After spending so much time in Detroit over the past five years, it feels more like home than my city of Grand Rapids ever has. I didn’t expect something like Rockstar Games’ painstakingly-detailed yet fictional take on New York City from Grand Theft Auto IV. Or hell, Watch Dogs‘ sterile Chicago. Instead, I was just hoping Detroit wouldn’t be another Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, using Detroit’s name and hardships as shorthand for “destroyed city.”
Detroit‘s high-level depiction of the downtown area is recognizably Woodward Avenue, even if it isn’t a 1:1 replica. TV spots for the game proudly include the Monument to Joe Louis and Spirit of Detroit sculptures, downtown’s retail district and monorail system, and to balance out the glitz, blighted houses. The full game has all these and more, including a few extremely subtle (but welcome) nods that’ll be lost on anyone not familiar with the region.
For example, instead of licensing any of the names or logos for the city’s sports clubs, Cage’s Quantic Dream studio came up with its own nomenclature. While the Gears might be a simple replacement for the real-world Pistons basketball team name, Detroit‘s hockey team’s name — the Crimson Sharks — is anything but.
The real city’s graffiti scene is incredibly vibrant, and art has been used to combat gangs tagging their turf. Its Eastern Market neighborhood is covered thanks to an all-mural street-art festival and the nearby Red Bull House of Art’s program that offers live-in residencies to artists from around the world. None of the works are more striking than the pair of great white shark murals, each painted with a deep shade of red by artist Kelly “Shark Toof” Lund.