Doing research for video games is not an easy job, especially when it comes to creating the game's setting out of a real-life place. In movies and TV shows, showing slivers of New York streets (almost certainly shot in L.A. or Vancouver) will suffice. Games, however, require entire worlds to be built for them, which means mistakes become all the more likely. Getting it right becomes even trickier when the devs have never been to the place where the game is set. It's why Assassin's Creed staff members get sent on Caribbean business trips, GTA's it-is-but-it-isn't mock-cities are always impressive, and we have our fingers crossed for The Crew.
But what happens when, despite all that time and research, the final product gets something wrong anyway? Well, that's when jerks like me come along and poke fun at them, which I'm going to do right now. Here we have eight games that got real-life places wrong, how wrong they were, and how hilarious it was. So come on, dear players, let's go question whether or not they even tried.
CN Tower, Canada (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution prides itself on being a global experience. From medical facilities in China, to research installations in the Arctic Ocean, to the doing-much-better-now-thanks city of Detroit, the game takes you on a whirlwind world tour while Adam Jensen fights to save humanity. If you don't see your locale of choice, don't despair, because there may very well be an easter egg of your favorite place waiting in the wings. That's what happened for Toronto fans, anyway, who get to see a landmark of their own just not where it should be.
When Jensen first lands on the roof of Picus Tower (a real-world structure known as the Montreal Olympic Stadium tower), he can take a breather to check out the beautiful Montreal skyline, where the CN Tower is visible. Thing is, the CN Tower is actually in Toronto, which is approximately 350 miles away from Montreal and well outside a normal human's range of vision. Damn Adam, those eye enhancements were worth every penny!
Eder Dam, Germany (Call of Duty)
Sometimes when you're playing through a game, geographic errors can slip right by if you're not paying attention. The original Call of Duty is a prime example. In the British campaign, you play Sergeant Evans, and one of your first tasks is to destroy heavy arms stationed at Eder Dam in Germany. The dam in that picture right up there, modeled after the real-life version. But there's just something off about the whole thing, right? I can't quite put my finger on it
Call of Duty was definitely playing fast and loose with German geography here, because that horizon is suffering from a serious case of misplaced mountain. It's not as though you can blame this on the era either, because while plenty of things have changed over the decades, mountain orientation isn't really one of them. That programmed peak is clearly an allusion to the Alps, which can be found in Germany, just over 300 miles south of the Eder Dam.
San Andreas Fault, USA (Duke Nukem 3D)
Yeah, yeah, I know--I'm talking about realism and Duke Nukem in the same breath. Point taken, silently disapproving reader, but this one is too egregious to let go. I mean, it's not often you see lava worlds set in real-life recreational parks, which is exactly what Duke Nukem did with the San Andreas Fault.
In the first act of Duke Nukem 3D, the Dukemeister goes on a mission to save Earth from an alien invasion, and tracks the ringleader down to the San Andreas Fault in California. The path is filled not only with vicious alien octopi, but also deadly lava traps that fill the fault's canyon-esque expanse. Which is odd, because not only is most of the fault pretty skinny in real life, but there's no lava to speak of there at all ever, because you know SCIENCE. Basically, Nukem's hellish firescape is set in the same place that upper-middle class families go on hiking trips (opens in new tab). Choke on those facts, Nukem, and take your floating octopus brains and pigmen somewhere else.
Stonehenge, England (The Simpsons Game)
Man, if I didn't know better, I'd say The Simpsons dont care much for geographical accuracy. The third level of The Simpsons Game, Around the World in 80 Bites, centers on an elaborate food eating contest that showcases cuisines from across the globe. Each mini-land contains famous landmarks to clarify what national food Homer is inhaling, like the Leaning Tower of Piza next to a giant pizza pie, and the Statue of Liberty holding a burger and fries. But alas, the game makes an egregious error in the Scotland section--a big, heavy, stony one.
When Homer first enters the area dubbed "Scotland", all seems well: there are grassy fields, sheep, bagpipes, and all the haggis you can eat! Then everything falls apart with Stonehenge, which Homer has to knock over to progress. Problem is, Stonehenge isn't in Scotland. Its in Wiltshire, England, roughly 40 miles from the country's southern coast, which is about as far away from Scotland as you can get before falling in the ocean. Worst national representation ever.
New York Chinatown, USA (Parasite Eve)
Parasite Eve is a bit different from Square's earlier efforts. Crawling out of the womb of mythical fantasy, the game tumbles headfirst into an American urban horror set in New York City. Naturally the whole post-apocalypse thing make the place seem a little less colorful, but something about this digital representation of the Big Apple seems a bit off. Probably the biggest and most egregious example is the game's rendering of Chinatown, which looks absolutely nothing like the real thing.
Eve's Chinatown is a pretty bare-bones place, with just a few hanging signs and vaguely Asian-inspired gateways to clue the player in on where Aya is, and it pales in comparison to what Chinatown actually looks like. Even taking the whole "post-apocalypse" thing into account, a street like this still wouldn't be that dull sans-people, and Eve actually added in structures that don't exist in reality, like a Chinatown gateway. You can chalk some of these issues up to technical limitations, but others? Someone fell asleep while their friend was showing off vacation pics.
Oakland Bay Bridge, USA (Resistance 2)
This one might seem a bit nitpicky, since it comes down to an issue of pixel pigment, but it gets a lot funnier with the whole picture. In Resistance 2, aliens launch a surprise attack against the United States, starting at the coasts and moving inland. Emerging from their bunker, the heroes watch in dismay as alien ships charge over the city, silhouetted against explosions and the Golden Gate Bridge? Not exactly. Apparently the Oakland Bay Bridge got a new paintjob for the invasion.
While it might not jump out to those who've only ever seen the famous Golden Gate, that bridge and the Bay Bridge look distinctly different, and there's no question which one makes an appearance in Resistance. It's also consistent with the layout of the city, putting the bunker somewhere on Yerba Buena Island. But, for some reason, the Bay Bridge has that orange/red hue that the Golden Gate is known for. It was probably meant to make the city instantly recognizable, but why not just show the actual Golden Gate?
The Midwest, USA (Resident Evil)
Sometimes devs want the simplicity of using a real-world setting, but the freedom not to be constrained by the features of an existing location. This is where Everytown, Anycountry comes in, allowing creators to set their game in a vaguely recognizable area like "Smalltown USA" while getting to make up the rest. But sometimes, creators stumble over details of the region they picked that they never even thought of. Case in point, Raccoon City from Resident Evil, which is supposedly located at the base of a mountain range in the American Midwest. Eh not quite.
Though "Midwestern United States" seems vague enough for anything to be set there without complaint, that doesn't extend to geography. Specifically, while there are several mountain ranges in the continental U.S., none of them are in the Midwest. Really the description of Raccoon City's surrounding area is better suited to the Pacific Northwest, which has plenty of mountains and 1000 trees for every lumberjack. The Midwest though? A little flatter than you're looking for.
All of America (Metal Wolf Chaos)
If anyone out there is surprised by this, I've got an orange bridge in Oakland to sell you. Possibly the most American game ever made outside America, this Japanese-produced shooter sees the U.S. President liberating the country from his traitorous Vice-President with the use of his very own Gundam. Taking back America involves liberating various locales, several of them famous, and none of which resemble their real-life selves.
New York is a same-city entirely composed of skyscrapers, Metal Wolf fights enemies on a bridge to (notably bridge-less) Liberty Island, the Bellagio Hotel appears sans-Las Vegas strip, and I don't know what's going on with San Francisco. You could excuse some of these things by saying the game takes place in the future (making the Statue of Liberty defensible is overrated), but there's no indication that it does-- it looks to be set in the early 2000's, the same era it was produced. Still, we might be able to let this one slide. Is it ridiculous and wildly inaccurate? Yes. Is it also the most American game you've ever seen? Fuck yeah.
Google Maps is your friend
There we have it--our favorite examples of games that got real-life places wrong, so we can point and snicker and feel superior for knowing better. Of course, there's probably plenty more we didn't notice. Got any for us? Did a game get your hometown wrong, or some other famous place and you're just burning to let it out? Tell us in the comments below, and we all just might learn something.
On the bright side, there are plenty of well-done video game worlds out there. Check out Far Cry 4's beautiful Himalayas or 12 stand-out game worlds you'll never forget.