I’m not one to merely sing the praises of graphics like they’re the only driving force behind a game’s quality, but suffice to say that this generation of games has allowed for some pretty impressive visual material. Games are looking more realistic than we could have ever dreamed of. Each year, it seems like there are greater advances in visual technology, and the growth continues to inspire new vistas and visages. 2011 was itself filled with flashy pieces of tech in gaming.
Whilst suffering from a pretty big backlash regarding incompatible graphics cards leading to an unplayable PC version for a lot of people, Rage is still something of a graphical landmark. Playing this on the 360, creating mid-level textures, combining that with various effects and still keeping a steady framerate of 60FPS was one of the few moments in gaming that impressed me this year. Aside from that, iD Software also created nifty new animation software, leading to characters that moved realistically, if somewhat rigidly. Enemies would not simply turn into ragdolls when killed; they would stumble and fall. This greatly improved the otherwise quite dry combat.
By now, all gamers know the immortal tale of Crysis, 2007′s graphical powerhouse which could be run at ultra settings by about two people in the world. People wondered just what Crysis 2 would do to up the ante. Whilst not nearly as “OMG my card cannae run this!” as its predecessor, the new city locale and advancements in texturing allowed for one of the most realistic looking urban jungles and some of the best explosions this year. It’s just a damn good looking game.
Yeah, yeah, I wax lyrical about this way too often, but Ubisoft‘s Ubiart framework was one of the greatest new engines of the year, allowing for flowing 2D cartoons that got rid of scaling problems between TV and monitor types, which meant that no matter which set you played it on, the game looked fantastic. Putting 2D graphics back into a big budget, non-fighting game didn’t hurt its appeal either.
Perhaps Nintendo‘s latest handheld didn’t light the world on fire like they were expecting, and the 3D turned out to be a gimmick much to the skeptics’ favour, but the 3DS can still pump out some impressive graphics. The two best examples are probably Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars and Starfox 64 3D, two games which throw aliasing out like the 3D images the system projects in favour of finely detailed yet compatible models and textures. Hell, you could probably blow SF643D up to HDTV level and it would be fair game.
Regardless of whatever you may think of the rest of the game, you cannot deny the visual benchmark L.A. Noire’s MotionScan technology has set. Perhaps the whole hyper-realistic faces feature was a gimmick that gave the 3DS a run for its money, but few can deny its pure power. This is a perfect case when bringing up how the next generation has brought us more than “prettier polygons”. Damn hipsters.
Here was a graphical power-up that was also designed to be a vital part of gameplay to create something truly unique. As for whether they quite succeeded, that’s beyond the scope of this article. For now, let’s just acknowledge how good MotionScan actually looks and how simply cool it is.