In this irregular column, Marsh Davies stumbles across an impressive effect or neat bit of trickery and asks, “How did they do that?” his eyes brimming with tears of admiration and wonder. Then one of the developers tells him, hopefully using terms that don’t cause the soft mass of his brain to boil out of his ears.
Something about cityscapes at night triggers a very particular kind of excitement in me. I’m not sure exactly what it is – do the streets’ relative desertion imbue a sense of ownership over them which is not possible during the day? Do they feel forbidden or transgressive in some way? Is it about the contrast of light and dark; the possibility of both invisibility and of voyeurism? Whatever it is, some games evoke it with real potency – Deus Ex and Human Revolution, of course; Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is another; and the Splinter Cell games invariably offer some view of isolation and modernity from the blustery summit of a skyscraper. But perhaps the game which presses that button with the greatest insistence is a new one: Satellite Reign.
It’s an incredible aesthetic consummation: sound and vision conjuring a bustling cityscape of perpetual neon-studded night, simultaneously alive and lonely. And contributing to this in no small part is the rain. No game, I think, has done it this well – from the bleary streaks that flicker down in front of luminescent signs and sodium lights, to the shimmering, slick pavements with their pools and rivulets. I had to know how it was done.
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