Retrospective: Vic B’Stard’s State of Play talks in-game graphics

Retro B'Stard.

When writing game reviews there are things that you want to say that you just can’t.

As informal as a  review is, some restraint is required, else it become simply a rant. That’s the origin of Vic B’Stard’s State of Play. Whilst Vic B’Stard (or more often VicBStard) has been my online handle for donkey’s years, my alter-ego was first given a voice on the Game Console pages of (where I now write the daily gaming news).

My State of Play blog enabled me to pretty much say what I wanted to say (although my editor at the time, the marvelous Chris Leggett, drew the line at me referring to the then mayor of Wanganui, motor-mouth Micheal Laws, as a knob-end).  Reproduced below you will find my thoughts on the (then) current situation regarding in-game graphics, as laid down straight after I fell in love with God of War 3.

Enjoy some retro Vic B’Stard.

God of War 3
The God...

When God of War 3 is released on 18 March I can imagine a few game developers resting their heads in their hands, seriously considering a change of occupation; their best efforts looking like turkeys against Kratos’s latest splatter-fest.

God of War 3
Epic graphical adventure

As a video game reviewer I’m well aware that judging a game by the quality of its graphics alone is the same as judging a book by its cover. In the dim and distant past a game with superior graphics would stand out to such an extent that it would automatically achieve critical acclaim. At the same time a game that looked a bit basic but offered satisfying game play would also be celebrated.

Today’s game developers are not so lucky. They can polish that turd of a game until it shines like a supernova, it will still end up in the bargain bin. Similarly, that amazingly immersive game with 16-bit Mega-drive graphics, well, nobody is going to know just how great it is as they won’t be able to see past the awful graphics. In this day and age there’s no excuse for pumping out a game with rubbish graphics.

Killzone 3
...the mad...

Today’s gaming machines literally throw resources at developers. There are also tried and tested off-the-shelf game engines, physics engines and even programs to sort out lovely trees, all there to assist developers.  Game-play and originality, it seems, are the bane of today’s video games creators. With graphics in the bag, game-play is what the big money should be spent on, but I’ll stop there, that is whole subject it itself.

Aliens vs. Predator
Epic graphical misadventure

All today’s games are graphical marvels compared against the last generation of consoles. Ten years ago even the latest half-arsed movie tie-in game would have hailed as the second coming. Apart from the odd ill-conceived title, all modern in-game graphics can usually be considered pretty good. This has raised my expectations to a point where it is the quality of this “goodness” that is now under scrutiny.

I recently had a great time reviewing Aliens vs. Predator on the PS3 for the next print version of Games Console. A month before, I had access to some preview code for the PC version. Compared to the PC’s finely detailed textures, the PS3 AvP graphics looked flat and blurry; good but not great. I know that it is hardly fair to compare a high-spec PC to the humble mid-life PS3. But the likes of Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2 are shockingly well rendered, so why not AvP?

Aliens Vs. Predator
...and the ugly.
Uncharted 2
...the lovely...

As you may have guessed, I consider the current pinnacle of graphical achievement is best illustrated by two titles, Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2, in my eyes nothing else comes close. Interestingly, especially as I’m more on an Xbox 360 fan, they are both PS3 exclusives. As great as Modern Warfare 2 is, the character models look like a cartoon compared to Killzone 2, don’t even get me started on MW2’s blurry up-scaled graphics. Some parts of Uncharted 2 offer the best lighting simulation that I’ve ever seen in a game, console or PC, alike. The Killzone and Uncharted sequels on the PS3 are the yard sticks to which I compare every other game’s graphics. And then along comes Sony’s God of War 3.

You’ve probably read a few of the early gushing reviews by now. Yes, it is good, but if you want the full skinny on God of War 3 from me you’ll have to pick up the next copy of Game Console bundled with Netguide Magazine (or check out my “Retrospective” review coming soon).

God of War 3
Epic mythical adventure

Graphically, God of War 3 is jaw dropingly good. It is amazing. There’s none of those little jagged steps around the edges of the game objects, this baby runs at full 1080p. Visually, it blows Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2 out of the water. Contrary to what some pundits are saying it’s not “Hollywood quality”, we are not there yet, but it is remarkably close to some of the CGI TV shows of late.

Uncharted 3
Epic archeological adventure

Not only have Sony’s boys created the first “proper” hi-def console game, they have done it to an epic scale with huge open spaces and humongous cavernous dungeon populated by a massive amount of finely detailed creatures of myth that range from small in stature to lumbering behemoths.

Whilst I would rather not see the inevitable flurry of button-mashing God of War clones (cough, Darksiders, cough), I will certainly welcome more games trying to match GOW3’s high quality visuals. But please, remember that GOW3 isn’t just about the looks, it also plays well, so, game devs, don’t forget about the game-play.