Best designs in video games (part 2)

  1. Hengsha – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Human Revolution has a distinctive art style. Its near-future setting is very evocative, riffing on films such as Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, but carving its own identity at the same time. It is one of a few modern, big-budget games which you can instantly recognize from glancing at a screenshot.

The best example of its dramatic vision of the future is the Chinese island of Hengsha. It’s an enormous two-level city separating the wealthy in the gleaming towers on top and the poor in the lower levels. Although it sounds absurd, it’s based on a real proposed design. Although it feels futuristic, it is still grounded in reality.

Lead designer Jonathan Jacques-Bellette and the concept artists weren’t just inspired by other games; it was modern industrial architecture, fashion, and design that they looked at first. More than 1,400 individual objects were designed to make them seem lived in, along with hundreds of brand logos to give the world credibility. There are only a few games that are as immersive, and that’s the reason why it works.

  1. The Colossi – Shadow of the Colossus

The Japanese studio behind Shadow of the Colossus Team Ico is famous for its minimalist design style. Its world is beautiful, atmospheric, and sparse, and laced with mystery, as are the beasts inhabiting it.

They look like they have been ripped from the earth; part man-made, part organic. They have fur and leathery skin but crumbling, ancient ruins jut from their bodies. It’s a surreal aesthetic, but maybe the most inspired aspect of their design is the eyes.

There is a grey morality to the game as you have to kill these monsters in order to bring someone you love back from the dead. It’s almost as if you are the bad guy. There is a weird sense of guilt when you kill them, which is partly due to the sad, innocent eyes staring at you when you do it. Team Ico managed to make these creatures both sympathetic and intimidating, all through their appearance.