Video Games with Almost 1:1 Recreations of Real Cities in Free Roam

I’m curious which video games you can play that have almost entirely accurate renditions of real life cities you can play. I know True Crime: Streets of Los Angeles was one of the first video games ever that attempted to 1:1 recreate an actual city (Downtown Los Angeles). For example I live in San Diego, are there any games where I could literally “find my house” in it from a ground perspective?

Now games like Microsoft Flight Simulator which use real life maps to recreate entire Countries don’t count simply because you’re not running around in the ground in them or if you can the cities aren’t detailed at all.

The older Assassin’s Creed games and the Yakuza franchise comes to mind.

L.A. Noire is a pretty good reproduction of downtown LA as it was in the late '40s.

Insomniac’s Spiderman for the Ps4 doesn’t have a exact 1:1 recreation of New York City, but it’s pretty close and got a lot of positive attention.

The Division 2’s map of Washington DC was made using GPS data and is basically a 1:1 recreation of the streets, allowing some creative liberty for the setting and avoiding issues of real store names, trademarks, etc.

There were quite a few games for a number of years which did facsimiles of cities, in effect shrinking them for gameplay reasons. GTA 4, for instance, had a New York but if they’d made it 1:1, you’d be incredibly bored spending 2 hours driving to a mission. I have however had spooky moments visiting (or revisiting in a game) places such as New York or San Francisco. I’ve never visited Chicago, but I think that will be the same.

Racing games were kind of the first, I think Midtown Madness, a weirdly long forgotten franchise, last of which was 2003. 1 had Chicago, 2 London and SF, 3 Paris and Washington DC. Not in any way same size, but landmarks tended to link well.

GTA San Andreas onwards modelled the spirit of the cities (though GTA 3 kind of had a New York, it was so compressed to not be even close, but GTA 4’s version of NY was kind of familiar in regions). With LA, SF and Vegas in there. I do connect some shrunk regions of the LA in GTA: San Andreas with the more detailed LA Noire of the 40s.

Scale thus being impractical in Racing games, smaller sections have been modelled in other games. The Crysis games had a shattered New York where there was parts, like a large boss battle, in effect in Times Square, which was so accurate I recognised it in a movie a couple of weeks later (only visited NY twice, and didn’t really care for the Times Square area with drunken Elmos and chain restaurants).

I came across an excellent series of videos showing how accurately Division 2 captured Washington DC. Not just the obvious White House and Capitol Hill, etc but numerous buildings, churches, parks, etc. Then you can see in the background how even more nondescript buildings often match up. It’s pretty amazing stuff and I don’t doubt that anyone from the represented parts of the city could find their home or workplace.

Not a city but a mountain: Rainier in Fuel is reportedly close to 1:1.

I haven’t been to San Francisco since I was a baby so I can’t confirm the accuracy in-person, but after running around SF in Watchdogs 2, any time I see a SF travelogue I am able to recognize locations and where they are in the city as if I actually lived there.

Assassin’s Creed: Oddysey is accurate enough that when I’m trying to find a location, I’ll often just check a real life map. I remember in one quest I needed to find some landmark where a temple was and none of the game guides had good directions. I found a web site showing where the temple is located on the shore of some place and sure enough, that got me to it in-game.

I thought Prototype and Prototype 2 did a good job of making you feel like you were in New York. Although I’m guessing the scale was a lot smaller than 1:1.

My favorite thing about Watchdogs 2 is that it features the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, despite having neither Richmond nor San Rafael in the game.

I played the hell out of MM1 in the late 90’s. Some 20 years later when I visited Chicago, I was amazed at how well I knew my way around, based solely on my hours spent playing that game.

Watch_Dogs’ depiction of Chicago felt like it was made by two teams and jammed together. One team adding in details like the Marshall Field’s clock and finding a way to add in Cloud Gate The Bean under Kapoor’s litigious nose and the other team putting a mountain logging town where Des Plaines is and… whatever the hell is going on in the south center part of the map with its power station island. It was a regular whiplash between “Hey, that’s a cool detail” and “wtf?”

According to a thread on the UbiSoft forums, it’s something like 1:6. They did a pretty good job with the landmarks, though.

As a local, I can say I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a game that got the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza right, and that’s always annoyed me a little, for some reason.

Maybe it’s just provincial pickiness, or maybe it’s just because it’s a basic, inglamorous feature that people blaze through a hundreds of times a year without paying it much notice, that the absence feels noticably off—it’d be like if someone made an exact replica of your childhood home, but the height of the stairs was wrong, or the light switches were all missing, or the fridge door was hinged on the wrong side.

Fallout 4’s representation of Boston was accurate enough that I could navigate it pretty well, having gone to Boston as a tourist a year or so before I played it. Definitely not 1:1 scale though.

And I guarantee that Greece isn’t 1:1 scale in AC:O either now that I think about it. It’s pretty big, but can’t be as big as the entire area represented by the game.

There was a PS2 game called The Getaway which recreated London in very impressive detail. The missions were set in the map but you couldn’t roam freely outside the missions until you’d completed the game.

There has been more than one of these, at least in driving games, because I remember driving a very similar circuit in a couple of games.

I bought Watch dogs : Legion over christmas, which is supposed to have a pretty decent recreation of central London apparently. I’ve not installed it, but I am looking forward to seeing if my walking shortcut from Euston to Kings Cross which I used to do for over a year and a half every Monday and Friday is there.

Does Pokemon Go count? :stuck_out_tongue: