I think Dying Light has nailed the urban environment. It’s been coming for a while, every iteration, every game that comes out that has been set in an analog for a real world space has been taking baby-steps forward. Watch Dogs nearly got it, the Modern Warfare games were as close as I’d ever seen up until that point, Max Payne had a toe over the line, but I think in Dying Light we finally have a believable urban environment to play with.
Why do I say this? Because of all the *stuff*.
For long time (decades, really), if there was an object in your environment, it was useful. Barrels? You could blow those up. Boxes? Smash’em to get stuff. But not any longer, in fact, the fact that “useful” objects are tagged with some kind of glow effect, or show up as actionable in your HUD is, in part, due to the fact that there is so much stuff in the world that you can’t find what you need unless we point your eyeballs at it.
In order to get an environment to look “real” it has to be dirty. This is a problem that artists have beat their heads against over and over. One of the things that made the model effects in Star Wars look so real? The dirt, the grime, the grit in-between joints. Ever try to get “realistic textures” from in-service military vehicles? Good luck, they keep those things *so* clean that, even though you are working from a photo of an actual tank, nobody ever believes it.
It’s the uncanny valley of environments, and I think we’ve finally climbed out.