Cities in games usually come off as totally unbelievable for me. Let's choose a totally random game that may or may not have anything to do with my life, such as World of Warcraft. The cities in World of Warcraft are just silly. The small villages will have like two buildings, and everyone just stands around 24/7. The large cities, like Stormwind and Orgrimmar, will have quite a few buildings, but rarely peoples' homes. I understand the need to organize things in such a way that the same is still efficient and playable and fun, but this really hurts the immersive illusion of the game for me. This got me thinking... almost no games seem to be able to actually make me feel like I'm in a large city. Several games with massive cities like World of Warcraft and Morrowind (you could hang out in the capitol city of Vivec for a week just exploring and doing quests) exist, but they just aren't believable. Cities in Warcraft don't have residential housing, and while Vivec in Morrowind does, the entire city probably has only about a hundred homes. Peoples' houses don't have to be interactive or contribute anything to the game; they just have to be there. In fact, I could only come up with a couple games that did this well. Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate II did the "big city" thing quite well. Even though large areas of the city were inaccessible, they were still there, and it didn't feel like I was wandering around in some 0.01% of the city that the designers had time to implement; the design really made me feel like I was wandering around in a big city. Knights of the Old Republic did this very well for only the starting city; it really felt alive, with spacecraft in the air, people walking around, and visible other buildings in the distance.
Anyway, there's no real point to this post, other than to express mild dissatisfaction that games almost never seem to present believable large cities. It doesn't require a lot of extra work; it requires more creativity.