Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top Ten Open World Settings

We're fresh off the heels of the release of Saints Row IV, and many have fallen in love with the game. Of course, the big open world game is releasing in just a handful of weeks, Grand Theft Auto V. While we have a breather between those two games SuperPhillip Central has come up with a list of our favorite open world settings. These are ones that were a ton of fun to explore, ones we got absolute lost in (the good kind of lost), and ones that took our breaths away. Now, make note that these aren't necessarily the best-- they're simply our personal favorites. We hope this list is satisfactory, but if not, please set us straight in the comments section once you've read the rationale for our selections.

10) Willamette Mall - Dead Rising (360)

Many of the open worlds on this list will feature expansive areas. However, we're picking quality over quantity with this first pick, Willamette Mall from Dead Rising, one of the best Xbox 360 exclusives. What does one do in a town situated in Colorado that doesn't have much going for it? Why, you head to the mall for entertainment, and what a mall the quaint little town of Willamette has! If you can ignore the thousands of zombies eagerly awaiting to get a taste of your flesh, you can visit one of six unique areas (the North Plaza is under construction, so pardon the mess!), close to eighty incredible stores, a food court to give you that beer belly you've always been wanting, a movie theater (a great place for human sacrifices), and even a supermarket. Using every tool at Frank West's disposal, you could cut a swath through the zombie masses as you fought for your life to stay alive for that next news tip from Otis, to defeat that one nasty psychopath, or rescue that unlucky survivor. Willamette Mall has an immense amount of variety for such a [relatively] small space to work with. Who knew malls could be so much fun?

9) Stilwater - Saints Row 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

This pick might be favoritism, as it comes from one of our most loved GTA-inspired titles of the past two generations. It's Stilwater (that's with one "L") from Saints Row 2, offering a city of vices, gang activity, and crime. Fun for the whole family! Stilwater is divided up into two main islands, split up by a large river. The bottom half is where the player starts, and it is home to the titular Saints Row, contains decidedly lower-class buildings and communities, the airport, the stadium, and a refinery. Meanwhile, the top half of Stilwater encompasses a higher lifestyle with an urban skyscraper jungle in the central and eastern portions and suburban life in the western segments. Perhaps why we love Stilwater so much is because of the times we played online with friends and just screwed around, running into traffic, getting the po-po after us, and just going hog wild. Stilwater is truly a fun place.

8) Skyrim - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3, 360, PC)

Are you like us and have a strong resistance to frost? Then you will get along well with the Nords, the race of people that make up the majority of the population in the massive land of Skyrim. Skyrim is a region at the northmost point of the continent of Tamriel. It features a wide array of terrain, including frosty fjords, tundras, plains (mostly to the west), forests, and highlands. However, it's important to note that the majority of Skyrim is highly mountainous, featuring plenty of caverns, cliffs and other forms of verticality. Skyrim is full of interesting kingdoms, cities, and lesser towns to journey through, making coming across a new area all the more exciting. While Skyrim is, indeed, large, it can sometimes be a negative, as there is a lot of filler between points of interest. Still, the fine folks at Bethesda managed to create yet another engrossing world to explore.

7) Paradise City - Burnout Paradise (PS3, 360, PC)

Paradise City may be the site of Burnout Paradise, where the goal is to rev one's engine and race, but don't forget to take in the sites. Paradise City is split in two parts, the rural sections make up mountainous terrain in the west, and the urban sections make up the eastside of the city. These two sections are comprised of multiple districts, each with their own set of buildings and landmarks to separate themselves from the next. Those that might think that being a fast car will allow you to speed through all Paradise City has to offer in a few hours will be let known that their assumption is wrong. Paradise City spans approximately twenty-five square miles and over 200 miles of road. It's a playground for racing fans, Burnout Paradise's Paradise City is number seven on our list.

6) Bullworth - Bully (360, Wii, PC, PS2, XBX)

Bullworth is just your above average Northeastern coastal town, nestled in New Hampshire. There's of course Bullworth Academy, where Bully's protagonist Jimmy Hopkins struggles to get along with the faculty. There's the commercial district, full of sites to see, stores to shop, a fire station, a bank, a run-down movie theater, an off-limits porno shop, a comic book nook, a motel that the older set can stay for the night... or for an hour to do... grown-up things, and much more. Don't forget the prestigious Old Bullworth Vale, where the Preppies call their home. While Bullworth isn't the largest open world setting, it was absolutely enjoyable to ride around on Jimmy's bike, find rubber band collectibles, and just take in how perfectly Rockstar managed to convey a New England town.

5) Panau - Just Cause 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

The game world of the fictional island of Panau is a terrific open world sandbox setting, allowing players to tackle it any way they see fit. Some would make the option of doing anything impossible. While saying Just Cause 2's open world island allows literally anything possible is a faux pas, a lot can be done. The island has so many components to it: deserts, forests, a colorful city, arctic mountains, beaches, and if you get a bit dry parachuting off a skyscraper, oceans. Panau is a virtual playground where the goal is to create as much chaos as possible. You play Just Cause 2 your way on your terms, and exploring the massive isle of Panau will greatly give you that opportunity.

4) LEGO City - LEGO City Undercover (Wii U)

This selection will probably not be understood, as a lot of the gaming community does not have a Wii U. That's okay. Just let us explain. LEGO City is split up between two halves, much like Saints Row 2's Stilwater. However, instead of being split up horizontally, LEGO City is split up vertically in half. Regardless, there are a myriad amount of districts, each based off different cities around the globe. The first area of the game, Cherry Tree Hills, is heavily reminiscent of San Francisco, what, with its hills and cable car. There's the Times Square-esque Bright Lights Plaza, where we're sure they drop a LEGO stud on New Year's Eve rather than a ball. Then there's Fresco, a dead ringer for Venice, Italy. Nonetheless, that's not what makes LEGO City so great. What makes LEGO City so great is that there is literally something to do on every street corner, every block, every building, every rooftop. Secrets are everywhere, and while players just trying to beat the game and get LEGO City Undercover over with will overlook this, completionists will find an open world that is packed with content and a secret hidden behind every corner.

3) Liberty City - Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, 360, PC)

There were many versions of Liberty City to sort through and figure out which we, as a group, figured would be the best representation of the New York City-inspired metropolis. We finally all agreed on Grand Theft Auto IV's interpretation, featuring the most elements from the Big Apple. This includes its four boroughs, its overreaching into a New Jersey-like area, a Statue of Liberty replacement, and so much more. While Grand Theft Auto IV felt like realism took over the steering wheel and shoved the former driver, fun, in a trunk, there is no denying just how fantastic and real the world of Grand Theft Auto IV feels. It's something few developers have been able to routinely do, and Rockstar North is one of those elite few.

2) Vice City - Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, PC, MAC, IOS)

We love the 80's. It's when Mario was born. It's when some of the greatest sitcoms of all time debuted. It's when some of the worst sitcoms of all time debuted. It's when some interesting music was created. Having an open world setting that took all the majesty and magic of the 80's and made it into a virtual city was no easy task, but if anyone was up to it, it was Rockstar North. They ultimately succeeded in a big way, delivering a Miami-like setting with cool cars, neon lights, and lots of frizzy hair. It was fun driving down the strip in a sports car with Hall and Oates blaring from the speakers. Vice City may be incredibly small in comparison to the other Grand Theft Auto worlds represented on this list, but it is certainly one of the most memorable ones.

1) San Andreas - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, XBX, PC)

Here it is, our choice for our favorite open world setting. It's San Andreas from none other than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Somehow Rockstar North managed to not make just one, not two, but three separate cities that were fully-realized. Creating just one city that is fun to explore and seems realistic enough to feel lived in is a monumental task, yet somehow, on PS2-level hardware, they managed three. If having a miniature Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas isn't enough, the expanses in between the grand metropolises have their own interesting topography, including mountains, forests, plains and deserts. While our Dead Rising pick had to do with quality over quantity, San Andreas delivers on both ends of the spectrum, showcasing a world that is an absolute blast to mess around in, take in the sites, and hunt after that ever-elusive Bigfoot. Is it any wonder why the upcoming and much hyped Grand Theft Auto V will be taking us back to part of San Andreas?

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