Many video games have some stunning locations you wish you could visit in real life but what are some locations that you can visit? Let’s take a look…
I've collaborated with a fellow blogger, who usually focuses on the world of video games, music and film - yes, not my forte however what is up my street is the world of travel and travel writing. This post is all about the real life video game locations around the world, I've added the travel elements and where you can visit these places and my fellow guest blogger has written all of the gaming lingo.
If you like what you see from The Head Scratcher then make sure to check out his blog.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
GSC Game World, 2007
Location: Chernobyl, Ukraine.
Style of play: First-person shooter.
Format: P.C. only
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a first person shooter (with RPG and survival horror elements) set in what is an incredibly atmospheric location for game; a radioactive wasteland.
In 1986, a catastrophic event occurred at Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station near Pripyat in Kiev. The game is set in an alternative reality where a second disaster occurred in 2006 and following this event scavengers named Stalkers have started visiting the exclusion area known as ‘The Zone’. There are many strange occurrences and dangers associated with ‘The Zone’ such as physical anomalies (most are deadly), horrifying mutants (wild animal and human-based) and of course crippling radiation.
Despite the dangers there are valuable artefacts to be found which can be used for boosting abilities. The game also features relatively unique game mechanics including hunger (requiring the player to consume food or slowly die) and blood loss (which can be stemmed by the use of bandages - the alternative being, you guessed it, death). For the time, the graphics were cutting edge with real-life locations within the city of Pripyat and other areas surrounding the power plant recreated in great detail.
*Where to buy: Steam and GOG
Getting there: Flights to Kiev direct from London can go for as little as £90 return.
*Researched March, 2018
In order to visit Chernobyl you need to go via an organised tour. Tours leave Kiev frequently and can be reached within two hours. We have both been to Ukraine recently and used the company Solo East. A full day tour of Chernobyl and Pripyat costs £80 per person which also includes a traditional Ukrainian lunch. Longer two day trips are also available.
Things to do: Other than visiting the abandoned city, you can also gain a further insight at the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev, entrance is 30p and it's worth investing in an audio guide for an extra £1.00.
Another worthy site is Kiev's underground metro system, not only is it a cheap alternative of getting around the city you'll also experience some of the deepest metro stations in the world.
Heading down the escalator into the depths of the earth is quite unique and you can marvel at the architecture and art work once you are down below.
If you want to pick up some souvenirs from your visit to Ukraine, I'd suggest visiting the Andriyivsky district in the city centre. In this neighbourhood you will find craft markets selling the classic "Babuska" dolls, handmade socks and painted wooden eggs.
Reflections Interactive, 2000
Location: Havana, Cuba
Style of play: Driving (duh?)
Driver is a franchise inspired by classic movies with big car sequences like The Driver, The Italian Job and Bullitt. It allowed you to play out epic car chases and races against time in iconic locations such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York whilst avoiding more extreme gameplay elements such as the ability to run over pedestrians (no matter how hard you try they always jump out of the way). It was released to critical acclaim and demanded a sequel which was to arrive around a year and a half later.
Driver 2 introduced the new locations of Havana (Cuba), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Chicago and Las Vegas and was a refinement of the gameplay present in its predecessor but more polished and with better graphics. It also expanded the concept by introducing the ability to escape the confines of your vehicle and explore the cities on foot.
Despite the limitations of the PS1, Havana is recreated in astonishing detail and whilst I’ve never been to Cuba seems to nail the aesthetic perfectly.
*Where to buy: eBay and second hand stores.
Getting there: Flights to Havana from London are around £450 return.
*Researched March, 2018
Things to do: The best way to experience the city is by classic car, Cuba's extensive history with the U.S.A has resulted in a vast collection of classic American cars from the 1950's. Open top car tours can be arranged which include a detailed explanation from a driver guide of the Cuban architecture, culture and music scene. Prices start from £55 per vehicle found at www.oldcartours.com
Havana is the birth place of the Mojito cocktail, so it seems only right that you seek out the famous tipple. For the "best mojito in town" try El Chanchullero bar for a truly authentic experience! What's more, these delicious cocktails can be bought for as little as £1.40.
Apart from tropical cocktails, Cuba is also famed for its cigars. You can visit many cigar factories and watch how the tobacco is rolled and formed into the luxurious item as we know it today. Even if you are not a cigar smoker, the tour is interesting and you can also hear about the island's tobacco plantation history and how all cigars in Cuba are state regulated.
One factory tour I'd suggest is in Havana's Old Town - Partagas Cigars
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas
Ubisoft Montreal, 2006
Location: Las Vegas, USA
Style of play: Tactical shooting
Format: Xbox 360 + PS3.
Rainbow Six: Vegas is a tactical shooter set in (yep, you guessed it) Las Vegas, Nevada in the good ‘ol US of A. You play as an elite tactical unit sent in to apprehend terrorists to the backdrop of the city of sin. The game is a first person shooter but features a really well implemented 3rd person cover mechanic making the game a joy to play. Sometimes this mechanic breaks or doesn’t quite work but for the most part it’s excellent. The tactical aspects of the game are also great fun allowing you to stack your team at different doorways to a room and experiment with how best to enter to annihilate the terrorists without also killing all the hostages.
Whilst you don’t get to explore the city as freely as in Driver, you do get to take part in some epic firefights in some iconic locations such as The Strip and Fremont Street. Whilst the Casinos you battle in are fictional they are good representation of what you might expect to see in Las Vegas.
*Where to buy: Games Republic
Picture: Golf Digest
Getting there: Flights direct to Las Vegas from London are around £350 Return
*Researched March, 2018
Things to do:
One of the most famous Casino's in Las Vegas - The Bellagio Casino is open 24 hours a day contains never ending slot machines, and card games for you to place a bet on.
Spend time on the Las Vegas Strip and see the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign which has been standing proud since 1959. Surely a good chance for a photo opportunity?
If you want to continue the game theme whilst in the city you can visit The Pinball Hall of Fame, a museum with over 100 pinball machines from the 1940's and upwards. The best part? - it's entirely free to enter.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle for the day then take a day trip out to the Grand Canyon. Tours start from £65 per person. If you want to go all out, why not take a helicopter tour over the canyon and see Hoover Dam on route.
Helicopter tours start direct from Las Vegas at £280.
Picture: Pinball museum
Tomb Raider III
Core design, 1998
Location: London, UK
Style of play: Platform and Puzzler
Format: PC, MAC, PS1
We could have picked any of the Tomb Raider games but we went for Tomb Raider III for it’s inclusion of some iconic London locations. At this point I think we’re all pretty familiar with the Tomb Raider concept: it’s a third person 3D platforming /puzzling game where you play as archaeologist and adventurer Lara Croft as she travels the world hunting for artifacts. The series is notable as being one of the first to feature a strong female lead albeit maybe a little over sexualised.
TR III’s London levels feature locations such as St Paul’s Cathedral (you actually have to clamber on to the roof of this iconic structure), the abandoned underground tube station Aldwych (you can actually visit this in real life) and what is called the Natural History Museum in the game but is actually based on the British Museum. A bonus level which only unlocks after getting all the secrets (which of course I did…) is set in All Hallows Church near the tower of London. The actual geography of the level and how all the areas are laid out in the map is said to have been painstakingly researched so it all made sense.
The controls are niggly, the graphics are quite dated and the difficulty level is controller-smashingly-high but Tomb Raider III is still a fun game in an excellent series.
*Where to buy: GOG and Steam
Picture: The Londonist
Getting there: London is serviced with four major airports, and international train and bus stations. Euro tunnel journeys can be made from Paris and Brussels from as little as £30 one way.
Things to do:
If you want to dive straight into the Tomb Raider game then you need to visit the Natural History Museum - entrance is free, but there are extra charges for special exhibitions. The most striking part is the entrance hall with a full scale Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton on show (be warned he's on tour right now).
Another fun thing to do is try your hand at a Tomb Raider escape room. Warner Bro's have developed an escape room in honour of the new film release. Players will need to uncover the mysterious Tomb of the Mother of Death - it's certainly the ideal place to challenge your inner Lara Croft!
Tomb Raider 3 starts her visit to London arriving at Aldywch Station. This particular station is now disused but what's cool is you can still visit this abandoned station on a tour. You'll see the same the ticket hall, original lifts and the eerie empty platforms. Tours are few and far between and the next one is May 4th and costs £40 per person. - https://britmovietours.com/bookings/aldwych-strand-station-tour/
If you'd prefer to stay above ground, check out the wonder that is St. Paul's Cathedral in the centre of Westminster. Entrance tickets can be found cheaper online from £16.00 per person here.
Picture: Natural History Museum
United Front Games, 2012
Style of play: Explorer, shooting, fighting, driving
Format: PC, MAC, PS3 + 4, XBOX One
Sleeping Dogs is an open world action game featuring shooting, hand to hand combat and elements of parkour. The hand to hand combat system is particularly excellent and is best compared to the likes of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately I haven’t played much of the game and despite getting good reviews at the time it does feel like a little bit of a hidden gem. Whilst the graphics aren’t amazing, Hong Kong seems to be well represented with developers having visited the city to conduct visual research to ensure an authentic look for the game.
At street level everything appears as it should be: neon soaked, claustrophobic, busy and full of supercars. Many landmarks such as the Aberdeen Promenade, Jumbo Floating Restaurant, the old Central Police Station and the nightclubs of Soho are present and correct.
Sleeping Dogs is definitely worth checking out if you want to explore and fight in a dense and detailed urban environment.
*Where to buy: GOG
Getting there: Flights to Hong-Kong direct from London are around £370 return
*Researched March, 2018
Things to do:
To get a real feel for life in Hong-Kong head down to Aberdeen Harbour. This region of Hong-Kong Island has vast contrasts. Small houseboats bob in the water against the backdrop of the cities high skyscrapers. What's more is you'll see many seafood markets and restaurants and one in particular is extra special - The Jumbo Kingdom (The largest floating restaurant in the world)
The best way to see this area is to go on a walking tour.
Tours starts from £25 per person.
The most popular night market in Hong-Kong is Temple Street market on Kowloon. Open from 6pm till 11pm, you'll find a vast number of traders, fortune tellers, street food and jade dealers.
It's whilst you are down here you need to try classic Hong-Kong street food such as Pineapple buns or Chinese steamed dumplings with minced pork and spices.
Much like the game, the Hong-Kong skyline can be impressive to look at. Appreciate it at night, the neon lights and skyscrapers shine brightly across the city. Head to the Kowloon side to get the best view. Each night at 8pm "A symphony of lights" is a multimedia light and music show which features 44 skyscrapers over Victoria Harbour which shows LEDS, projection lights and fireworks.
Picture: Trazee Travel
We hope you enjoyed this different blog post and that we have inspired you to get off the gaming bean bag and go and see these places for yourself.
Once again: https://www.theheadscratcher.com