More Than Just GTA: Four Massive Games You Never Knew Were Made In The UK
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The look on the face of your average American when you inform them that their beloved Grand Theft Auto, the microcosm of all things Stateside, is made in little ol' Blighty is a picture. GTA may be one of the biggest video game series on the planet, but millions upon millions still have no idea just who makes it.
If you're one of those millions, we'll very casually mention that GTA is made by the lovely folks at Rockstar North, based up in Edinburgh.
Believe it or not, however, there's more to Britain than just the gazillion selling GTA. We may not be massive flag wavers in the UK - the number of games actually set within the British Isles remains quite low - but that doesn't mean we're not behind some of the most popular titles in the world. Oh, and also some of the worst games in the world too, but we won't talk about those here.
LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman, LEGO Harry Potter...
LEGO itself may be Danish and half the of the characters contained within its spin off games may come with American accents, but the immensely successful LEGO series is actually made in the wee town of Knutsford.
Before you rush to open up Google Maps, Knutsford is just nine miles south of Manchester, in Cheshire. (Or, alternatively, if you open up Apple Maps it'll probably tell you Knutsford is a tree in the Amazon rain forest, or a nut emporium in Birmingham, Alabama.)
Knutsford's is the location for the base of stellar UK outfit Traveller's Tales, which began life more than 25 years ago and has worked on series like Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot and Formula 1 in its time.
Ever since the original LEGO Star Wars rolled out on console back in 2005, however, its primary focus has been on developing more and more LEGO releases, tapping into everything from Harry Potter to Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings. Needless to say, the games keep coming because the 'family friendly' platforming action the LEGO series is built around has proved pretty popular. And plus, when you're playing LEGO on a console, there's a 0% chance that you're going to step on one of those fucking bricks.
It's the magic of video games that means you can transport a gamer from the sunny streets of Colorado in one game, to the mountains of southern France the next, all while coding from many hundreds or even thousands of miles away in the quaint English town of Royal Leamington Spa.
Yes, the main Forza franchise may be the product of Turn 10, an internal Microsoft studio based in Redmond in the US, but the free-racing Forza Horizon spin off - which began life on Xbox 360 back in 2012 - is developed by English outfit Playground Games.
It's also pretty damn good; based around a fictitious 'Horizon Festival', you have the freedom of the Alps to explore on four wheels, either racing folk you come across en route or simply bumming about crashing into lamp posts and pulling off 360 spins in town squares. You know, pretty much what you get up to in your Nissan Sunny in a pub car park on a Friday night.
Batman: Arkham series
It's slightly alarming for Warner Bros. that, despite Batman vs. Superman racing up the movie charts in recent weeks, the general consensus of late has been that Batman films are a bit wank. The quality of the games, however, is quite, quite different.
In 2009, London-based outfit Rocksteady Studios launched the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum, which - as well as being penned by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini - sold rather well indeed. Little surprise, then, that three other games in the Arkham series have since rolled out at retail, all created by the clever folks working for Rocksteady in good ol' London town.
Again, however, because of Batman: Arkham's US setting (albeit in the fictional Gotham City) few gamers on either side of the pond realise that this is yet another British blockbuster taking the charts by storm, most recently with 2015's Arkham Knight, which estimates suggest has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. Indeed, series wide, global sales are hurtling towards the 30 million mark, making Arkham a truly mass market monster. Maybe Warner Bros. should give poor Ben Affleck the heave ho and just hand the series over to Rocksteady, eh?
Another big Hollywood franchise, another plucky British studio churning out the game bearing it's name. In the case of Alien: Isolation, which made a big splash back in November 2014, it's the multi-talented Creative Assembly, which operates out of Horsham.
Horsham is in West Sussex just north of Brighton and, if you didn't know already, holds the record for the heaviest hailstone to ever fall on British shores, with a stone weighing 140g hitting the ground back on September, 5, 1958. Oh, and it's also the town behind the multi-million selling Total War and Football Manager franchises, which make a tidy packet for the studio's Japanese owner SEGA.
As an aside to these big series, Creative Assembly set up a development team to work on Alien: Isolation initially crammed into the same room as the folks working on the latest Total War games. By the time Alien: Isolation hit the shelves, more than 100 people were working on it.
Talk of a sequel have been mixed. SEGA's official position is that it hasn't been ruled out, though slow sales of survival horror games in general in recent years mean it's by no means a formality. If nothing else, the game served as yet more evidence of just what British studios are capable of when they have a big license behind them. Or Sigourney Weaver with a tight perm.
Words by Keith Andrew