Ever since the Xbox 360 arrived three years ago, the so-called next-gen era of gaming has been depressingly devoid of beautiful games. We’re not talking graphics, mind, we’re talking colors. Take a look at Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty, Half Life, Gears of War or Tom Clancy’s anything and you’ll witness a robust collection of browns, grays and other earthen tones that, while potentially more realistic, hide just how capable our modern consoles really are.
In fact, the cutting edge of today is so dreary that even lively last-gen games like Dragon Quest VIII and ICO still stand out when directly compared; what they lack in polygon count they more than make up for with impeccable art direction and palette. Faced with this glut of dirt-brown games, we felt it necessary to call out the most beautiful-est games 2008 brought us, and if this year’s any indication, maybe the next-gen smog is about to be lifted forever.
One-on-one fighters tend to be the prettiest games on any given platform. With no open world to process, the console can spend most of its power crafting huge onscreen characters that represent the pinnacle of console technology. Gawking is commonplace for just about any new fighter (see Virtua Fighter 5) but this summer’s Soul Calibur IV upped the visual flair more than any other brawler to date, flinging electric sparks and luminous, multicolored bursts in every conceivable direction.
They happen in a matter of seconds though, so you have to be quick to catch ‘em:
It’s not just the searingly beautiful effects though; each fighter is drop-dead gorgeous and the arenas in which they battle are as varied as they come. Sun-soaked beaches, illuminated waterfalls and strobing throne rooms set a glorious stage for each and every battle. And if you don’t care for the roster, you can dive into the massively deep character creator and make your own.
Above: How many games let you make a color-coordinated Galactus?
There aren’t a whole lot of fighters for 360/PS3, and even fewer released in 2008, but even if Tekken 6, Street Fighter IV and the long-awaited Rise of the Robots ’09 Remix came out this year, SoulCal IV would still emerge as the most colorful scrapper in years.
For every attractive game there’s a slightly less alluring cousin that we still admire but can’t bring ourselves to choose over the far-prettier relative. In this case, brawler Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit wowed us with its teeth-rattling speed and burn-your-eyes-out visual punch, but offered little else. If it played as good as it looked, maybe we’d stick around to hear about its day after we’d ogled it for hours.