The most realistic things in gaming

Game graphics are finally getting good, but there are some things they still can't do convincingly. We may have advanced slightly since the plastic faces of 2006, but skin is still one of those things that games just can't do yet. But who needs skin?

There are plenty of things that games do exceptionally realistically. It may well appear geeky to gush about a puddle in a PS3 game, but non-gamers just don't understand. It looks EXACTLY LIKE A FRIGGIN PUDDLE. And that's worth shouting about. You know that, we know that. So let's celebrate the most realistic things in games without self consciousness. Embrace the puddle.



Above: Think that looks good? Wait till you see it in motion

Pictures alone can't descibe the poetry of Sega Rally's mud effects. Shall we try a poem then? "Oh Rally with your soft terrain / Your troughs that fill with last week's rain / But best thing is, with no regret / you never get my socks all wet..."

OK, maybe poetry wasn't the word. So here's a video:



Considering water is supposed to be one of the hardest things to simulate, it looks damn fine in a lot of games. The water in Red Dead Redemption looks nice, but you can't really play around in it. Wading's about all you can do. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and its sequel on PS3 both have amazing water effects that actually leave Nathan wet. Nathan Drake, that is, not Irvine. Although the GR man does sit funny when he plays it. Anyway, the 'best water' award, if such a thing existed, might just be snatched by Colin McRae DiRT 2.

Any game can do refelections in water - at its simplest, it just means making the surface completely transparent and duplicating the scenenry upside-down beneath the ground. But the water here refelects everything properly, even while it ripples. It splashes up nicely when you zoom through it and reacts to your wheels in real-time as you drive. It even drenches your windscreen convincingly. Can you even begin to imagine how it tastes?




You'd think smoke would be an easy thing to program, wouldn't you? It's like air, but whiter. Right? Wrong. Even the best transparency effects look rubbish when you can see where they pass through scenery. Nah, what you need, mate, is particle effects which flow around objects realistically, like in Timeshift:

Above: Timeshift did smoke brilliantly. Look - no joins!

Games in the past used strange techniques for smoke, from a checkerboard mesh (Anything on Saturn) to a simple black and white filter (seen in Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 2). But now we have the likes of Battlefield 2, showing everyone how it's done, both up close and spectacularly from afar:

Above: Gaming's gonna have a nasty cough, but it's totally worth it

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  • Spybreak8 - June 3, 2010 5:16 a.m.

    I stare at the night sky in Red Dead Redemption some times, just beautiful and no worry of clouds covering it up.
  • AuthorityFigure - June 2, 2010 2:31 p.m.

    The water in Wave Race: Blue Storm actually behaved like water and felt like water too.
  • philipshaw - June 2, 2010 11:49 a.m.

    Everything in Red Dead looks fantastic, I would say the horses in that game are the most realistic I have seen
  • miningguyx360 - June 2, 2010 2:39 a.m.

    i have to say, these choices were defiantly not the best. When talking about visuals you need to have Crysis, UC:2, Dirt, Forza, GoW 3 and like a bajilion others. Seriously think before publishing shit like this. Love you GamesRadar but cut the crap.
  • Rub3z - June 2, 2010 2:21 a.m.

    You guys are talking looks. I understand that they are indeed essential to playing games (duh), but another essential part to playing games, especially the modern shiny ones of today, is the sound. I think you guys should do a follow-up article of oft-overlooked (overheard? wait, no...) great sounds in videogames and how they compare to their real-life counterparts. Think about it: guns firing, engines, metal, cars speeding by, the sound of a player's footsteps on different terrain, the rustling of nearby foliage... all kinds of things you can bring up. Pretty please?
  • HawtKakez - June 2, 2010 1:47 a.m.

    I always wanted to challenge a developer to make a simple thing realistic. For example, I want someone to design a room as realistic as possible. No furniture, no special tapestry, just a simple realistic room. Obviously with todays gaming standards, it would be nearly impossible budget and timewise to make such gameplay but we can always dream.
  • Metroidhunter32 - June 2, 2010 12:27 a.m.

    I can't think of anything else that fits this article, but I can think of one thing that never had. Blood. Games either have none or they go for the excessive. And it never runs right.
  • LizarDAZZLE - June 1, 2010 11:26 p.m.

    Mirrors Edge has some really good looking skin on Faith's hands and the texture of her glove. also, the good ending of Bioshock has really fucking good looking hands at then end of it. (great, now I feel like I have a weird hand fetish. WHICH I DON'T!"
  • michaelmcc827 - June 1, 2010 9:51 p.m. could have at least captured screenshots instead of just doing google searches for official images. The BFBC2 picture doesn't even show in-game smoke, it's just a skybox.
  • Jacko415 - June 1, 2010 9:45 p.m.

    i think crysis is the only game that can really do skin well... granted that it does a lot of things better than most...
  • D0CCON - June 1, 2010 9:33 p.m.

    BF:BC2 seemed to be more excited about dust than it was smoke, choking the game in annoying as hell dust. Even forests and places I wouldn't have thought to be dusty are covered in it. A great game and it still fights with COD for my favorite shooter series of all time, but all the vision-blurring stuff they put in the game was a bit annoying
  • Octoboy - June 1, 2010 8:41 p.m.

    I'd have to go with Red Dead. It may not have the most perfect close-up graphics (still impressive enough though!), but what makes it stand out is the overall realism of the surroundings. The attention paid to detail is beyond anything I've seen so far.
  • garnsr - June 1, 2010 7:46 p.m.

    The rain on the lens in Red Dead Redemption looks pretty good, it's a touch that simultaneously looks cool and pulls you out of the game a little bit, showing the camera at all. The drops look good, though.
  • Cadavra41 - June 1, 2010 7:42 p.m.

    I have been playing through Killzone 2 again and have to say that the depth of field effects in it were among the best I've seen and you cant deny that they did the shiny parts on the guns really well.
  • Evil_AppleJuice - June 1, 2010 6:32 p.m.

    "Suddenly every game had to have shiny bits in it otherwise people would scoff and throw stones" Best line ever. As soon as the 360 and PS3 came out, everything has a white shine one it, even people! I was like, why is Marcus in Gears of War shiny? The colors are gritty and earthly but Marcus and Dom shine like diamonds.
  • superrey19 - June 1, 2010 6:13 p.m.

    The water and foliage in Crysis were amazing.
  • TonyBlue05 - June 1, 2010 5:20 p.m.

    I think Just Cause 2 did some fantastic work with atmospheric perspective. Dropping from a freefall and seeing the blue haze slowly fade away from the environment coupled with some nice subtle focus effects always made hurtling towards the ground a beautiful experience.
  • bilstar - June 1, 2010 5:13 p.m.

    I remember towards the end of my playthrough on Heavy Rain, after about 10 hours and quite a few beers and fatigue had set in, I was watching my friend play and most of it looked real. Every couple of minutes though, the uncanny valley would rear its dodgy looking head. It was a really surreal experience though. The red room with that table was totally convincing.
  • Brojo - June 1, 2010 4:05 p.m.

    Any1 remember Quake opengl when it came much more "realistic" it looked lol r_shadows 1
  • ATLAS - June 1, 2010 3:02 p.m.

    I'm surprised you didn't mention the water in BioShock. And I'm also surprised just how good that, ahem, SAND looks. And you guys might want to stop the spam here before it gets out of hand like at IGN.