In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil and Tom discuss the romantic gloom of a good downpour.
Tom: Rain in games is amazing. So amazing that this week we've decided to double-team the topic, because two hot takes are better than one.
I love rain because it can instantly change the mood of a game world. Done well, the hushed roar of a heavy downfall changes the entire soundscape, creates a universe of motion in rippling puddles underfoot and throws a glistening corona around sharp light sources like street lamps and neon signs. When a storm starts in GTA 5 I suddenly come over all melancholic, and have the urge to walk slowly down the streets in a trenchcoat. I've found it's better to just go with it when that happens.
Phil: That's the great thing about rain. It's a mood weather, but a subtle one. It's not as beautiful as snow, or as dramatic as lightning. Instead, it evokes a feeling of isolation and otherness. It closes the world in, and creates a barrier between you and everyone else. Rain is introspective. As you soak up the atmosphere in Los Santos, the pedestrians around you are huddling under archways or covering their heads. They're reacting the way regular people do; the way a protagonist never would. For them, rain is an annoyance.
Tom: That's the thing, in the real world the sogginess gets in the way of the romance. Games solve that problem, and tend to feature the most picturesque rain you can imagine. Here in Britain, rain is accompanied by what I like to call Total Grey. It's like someone's messed with the colour correction and sapped all of the joy out of the streets. In games I get to experience thick, reflective tropical rain, and proper thunderstorms.
The way rain affects surfaces in games also just fills the world with more detail. I love watching Geralt's armour glisten as the trees whip back and forth all around him in The Witcher 3. I love the way lightning flashes illuminate every raindrop in GTA 5. I love the way rain distorts the smoky neon signs in Satellite Reign.
Phil: It's not just aesthetic, either, Rain can completely change the feeling and challenge of a game. Driving games are excellent for this. Euro Truck Simulator 2's rain pours down in thick globs that smash against the windscreen. It's beautiful in a cold, dreary way, but also offers the thrill of not being able to see more than a foot in front of the giant metal box that you're steering. In Dirt: Rally, the rain churns up pools of hazardous mud. It's a rare game that can make you appreciate the allure of the Welsh countryside and threaten to send you spinning out at a hairpin bend.
Tom: Mud! We should do one of these about brilliant gaming mud—STAY TUNED FOR THAT, DEAR READERS. Let's lay it out there, then. Which games have the very best rain?
Phil: For me, it's the Metal Gear Solid series. Ground Zeroes features one of the most detailed realisations of rain in gaming, and implements it in a way that does wonders for the atmosphere and mood. Kojima has always had an eye for good rain. I wrote about Metal Gear Solid 2's tanker chapter in the very first Why I Love. The rain was a big part of what made that special. It had personality, too. Spend too long in the rain, and Snake could catch a cold—sneezing as he hid around corners or crept up on guards.
Tom: Good shout. I'll champion Mafia 2's rain, because of the aforementioned moody trenchcoat thing. Westwood's Blade Runner has great rain, too. Even indoors you can hear it coming down endlessly. It's a vital part of the hardboiled private eye motif, but also unnaturally relentless—a constant reminder that the planet's environment is fundamentally broken.