All I seem to hear about lately is graphical output. The PS3 and Xbox360 crowd have laid waste to each other for the guts of a decade now over which one was graphically superior. The Wii supporters hid in the corner and said nothing, hoping that the others would leave quietly and of their old accord. The PC heads looked down their noses at all the console loving peasants from the top of their ivory tower, sipping fine wine and eating expensive cheese; happy in the knowledge that they’re simply better than everyone else due to the sole reason that they’re graphics were of the highest quality. This was the everyday run of things, and it would always flow in the same direction, propelled by hate and hate alone. Every thread on the internet seems to be filled with console gamers in taken aback by a new title, and PC players laughing at them for it. Nobody seems to like the idea that someone may have something shinier than them, and so everyone seems to get incredibly hung up on the idea of who’s game looks better. The thing I don’t quite get is why anyone truly cares about a game’s graphics.
There no denying that a good looking game is eye catching. Nice character models are indeed nice, but they’re not the be all and end all of the game. In fact, when it all boils down, they don’t really mean a whole lot at all. If a game itself is captivating, then the often graphics take a back seat to the overall experience. There are a few unforgivably ugly games out there, don‘t get me wrong. The facial mapping on Iron Man 2 immediately springs to mind. This wasn’t to do with the gen’s power, as much as it had to do with the game simply being a cheap corporate cash in on the Iron Man movie license. The characters looked more like creepy dolls than people, but then again, the whole game was shite, so the graphics therein were the least of it’s worries. On the flipside though, there are some amazing games that still brought absolutely nothing to the table in the way of graphical content. The original Grand Theft Auto games blew the entire industry up back in the 90’s, yet in comparison to the other games that were doing the rounds on Playstation at the time, it was ugly as sin. A top down cityscape filled with pixelated sprites and vehicles? Bloodstains on the road that looked like blobs of ketchup after an unrealistic hit and run. Small balls exited the barrels of guns, and we were to believe these were bullets? A high pitched squeak instead of voiceovers? Everything about GTA went against the grain. It was so far removed from it’s time that it looks like it would have been more fitted to the generation before it, than the one it was released in. Yet, it worked. It worked in motherfucking spades! It was proof that there was a hell of a lot more to a game than the amount of polygons you could stuff into a character’s face. Just look at the monster that this ugly little title named GTA created. It’s now one of the biggest gaming franchises on the face of the Earth.
The recent influx of indie games kinda renders the very idea of great graphics being essential for a great gaming experience for the big fecking lie that it really is. Again, barriers have been broken by games that look more outdated than your old collection of Scooter CDs. The only way someone could sum up Minecraft is to simply say that it blew the fuck up! It’s simple as simple as any game could possible be. A character (made of blocks) travels around a world (made of blocks) which is occupied by animals (made of blocks), forestry (made of blocks) and monsters(… made of blocks). This leaves the little blocky dude to basically Lego his way around, building all sorts of shit, just for the fun of building shit. Everyone I know who has played Minecraft has sunk more hours in than they’d like to admit, and none of them seem to have any regrets. Building blocky designs with the freedom this game gives them, allows them to take advantage of their own blocky creativity. Just have a look around the internet at some of the huge, complex designs that people have made inside this graphically inferior universe. From huge temples, to entire towns. Sky high sprites of their favourite characters, hollowed out caves that must have taken months to complete. All because this game concentrated more on giving it’s players the freedom to simply play, than it did put all it’s energy into making everything look ridiculously fucking shiny.
Swapping intensely realistic graphics for a cool art style can really go a long way too. It’s a trick that not enough games take any more. They seem a little too busy making things more realistic, and have forgotten that cartooning things up can sometimes look a hell of a lot better than real life. Borderlands looks like a living comic book, embracing it’s outrageousness. Alice: Madness Returns is one of the best looking games of this generation. It looked like a someone had been listening to too much turn-of-the-century heavy metal, and invaded a fairy tale. Starting off incredibly bright and beautiful, the game soon took a decent into a dark, gothic feel. It never left it’s fairy tale look behind though, instead just contorted it into a disturbing and haunting shape. The Beatles Rockband is one of the most eye catching games I’ve seen in years. Huge bursts of intense psychedelic colours engulf the screen and fill the room. The characters are cartoonish and fit into this drug induced world perfectly as the music and incredible array of visuals assault the player’s senses, completely captivating them and keeping them locked within the game. It’s so bright, with colours so vibrant that even on my old CTR TV it looks like it’s HD. The recently released Bioshock: Infinite also looks really pretty due to it’s amazing art style.
The bottom line here is that people put far too much fate in graphics, instead of wondering what’s behind them. I really don’t think any gamer worth his salt should really give a shite concerning graphics, as they’ll all look old and outdated in a few short years regardless. In a world where so many games look incredible but play like shit, throwing down pre-orders due to how well the graphics look seems down right ridiculous to me. No amount of soldier dimples can make the gameplay any better, and that’s what a lot of people seem to be forgetting. Gameplay is the main thing that should drive a game, in my opinion, and story should be a close second helps here too. Graphics though, they should be taking a back seat to what really matters. I’d much rather play a game that looks like scraped shite but played like a dream come true than I would play a pretty game that has no depth or personality. When you get all these elements running in sync though, then you’ve really got a winner. Until then though, it’ll take a lot more than soldier dimples to impress me.