-haunted crypts, temples and castles are appropriately laden in backstory. The game itself was a mixed bag, though, and its sequels have failed to best it.
Ivalice, from Final Fantasy XII (2006)
OK, so I’m going to get no end of stick for this one. While enjoyable enough, for me Final Fantasy XII was too bedded in repetition and hands-off MMO-style battling to be truly stellar. The realm of Ivalice, though, is like all my childhood fantasies rolled into one (well, the fantasies I can talk about in decent company). Go on, Take Two – get yourself bought out by Square Enix and put Dan Houser forward as a senior producer.
And that’s five for five. Are there any you’d like to add, readers?