Editor: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
Have you ever had that feeling in-game where you find yourself thinking, “I’d like to go there”, only to be thwarted by the location’s inevitable non-existence? Whether it be a certain landmark, or a certain title’s world in general, there are many memorable locations that could make fantastic tourist attractions, ripe with opportunities for sight-seeing, exploring and selling curios for!
Throughout all of these, certain locations will always stick with you, whether they be fantastic multiplayer maps, often rid of campers, or spectacular single-player vistas with exploration value. The time spent crafting these locales is often overshadowed by the time they stick with you; Here are 10 of the locations, areas or memorable levels that have stuck with me.
Post-Apocalyptic Washington DC (Fallout 3)
Many of my favourite in-game locations come from the rebooted Fallout Series, none more thoroughly explored than the central areas of Washington DC in Fallout 3 – from the remains of the museums occupied by Ghouls, Super Mutants and one very special town and Slaver-dominated Lincoln Memorial, to the heavily contested Capitol building and smouldering remains of the White House, the in-game world was expertly crafted and delivered a very special experience to me, as well as providing me with countless hours of looting, killing and exploring in order to find everything!
The Time Portals (Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within)
Serving as your bridge between the past and present versions of the Island of Time, these ancient Time Portals often provided you with new powers or sand gauge slots, as well as a safe haven from the Dahaka, a mythical beast with an aversion to water, intent on destroying you for altering the flow of time in Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time. What made these stand out for me was the grandeur of the chamber, you entered through a sheet of water to a drinking fountain (save and health points) on either side of you. In the past the room would be well lit, banners would be hanging from the wall and the Time Portal would serve as a stunning centrepiece to a truly iconic location. In the present, the room would be a crumbling façade of its former self, and while the upkeep of the room had notably deteriorated, the room itself lost very little of its grand status.
The Citadel (Mass Effect Series)
Practically a given in a list such as this is Mass Effect’s monolithic Citadel, which serves as a major centre for trade and mission acquisition throughout the series. Iconic in its design and the lore which surrounds it, including the fight against Saren and Sovereign and the eventual, controversial conclusion of Shepard’s story, the Citadel itself is as instrumental as Shepard in crafting Mass Effect’s story. On a smaller scale, the location gave birth to the “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favourite shop on The Citadel” memes and provided the perfect backdrop to restock your armoury, learn about the state of the universe and discover about your companions’ pasts.
Ravenholm (Half-Life 2)
When you first enter Ravenholm, you know something’s wrong. After your escape from the Combine at the insurgents’ base, where previously you had heard the words: “We don’t go to Ravenholm anymore”, Ravenholm provides the perfect intermission to venture away from the plot of Humanity vs. The Combine and puts you into a fight for survival against a town populated with headcrab monsters. What truly made Ravenholm memorable was how separate from the rest of Half-Life 2 it seemed. While the rest of the title seemed like Gordon Freeman’s quest to thwart The Combine and felt like all-out action, Ravenholm added a horror element to the equation. I personally believe that this particular level was integral to Half-Life 2’s success, because it kept the experience fresh.
Brütal Legend World (Brütal Legend)
While Brütal Legend was not everybody’s cup of tea, I found it to have one of the most lovingly crafted environments that I’ve had the pleasure to explore. From the outset of the game, there are metal references poking from every available corner, stage lights mark the way to your next objectives, ruins are in the shapes of metal horns, giant guitars and many other symbols bearing metal references and there’s even a giant cliff-face of amps, causing sound waves to reverberate across the bay. The NPCs and factions all represent certain facets and sub-genres of metal, and their environments reflect this absolutely perfectly. Of all the fictional worlds, this one in particular reinforces its title’s story absolutely perfectly.
Bluemoon Tower (Dragon’s Dogma)
An archaic tower, topped with a Colosseum-Style arena, at the opposite end of the map – not awesome enough for you yet? Bluemoon Tower is an ancient ruin so old that no one knows its origins or who created it. After traversing most of the map to get there, fighting hordes of goblins, harpies, bandits, direwolves, a chimera, an ogre and even a golem (which I walked into blindly in the dark), I was expecting something very special on my first trip there. I was not disappointed. Skeleton mages and knights bombarded me as I climbed the steps towards the top of the tower, and once I got there, it served as the ideal backdrop to the boss battle which followed, including having copious amounts of loot for when you win. Going back there later into the story yielded a similarly awesome experience, as I was forced to travel an alternative route up the tower. If there was ever the perfect backdrop to a boss battle, this is it.
Nuketown (Call Of Duty: Black Ops)
If there was ever an ideal Call of Duty multiplayer map, Nuketown is it. A tiny suburb used to test nuclear weaponry, it is the battleground of choice between Black Ops and Spetznaz factions and absolutely littered with Easter Eggs, most notably the mass mannequin decapitation which leads to The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” starting to play. Aside from that, the tiny size of the map makes the combat frenetic and entertaining – so much so that whenever I was in a multiplayer lobby and Nuketown came up for voting, I knew where I was playing next.
Aperture Testing Facility: Buried Levels (Portal 2)
The Portal titles were both great games in terms of their setting, but the direction Valve went in Portal 2, sending you down into the buried areas in the testing facility, effectively Aperture Science’s historic sectors, was a pure stroke of genius. After getting thrown into the abandoned lower levels by a certain particularly angry robot core, you discover the testing facilities Aperture used before it was 100% GLaDOS-operated, the walk through Aperture’s history is a truly entertaining one; Cave Johnson’s “Lemons Speech” a notable mention here. Walking through the dilapidated environments and portal-ing through the outdated test sites was a truly memorable experience and one certainly worth going back to for more. All they had to do was think with portals.
2Fort (Team Fortress 2)
2Fort from Team Fortress 2 was the perfect example of why two heavily-armed, neighbouring families should never, ever get into a feud. Identical on both sides, the map quickly turned into a bloodbath, with Heavy Weapons Guys, Medics and Grenadiers dominating the central bridge, Scouts and Spies taking the below routes into the enemy base, Pyros defending the entrances and Engineers defending the inner sanctums of their base, even the odd Sniper taking a shot at any of the aforementioned characters. While chaotic, the map was remarkably well balanced and suited to all styles of gameplay, making it a popular choice amongst the Team Fortress faithful.
Old Haven (Borderlands)
While New Haven is a hub town in Gearbox’s expansive “role-playing shooter”, Old Haven is anything but; taken over by the Crimson Lance after being known as a bandit town, the area has a history of violence. After noticing the bodies of slain bandits littering the area, I knew something was up. Suddenly, I spot my first Crimson Lance soldier, pull out my 3X Explosive Sniper and take a shot at his head – one which he survives. For the next 40 minutes, I was battling squads of Crimson Lance soldiers, pushing through to try and get to my objectives. Soldiers, which seemed to equal my abilities and firepower at every point, outnumbering me by 4-to-1. While certainly not the most blatantly iconic landscape in Borderlands, Old Haven was memorable for the challenge it posed. In later playthroughs I would come to enjoy travelling to Old Haven, simply for the violent struggle I knew I was about to face.
While there are undoubtedly many notable landscapes and locations which I have missed in this article, I feel these are ten of the greatest locations I’ve been lucky enough to play. How about you views? Do you feel that there’s somewhere important that should be in the list? Does one of the listed locations feel boring and repetitive to you? Let us know in the comments section below!