Next-Gen Gaming

More than anything else, gameplay graphics that approach real-world, life-like fidelity elicits a huge “wow” expression from the gamer, so realism is the first criterion. Next, since there are more ways to create impressive graphics than with photorealism, art direction and aesthetics will be taken into consideration. Finally, to appreciate what goes on behind the scenes, graphical technology will play a factor in game ranking. There were a lot of hard decisions, especially near the top of the countdown.

Oftentimes, however, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so there is room for discussion and debate of the rankings. After watching this video, let me know your thoughts about what games were too high on the countdown, what games were too low, and what games weren’t included but should have been. Now, let’s shift gears, and speed into game number 10. Racing games aren’t generally known for their graphics, as the genre isn’t as popular as more mainstream genres like shooters and action games. Nonetheless, Grid: Autosport, a PC exclusive title, delivers the best graphics out of any racing title. The game released with a free high resolution texture pack download, bringing your car textures to 4k resolution.

There are advanced lighting, shadowing, and reflection graphical effects such as global illumination and ambient occlusion, that apply not only to cars and the racing circuit, but also to the backdrop scenery. You will probably crash a few times because you were looking at the scenery instead of focusing on the race. Car damage is realistic and highly detailed, and how smoke billows from burning rubber and dirt kicks up as you skid across grass is well executed.

Other racing games have crowds and foliage that look like cardboard cutouts. Grid, on the other hand, has crowd models that could pass for NPC characters in console versions of Watch Dogs. The biggest criticism I have for Grid’s graphics are the car interiors are very plain and less pleasing to look at than other parts of the game. Racing purists might find Grid’s gameplay subpar, but visually, Grid is an excellent choice for a sim setup.

Gamers with multimonitor setups should definitely give Grid a try in Nvidia Surround or AMD Eyefinity. Project CARS, releasing later in 2014, will attempt to dethrone Grid for best graphics in a racing game, but for now, Grid:Autosport, accelerates into 10th place on the countdown. While Rome 2 Total War, may not look as good as many other games when compared on a pixel-to-pixel level, the scale of what the game accomplishes visually is nothing short of astounding. The game renders literally thousands of units on the battlefield, all of which are individually detailed and have their individual physics. The battles are massive with a cinematic scale, and you can zoom in to focus on unit-to-unit warfare. The game launched with a lot of technical problems, including lack of multi-gpu support, but many patches have allowed the game to run a lot more smoothly.

Real-time strategy is a genre that has diminished relative to MOBA-style strategy, but Rome 2: Total War shows that the genre has unfathomable limits in what it can accomplish technically. Rome 2: Total War, commands 9th place on the countdown. When I released my best graphics countdown in 2013, there was, putting it mildly, an uproar from the Playstation community when I didn’t include “The Last of Us.” In all honesty, there was no justifiable reason to include a title that ran at 720p and 30 frames per second in the same countdown as games like Battlefield 3. Developers face an uphill battle when designing games for consoles due to hardware limitations. Naughty Dog is one of the better console exclusive developers, because of their dedication to optimizing their game engine for PlayStation hardware. With the improved hardware of the PlayStation 4, Naughty Dog finally gets the opportunity to release the game the way it should be played.

“The Last of Us: Remastered” for the PlayStation 4 runs at a rock-solid 1080p, 60 frames per second. Taking place after the world is ravaged by a rapidly spreading infection from the cordyceps fungus, the game follows Joel and Ellie as they travel across the remains of the United States, trying to survive and hold on to the last remnants of humanity as they know it. The narrative is compelling, and the accompanying gameplay is just as enticing.

There are brutally violent moments, but the violence in “The Last of Us” is fitting and representative of the undertone. Post-apocalyptic America is hauntingly portrayed. The destroyed environments evoke empathy for the characters and their situation.

Naughty’s Dog’s artists outdid themselves in designing the environment. Realism in graphics is achieved by meticulous attention to detail. Character movements and animations are created through motion capture technology. Even with lower quality textures and less advanced graphical technology than PC games, “The Last of Us” manages to let the gamer suspend disbelief and truly immerse themselves in the world through convincing character movements and unimaginably detailed environmental design. “The Last of Us: Remastered”, stabs its way into 8th place on the countdown.

Another console exclusive game, “Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes”, is less of a game, and more of a tech demo for Konami Fox Engine, but that doesn’t mitigate the impressiveness of the game’s visuals. The game runs at 1080p, 60 frames per second. As a PC gamer, the game’s graphics surpassed my expectations of what the PS4 could accomplish. The game takes place during the height of the Cold War, and as Big Boss, you infiltrate an American black site in Cuba to rescue two prisoners. One of my favorite actors, Kiefer Sutherland, who many of you know as Jack Bauer, plays Big Boss, and does the voice acting and motion capture. The animations have an extra layer of convincingness due to the utility of motion capture technology.

The texture quality is nothing to scoff at and the graphics have excellent high performance antialiasing. The game’s director, Hideo Kojima, has quite the ego, but he also has a perfectionist drive to match. For Metal Gear Solid 5, he will oversee every possible detail of the gameplay and graphics until it meets the lofty standards he set. If you are an aficionado of high quality gaming graphics, Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes is definitely a game to tide you over until Metal Gear Solid 5 releases with the Fox Engine running in full gear.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes infiltrates into 7th place on the countdown. Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel game to the much venerated Arkham series of Batman games. Unlike many of the other action heroes on this countdown, Batman has no need for weapons as crude and uncouth as guns, and dispatches enemies his fists and sophisticated gadgetry. The gameplay is classic Batman: strike from the shadows.

The fighting controls are tight, combos are satisfying to execute, and the combat flows like choreography. Arkham Origins gives you an open world to explore as you exact vigilante justice on common thugs and supervillains such as the Penguin. Arkham Origins’ visuals are not as realism inspired as many other games on this countdown.

Instead, the art design is modeled after comic books. The game does look like a comic book coming to life, which gives it a uniqueness advantage over almost all mainstream titles. The PC version of the game is rife with advanced graphical technology. Nvidia’s gpu accelerated PhysX allows for dynamic smoke and Batman’s cape physics.

Nvidia’s TXAA technology allows for efficient, high quality anti-aliasing, and realistic shadows are rendered via advanced horizon based ambient occlusion. Although many critics panned the gameplay for being too similar to previous games in the series, Arkham Origins is still a very welcome breath of fresh air compared to the oversaturation of the triple A gaming market with shooter after shooter. Batman: Arkham Origins dive-bombs into 6th place on the countdown.

Sam Fisher appears to be pulling a Benjamin Button, becoming more agile and physically capable as he ages. The first of many UbiSoft games on this year’s countdown, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest game that follows Fisher and the Fourth Echelon Team, now independent of all government ties save for the President. Much like Batman, Sam Fisher operates from shadow to shadow, his presence little more than that of a ghost.

Blacklist allows the gamer to play with conventional stealth tactics, or run and gun. Returning from Splinter Cell Conviction is the mark and execute feature, which allows for quick dispatching of multiple targets. In a game where shadow and light are life and death, respectively, it is fitting that the shadowing and lighting effects are some of the best in gaming. Although Blacklist was developed from a rather old engine, Unreal Engine 3, modern Nvidia technology has allowed the graphics, much like Sam Fisher, to look a generation younger.

Nvidia’s advanced horizon based ambient occlusion creates realistic environments, and TXAA polishes jagged edges around geometry. Like the 2nd best game on last year’s countdown, Metro: Last Light, Blacklist includes a very underappreciated gameplay feature that has been present since the first Splinter Cell: You have the ability to shoot out lights to create your own shadows and paths around enemies. Motion capture based animations add to the realism of character movements, and stealth takedowns are more satisfying ever. Splinter Cell: Blacklist strangles its way into 5th place on the countdown. For the second Ubisoft game on the countdown, the Assassins take to the high seas as pirates in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. You play as Edward Kenway, grandfather of Connor Kenway, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed 3.

The waters of the Caribbean Islands are open for you to pillage and plunder as you see fit. If you were to break down the graphical analysis at a microscopic level, the game may not overwhelm, but as a whole, the visuals are stunning. You have large cityscapes to traverse, and the series’ sheer verticality is unmatched.

The game is rife with Nvidia graphical technologies. Advanced Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion and Global Illumination contribute to realism in scenery lighting, and TXAA returns as an efficient form of antialiasing. GPU accelerated PhysX makes for dynamic particle and smoke effects, increasing the intensity and immersion of gunfights with black powder weaponry. Naval battles are epic engagements, especially when multiple factions are involved. The game provides near-endless secrets to discover, treasures to uncover, vistas to observe.

Visiting Nassau in the game is the next best thing to visiting Nassau in real life. A strong entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise of games, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag does a leap of faith into 4th place on the countdown. As the third consecutive Ubisoft game on the countdown, Watch_Dogs received a lot of prerelase controversy because the final release graphics on consoles did not remotely resemble the graphics of the game build Ubisoft had shown at gaming press conferences.

Nonetheless, the PC version of the game does have easily accessible game files that recreates the splendored graphics in the demo build. The game takes place in a near future imagining of Chicago, where all electronics are connected via a central operating system, or ctOS. You play as Aiden Pearce, a skilled hacker who takes advantage of the communications hyperconnectivity to complete objectives. WIth control of the city’s infrastructure, you can manipulate traffic lights to cause accidents, rupture pipelines, control bridges, and even cause blackouts.

Watch_Dogs features best the implementation of Nvidia’s graphical lightning technologies of any game, and this allows for creating high fidelity scenes of nighttime Chicago. The game looks even more realistic during rainy weather scenes, as the reflections are extremely high quality and add to the visual realism. The geometry shaders are first-rate, the long draw distances are impressive, and the depth of field gives additional substance to each scene. The reason Watch_Dogs did not make the finals of this countdown are that smaller details, such as weapon and npc character models, do not have the same level of polish as the rest of the world. Regardless, Watch_Dogs is an immersive graphical experience.

There are hours of gameplay to be found just walking around, ignoring missions to look at the expertly crafted virtual landscape. Watch_Dogs hacks into 3rd place on the countdown. The runner up in this year’s best graphics countdown, ArmA 3 is a game that prides itself on being the most true-to-life combat experience that you can have sitting behind a monitor in an air-conditioned bedroom. Everything about the game tries to be as realistic as possible, and realistic visuals definitely help in the immersion.

Sandbox mode allows you to play on the island of Altis, with an area of 270 square kilometers in which to roam around. All the character models, weapon models, structures, vehicles, and vegetations are meticulously designed. The ArmA 3 engine, Virtual Reality by Bohemia Interactive, is a technological marvel, allowing for sophisticated graphical effects and some of the longest draw distances in all of gaming. The game engine was created with modder resources in mind, so some of the weaker textures can be further improved upon.

ArmA 3 was not optimized, meaning poor framerate performance with low system resource usage, so it takes a strong PC to be able to run the game at its high graphical settings. Even then, the game was designed with longevity in mind, and the graphics will continue to impress well into the future as technology evolves and gamers are better able to run the game with playable framerates. ArmA 3 scotches to 2nd place on the countdown.

Winning the top spot on this year’s countdown, Battlefield 4 is the benchmark by which all other games’ graphics are compared. Every gameplay moment plays out like a set-piece in a Michael Bay movie. The Frostbite 3 engine enables unparalleled environment destructibility, even allowing for an entire skyscraper to collapse.

Destruction is not just eye candy: you can destroy or create cover to generate choke points for a tactical advantage. Battles take place on very diverse settings, from snowy mountains to urban jungles, and from islands to deserts. No two battles play out in the same way, because of how many unique ways you can destroy the environment. The textures are polished and models are detailed. Ambient occlusion technology allows for realistically lighted scenes. The maps are large, with long draw distances that make extreme range sniping very satisfying.

With high-speed low-drag gameplay that matches the graphical intensity, Battlefield 4 jihads into 1st place on the countdown. This concludes my 2014 countdown of the best graphics in video games. You could have been watching any of the millions of other gaming videos on YouTube, but instead you’re here, listening to my semi-coherent droning. I really appreciate your time on my videos. Be sure to leave a comment on your choices for what games on the countdown were too high or too low, and what games you would have included instead, and be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss next year’s countdown.

My name’s David, and I’ll see you next video.