Discussion: How Important Are Visuals in Current-Gen Games?

By | 1 year ago 

It’s that wonderful time of year when game developers and publishers gear up for the busy holiday buying season by announcing and promoting their biggest upcoming titles of the year. It’s a time for celebration among gamers as long-awaited sequels and exciting new IPs are demoed and marketed on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there’s always at least one thing to dampen gamers’ spirits. In years past it’s been the long string of game delays or game-breaking bugs, like those that plagued last year’s biggest games. This year, it seems the major talking point is whether the visuals of these forthcoming current-gen titles actually lives up to the billing.

The reason many find the visuals so disappointing is that they were convinced the current-gen consoles, namely the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, were built with the power and ability to deliver high-end visuals and quality gameplay, and at double the frame rate as their predecessors. However, lately it seems neither console has been able to come close to reaching what many gamers were assumed would be the norm by now.

PS4 vs. Xbox One Visuals

In fact, it came as a huge surprise to most gamers that neither the PlayStation 4 nor the Xbox One launched with the ability to natively run games at 1080p resolution. Rather, both consoles had to upscale their respective 900p and 720p resolutions to mimic a Full HD experience. On top of that, most games continue to run at 30 frames per second, with the occasional 60 frames per second game making headlines in gaming news.

Twitch Founder states Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony should develop set-top boxes

For most gamers, that disparity has been met with harsh criticism. They were promised much more powerful, visually-capable consoles with the current-gen line-up. So where is all that beauty? Where’s the realism?

To make matters worse, game developers repeatedly show off impressive “in-engine” footage during demos that make gamers salivate with excitement. However, when it comes time to show real gameplay, the graphics seem to have taken a step back.

The Bait and Switch of Current-Gen Games

This tactic, understandably, causes many gamers to feel lied to or tricked – like the developer is raising the hopes of the gamers to build hype for the game, even though the final product will be far less visually impressive than an on-stage demo. And when that happens over and over, gamers begin to wonder if the high-quality visuals promised by console makers are even possible, or if PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners are instead relegated to graphics that are barely better than last gen consoles.

That being said, there’s no denying these new consoles are faster and more powerful than their predecessors. So where is all that power going? For the most part, it’s going to the gameplay experience, rather than the visuals, but there are exceptions.

The Witcher 3 GOG Steam

Take the recently released Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game is massive, and provides gamers will well over 200 hours of content, if they choose to do everything available. Beyond that, there’s so much happening in the world, that gamers can be tempted to stand and watch all the people and creatures move and engage around them. Couple that with vistas and detail that are among the best we’ve ever seen in a console game and it’s hard not to call The Witcher 3 a showpiece. CD Projekt Red’s game burst onto the scene with a a stacked deck, while other games haven’t been as lucky.

Fallout 4’s Visuals Fail to Impress

This year, some gamers were disappointed by the visuals of Bethesda’s Fallout 4. Many had hoped the game would blow them away with its reveal, but there was plenty of talk regarding the lack of detail in the environments and especially in the character models. But at the same time, Bethesda showed off an impressive amount of additions coming to Fallout 4‘s gameplay, which will undoubtedly make it the most engaging, in-depth game the developer has ever created.

They promised deeper customization and nuanced gameplay, which seems to be where Bethesda is focusing the bulk of the current-gen consoles’ power. The developer wants to make Fallout 4 a premiere gameplay experience, even if its looks can’t compare to the likes of Batman: Arkham Knight or Uncharted 4.

Batman Fighting the Arkham Knight

This all begs the question: are gamers willing to let lower-quality graphics slip by, as long as the games provide an immersive, expansive experience? Or would they rather have last-gen size games with incredible graphics? Sure, there are plenty of exceptions, but many games have chosen one or the other – either the visuals are top notch and the gameplay is fairly standard, or the gameplay is extremely varied but the visuals are nothing too impressive.

What do you think about visuals in games? Should developers provide better visuals in games, especially after providing such beautiful demos? Or does it not even matter, since so many developers are expanding their games beyond anything they’ve ever done before? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.