It is believed that you can’t walk more than 5 minutes in London without coming across a Pret a Manger. That goes for Dan Douglas’ Build Engine reconstruction of London, which includes some of the most painstakingly banal recreations of naff British chain businesses I’ve seen since someone placed a Greggs in Far Cry 5.
Douglas, an enthusiastic Twitter user, started a little experiment late last month. He’d replicate the office where UK Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock was discovered breaching covid rules by cheating on his wife using the Build Engine (the technology used to power 3D Realms titles like Duke Nukem 3D back in the ’90s). Very timely, excellent material.
The first objective was just to outfit this workplace with a functional security camera, which I assume would leak shady sprites to the pixelated tabloids. Douglas, on the other hand, has gotten a little carried away in replicating not just a room, but a whole English high street.
I love seeing ordinary, slightly naff British stores replicated in videogames, such as Far Cry’s Greggs. Douglas’ thread goes on to include silly picture development businesses and an estate agency vandalised with “Tory scum” graffiti, as well as more middle-class getaways like Pret (a strangely France-adjacent coffee chain) and a Sainsbury’s grocery store.
He’s even added a custom texture for Quorn sausage buns, while acknowledging that the packaging “breaks continuity” because it was developed prior to the Hancock controversy.
There’s something hypnotic about seeing everyday, familiar items integrated into games. Aside from the odd Watch Dogs: Legion or Forza Horizon 4, we don’t see Britain portrayed in games very frequently—and when we do, it’s generally stripped of all the outrageously sincere and repeatedly humiliating iconography that characterises this strange little island.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading to Half-Life 2 to rebuild a Scotmid.