Whipping rain that dots your screen in a firefight. Fog that hides lingering zombies. Sheets of ice that cause you car to spin out of control. Weather can be an important part of video games. Over the years there have been some amazing takes on gameplay-impacting weather.
In this, our inaugural "NeoGAF Asks" story, Gaffer ScOULaris asks his fellow forum-goers what game handled weather changes the best.
Good weather effects are something that can add a lot to a game's sense of place and believable atmosphere. Usually it's the more dramatic shifts in weather that grab our attention. Who can forget the first time they stepped out into Hyrule on a rainy night on the SNES? Or how about your first encounter with a thunderstorm on the streets of Liberty City? As hardware and rendering techniques continue to improve, we are slowly getting to a place where realistic weather effects in games are becoming the rule rather than the exception.
That being said, there's a certain last-gen game that really made an impact on me with the way that it handled shifts in weather. That game was Bully on the PS2.
For those of you who never played this great game, I'll give you a quick rundown. Bully was an open-world action-adventure game developed Rockstar Vancouver that put you in the shoes of a troubled teenager who has been shipped off to boarding school for a year while his parents go on vacation in his absence. The game is set in an around this prestigious boarding school, eventually opening the player up to a rather large neighboring city with tons of things to do and places to explore.
Since the game's story progresses over the course of an entire school year, we get to watch the entire game setting shift and change with each passing season. We start the game at the tail-end of summer, when leaves fill out the trees and the sun beats down through a clear blue sky.
After a pivotal story segment that takes place on Halloween night (complete with costumes and teenage hi-jinks), the game world shifts into the fall season. The second you walk outside your dormitory and see the leafless trees and cool greyish-blue skybox with the sunlight struggling to break through an early-morning mist, you can practically smell that change in the air that comes with the new season. If you've played the game, you probably remember how convincingly, yet subtly this was handled in the game.
But the most dramatic and visually impressive change comes when the game hits Christmas time. Suddenly the town you've been exploring all this time is blanketed with fluffy white snow. All of your classmates and denizens of the city outside the gates now don scarves and heavy jackets as opposed to the lighter clothing that they wore before. Your mom sends you a festive Christmas sweater with Rudolf on the front. Honestly, I have never seen winter/Christmas time conveyed this fully and honestly in a game. I felt completely transported and my memories of Christmas with family up north (Michigan) began to flood in. Rockstar Vancouver had to essentially re-skin the entire setting and all of its inhabitants. I'm just incredibly impressed by that.
It probably helped that I was playing this game sometime around November of 2007, when the colder weather was finally starting to roll into Florida. I find myself to be in a generally better mood at all times when the typically hot and humid climate in Florida shifts for a measly three months into something much cooler and more pleasant. Feeling the cool air come through my apartment window while running around Bullworth Academy, blanketed by the cool-blue tint and icy haze that accompany wintertime in the game, I was completely immersed in this virtual place.
Eventually the game finishes in late-spring/early summer, where things begin to look like how they did in the beginning of the game, lending a nice full-circle feeling to the ending. The weather that surrounds us in real life can affect our moods without us always realizing it, and I think that the virtual weather within Bully had a very similar effect. It kept the game always feeling fresh throughout and really sold Bullworth as a believable place.
So what game do you think handled weather changes the best? The example I chose dealt with plot-based, long-term shifts in weather, but feel free to include more traditional real-time examples of great weather effects. If it weren't for Bully, I'd probably have to go with Red Dead Redemption for how it well it depicted shifts from day to night, sudden rainstorms, and the shift to icy wilderness when heading up into the mountains.