Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (2002)

It’s a safe bet that for many gamers, both in Russia and abroad, their first introduction to St. Petersburg in digital format would have been Silent Assassin. In fact, the game wastes no time in getting there – St. Petersburg Stakeout is its first “real” mission following the prologue – and sticks around for a total of four missions (as well as an epilogue, appropriately titled St. Petersburg Revisited).

Hitman 2’s St. Petersburg is a charming example of video game geography mixed with a Cold War-era aesthetic. Agent 47 arrives in the city via a metro station suspiciously reminiscent of Avtovo, with its gorgeous relief columns and gilded interiors – and which seems to be situated not in the far south of the city like its real-life counterpart, but right underneath the Winter Palace. There are, of course, plenty of ushankas, stoic-faced military men, snow-swept streets, and gloomy skies to be found here, as well.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008)

On a similar note, when it comes to juicy klyukva, we can’t avoid mentioning the iconic strategy game series Command & Conquer: Red Alert, which never makes any pretense at authenticity; instead, it embraces its goofiness and takes countless potshots at all sides of the Cold War.  Kitsch is king here, with the Soviet faction boasting units such as armored war-bears and battle zeppelins.

St. Petersburg, or Leningrad, as it’s referred to in this instance, plays a more-than-pivotal role in the story – near the end of the game’s Allied Nations campaign, the player must besiege the historic Peter and Paul Fortress to prevent the escape of USSR’s fictional Premier Anatoly Cherdenko (Tim Curry in one of his most delightfully hammy performances). Where is he escaping to, you might ask? Why, of course, to “the one place that hasn't been corrupted by capitalism: SPACE!” And how? Via a space rocket hidden within the Peter and Paul Cathedral, naturally. It’s just that kind of game.

Project Gotham Racing 4 (2007)

But what about the more realistic depictions? Well, one remarkable specimen here is Project Gotham Racing 4 – a somewhat forgotten Xbox 360 exclusive from 2007 that might just hold the mantle of gaming’s most lifelike depiction of our city. From accurate street layouts to authentic street signs and cafes, it acts as almost a time capsule of the city as it appeared almost 20 years ago.

To long-time denizens of St. Petersburg, PGR4 is an impressive example of attention to detail, as well as a wonderful way to nostalgize about their favorite long-gone coffee shop; to those who are yet to visit, it’s a remarkably genuine way to take a virtual tour of the city center (albeit at higher speeds than usual).

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)

It’s true: Russia’s Northern Capital makes a memorable, if brief, appearance in the storied franchise’s 2019 reboot. One of the campaign’s final missions ventures to Russia in pursuit of an antagonist – here, at one point in the sequence, the player jumps through a random window and finds themselves smack-dab in the middle of a meticulously reproduced central St. Petersburg; more specifically, the bank of the Griboyedov Canal, with the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood looming in the background.

Unfortunately, with enemies around every corner and the Big Bad about to get away, you won’t have much time to admire the surroundings, but do try to steal a glance or two (the city does make a return as the oddly-named multiplayer map St. Petrograd – now set in a fictional country, but clearly modeled after the St. Isaac’s Cathedral and its surrounding area).

Euro Truck Simulator 2 (2012)

When it comes to virtual depictions of St. P, everyone’s favorite chill-out game deserves a special commendation not for its thoroughness, but its expansiveness: the game’s Beyond the Baltic Sea DLC adds not only many of Northern Venice’s landmarks, such as the famous docks or the Lakhta Center skyscraper (making it the most up-to-date depiction of our city in gaming), but also fleshes out its surrounding region, sharing some spotlight with suburban areas such as Krasnoye Selo and Vyra. The number of lesser-known and fairly accurate locations, from water parks and gas stations to historical sites and monuments, is very impressive – refer to the game’s own wiki for the full list, which you can even use as your in-game travel guide!

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