EGMR Awards 2015: Best Realistic Graphics
As much as people love to say that only gameplay matters, the fact is that graphics matters a great deal more than people would ever admit, as was clearly seen by the whole ‘visual downgrade’ issue that seemed to follow a number of titles this year and last. Including our winner if you can believe it. With developers starting to hit their stride on the new consoles we’re seeing some incredibly impressive visuals in games and this year was a veritable ocular orgy.
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Many gamers think that graphics in gaming is purely visual, but in the end it doesn’t matter how many polygons a game can push out or whether it has enough bloom to burn brighter than the sun. What we look for in this award is an experience that is either visually absorbing or artistically brilliant, and also technically excellent. The graphics should be seen as incredible because they portray what they intended to and capture the game’s vision. Whether the game in question opts for an artistic style, realistic simulation, a cinematic experience or lush, open and brightly coloured worlds, it comes down to how well the game managed to achieve the design it tried to, and of course how damn good it looks while doing so. The graphics of a game can also play an important role in immersion, and as such we look for vibrant, memorable visual experiences that are dynamic and exciting to look at. All in all, this award will be given to the game that achieved its vision and impressed us the most with its graphics.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Many Bothans died to bring us these stunning visuals. Star Wars: Battlefront may be deficient in a number of key areas but that certainly doesn’t extend to its visuals. Each map is a faithful recreation of what we saw in the films with visually rich and detailed environments. Technically Battlefront is silky smooth and Frostbite 3 has clearly been put to great use. Even when there are blasters firing all over the place, characters scrambling about and fighters hurtling through the air the game holds up. It’s an impressive audio-visual experience that is sure to give Star Wars fan the fizz.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 can do no wrong. Not only does it have gorgeous and varied environments but they’re fantastically detailed. Up close the game looks even better with a staggering level of detail and impressive character models. It’s not technically perfect but it is pretty darn close to it. The Witcher 3 gets bonus points for Geralt’s beard. The visual effects add much depth to the world and are complimented by smooth transitions from gameplay to cinematics. On console’s it’s impressive but on PC it is unbelievable
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is a mess, there’s no way around that but the series has consistently impressed on the visual front. Even if things get dicey once the game is in motion (looks at Unity). Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate took that visual splendour and refined it with a bit of polish to create a generally stable visual experience that blends with the score to make traversing and exploring Victorian London an unforgettable experience. Up close there’s a great amount of detail in fabric textures and the dynamic weather system only makes things more splendid.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
You might be forgiven for completely overlooking Rise of the Tomb Raider since you were all too busy playing Fallout 4 but it is a tragedy if you’ve not at least gazed upon it. Environments are certainly pretty but Lara is the star of the show. Well, of course she is but visually she is exquisite. The absolute amount of detail that has gone into rendering her staggering from details and textures to more subtle things such as dirt build-up. In addition to this is the use of subtle facial animations or environmentally relevant behaviour (such as shivering in the cold) to make Lara a more believable human. The seamless transition from gameplay to cutscenes isn’t a bad thing either.
Batman: Arkham Knight
This one may be a bit controversial given what an unrequited mess Batman Arkham Knight was on PC for much of this year. However, it is hard to argue that it is incredible to gawk at. Batman is beautifully rendered but it’s the environments that truly stand out. Gotham feels rich with detail and it’s hard to not perch on a rooftop just to gaze out upon it. Whether you’re traveling by air or by land it’s a splendid place to explore with an art direction that captures the grime of Gotham and the spirit of Batman. The dynamic weather system compounds the visual diversity on offer from glorious fire to deep shadows and great textures.
Rise of the Tomb Raider simply didn’t stand a chance despite being a worthy nomination. Despite the masterclass that is Lara in this game, the rest could be better and at times felt lacking. Furthermore TressFX is still around and detracts from everything Crystal Dynamics worked so hard on.
Conversely Star Wars:Battlefront boasts spectacular environments but up close things aren’t quite so stellar. Character models don’t quite match up.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, for all its effort, looks great but supporting characters models left something to be desired and cutscenes only serve to undermine the visuals during gameplay. Unfortunately, Syndicate has also failed to shake the ghosts of Unity with frame-rate slowdowns and a number of rather janky bug littered throughout the game.
As much as we adore the aesthetics of Batman: Arkham Knight wowed us the torrid state of its PC version is something that simply cannot be overlooked. As much as it is a tour de force on PS4 and even Xbox One, the PC version brings it right down.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 is our outright winner not because it beat the competition in every aspect. Arguably, there are games here that beat it in certain respects but as a complete visual experience The Witcher 3 was second to none in 2015. We can forgive Geralt’s lack of genitalia (we’ll assume his bits simply got worn away by friction) because of our wonderfully rendered he is along with the other main characters. Not to mention his beard which grows in real-time! Couple that with spectacular environments, gorgeous vistas and intricately designed beasts and you’ve got an incredible combo package. Not only is the Witcher wonderful to look at but it is generally smooth for a game of its size. Put it on a PC and it assaults your eyes with how good it looks. The Witcher 3 is truly a masterclass.