Cool concept art vs. crushing reality

Videogame concept art. As we all know, it exists only to provide lazy devs with a cheap unlockable "reward" scheme when they can't actually be bothered to design any proper bonuses. Well that might as well be all it's for anyway. You see while the production artists of the games industry are supremely talented people with spectacular vision, all too often what they design just doesn't come through into the final game. At all.

Sometimes it's technical limitations. Sometimes it's a lack of appreciation of the colour and tone of a piece. Sometimes developers just don't seem to interpret the art as the designer intended at all. So read on and weep at what might have been, as we take you through some of the biggest artistic disappointments of recent years. So much design talent, so little in-game evidence...

The vision

A lusher than lush evokation of the hazy ambience of tropical forest land. Note how the soft light diffuses gently through the canopy, contrasting beautifully with the sparkling detail of the water.

The reality

Flat, muddy textures smeared across sharp, chunky objects. Jaggy intersecting green polygons do not a canopy make.

The vision

The intense, brutal reality of war, as focused through the lens of ground-level chaos. Friends and allies rally together towards the smoke-filled hell of battle as another potential harbinger of the end rises demonically against them.

The reality

Some little faceless blokes run around a pristine white background firing off technicolor toybox weaponry. Three miles away.

The vision

One man and his trusty machine face off against looming insurmountable death. Tangible depth of field brings about a sense of scale which impresses and intimidates in equal measure. Post-apocalyptic decay is the only witness to this final battle.

The reality

A Gundam action figure on a string, jiggled about over a sandpit full of discarded LEGO.

The vision

A lone hero, baptised red in the flames of war, rises messianic against the growing hellstorm of weapons fire swelling against him.

The reality

An Iron Man action figure on a string, jiggled about over a flat, empty rockpool.


  • TrollMan - February 18, 2010 2:08 a.m.

    i argee with all expect motorstorm pacific rift there's some texture pop ins and blurry textures every now and there but it looks great
  • CoD_22 - February 10, 2009 9:52 p.m.

    in defense of motorstorm, it is usually a lot better than that and i am consistently blown away by how great it looks. no excuses though, that is shocking. and btw, killzone does look great and also plays really well. and knifing them is so much fun :)
  • Fish - February 6, 2009 11:22 p.m.

    Maybe it's my inner old-timer showing through, but I always looked at concept art as "if the game was real, this is what it'd look like". Kinda like the boxart for NES games. Concept art should be viewed as it is: something to convey the "feel" of the game the developers are going for, not representative of what the game will look like. This isn't to be confused with "target renders" like the Killzone 2 trailer and those Red Steel images above.
  • AnonymouZ - February 6, 2009 9:46 p.m.

    well, think of it like RPGs. Concept art is not what you're actually going to see, it's what inspires you to "feel like" that ogre is actually 6ft5 and is attacking a frail human. Even if you are watching it from 3 miles away. hahah other than. me likey.
  • Necron - February 6, 2009 9:28 p.m.

    You see, this is the main problem with all video games. They all lack ambiance, immursion and the same art style used in the concept art. The only game that has pulled this off the best so far is Killzone 2 and maybe a couple other games like the Silent Hill series. This is what developers should be shooting for, not lifeless battlefields and environments.
  • Red - February 6, 2009 8:10 p.m.

    The comparisons to me were a bit of a shock at first. Then I started thinking, I'm so accustomed to games NEVER looking as good as the concept art that I don't even pay attention to the pictures when I'm flipping through magazines. How sad is that?
  • Jason.Darksavior - February 6, 2009 4:39 a.m.

    This article is so true. There are so many cool concept arts which hardly look like the real production. However, many games do live up the hype of their concept art, like Bioshock.
  • key0blade - February 5, 2009 11:22 p.m.

    Redsteel had me all hyped up for a shitty game, in which everything looked and played like SHIT
  • ELpork - February 5, 2009 4:56 p.m.

    The red steel comparison hurt on the deep down inside.
  • stuzimuzipuzi - March 1, 2009 9:58 p.m.

    moon lol,im happy that im a kid now then earlier on cause the games suck
  • killemall - February 27, 2009 7:20 p.m.

    I love the iron man/gundam on a string comments hilarity at its best.
  • Kruiser - February 9, 2009 2 a.m.

    @ EAZYSTRIDA69 : Dude, I read and reread your comment to try and find what you meant by biustnes?? Is this some sort of sick game of Mad Gab, please help?
  • TreyTable - February 9, 2009 1:20 a.m.

    Great read, although it seems to be a bit of a disservice when comparing the art of a PSP or DS game to concept art since we all know what those systems are really capable of doing. Oh, and is there anything on the reverse spectrum, where the in-game graphics blow the doors off the concept art?
  • EAZYSTRIDA69 - February 8, 2009 1:40 a.m.

    The motorstorm concept art looks great but you'v picked a really bad section of the track to show! The rest of the tracks are alot like the concept art!!!! Other than motorsorm biustnes (however you spell it) Good article
  • Jim2y - February 8, 2009 12:55 a.m.

    The unfortunate thing is sometimes the tech of the era can't handle the dreams of the artists, other times money is an issue (especially if the companies put out games every year *coughEAcough*. Just sayin'
  • xFnKxTaLeNtx - February 6, 2009 8:02 p.m.

    Loved the article! Thought that the moon one that was a little unfair but otherwise the perfect mix of funny and intuitive. A second version would be appreciated.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - February 6, 2009 4:43 p.m.

    Yeah Eric, I was blown away by that Iron Man concept painting when I found it. So epically apocalyptic. It's now one of my favourite pieces of game art, despite its origin.
  • Romination - February 6, 2009 5:55 a.m.

    Ooooh... so is THAT where For Answer came from?! I get it now... I agree with jason...a followup showing what IS make of good on promises?
  • msg - February 6, 2009 4:13 a.m.

    Nice article. I like the selection of comparison pictures. Ah, the smell of wasted potential.
  • RedBandit - February 6, 2009 3:37 a.m.

    You guys are right on with this. I have always thought this stuff. Concept art=OMG GREAT GAME

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