Hey, videogames are a visual medium. Therefore, graphics are part of the package. How large a part they play is one of those things gamers will argue about for hours, with lots of phrases like "graphics whore", "frames per second", "gameplay first", and "realism vs art" thrown about. We say don't overcomplicate things - we like pretty pictures, plain and simple. The question is, which one did we find the prettiest?
Gorgeous hand-drawn visuals make this one of those games you simply have to see in motion to believe. Stupidly lush high-res backgrounds burst with vibrant color as impossibly fluid characters jump, stomp, and fly through the world with the grace of Olympic figure skaters. Preview
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Designed by the lead artist on Okami, the look of El Shaddai seems almost like a stained-glass window come to life. But more important than the technology is the art design. Dream-like architecture and sweeping vistas are everywhere, and we've yet to see a level in which something, be it clouds or water or whatever, wasn't moving. The world of El Shaddai might not look like anything on Earth, but you can't say it doesn't look alive. Preview
Far Cry 3
We love good art design, but sometimes it's a game's sheer technological prowess that blows us away. Look closely at the screenshot above. You almost don't notice the motion blur, the depth of field, the density of the jungle foliage or the way the dappled sunlight hits that vegetation. Why? Because you're distracted by the fact that Far Cry 3 is so realistic, you can actually see the crazy in this lunatic's eyes. This is why some folks buy $600 video cards - and why we don't blame them for it. Preview
The product of a dev team so small they could all ride to work together in a single SUV, Bastion is a labor of love. And because whoever's in charge of the "making the graphics" part of that love uses every color in the spectrum and turns the brightness up to neon, we find ourselves captivated. The more you see Bastion, especially in motion, the more breathtaking it is. Preview
Don't let Rage's bleak setting and muted color palette fool you. It's actually glorious in motion, moving at a silky smooth pace even on consoles. And you don't even notice a first how very solid all the textures look and how well lit the whole world seems to be. The game world in Rage may be sickly and struggling, but the game engine itself is alive and roaring. Preview
Another game that still screens simply can't do justice, Betrayal somehow makes the title vampiress seem even more lithe and agile than before - probably something about the 4000 frames of animation the devs have given her. As a result, the entire game flows along as fluidly as the blood that seems to pour onto the screen every time Rayne sees another living creature. She's feisty. Preview
And the winner is...
The competition was brutally tough this year and ran the gamut from heavily stylised art to bleeding-edge graphics technology. But Rayman Origins eventually won us over. True, there are games with more advanced tech under the hood, and at least one was surely made with fewer artists. But the sheer beauty of Rayman's world is so compelling that it actually becomes part of the gameplay, pulling us through the world, eager to see what's on the next screen, and the screen after that, and the screen after that one. And that kind of impact deserves an award.
June 20, 2011