Microsoft's Xbox line of consoles has always been known for pushing boundaries when it comes to graphics and horsepower.
Even its debut machine from 2001 still contains some admirable visual efforts by today's tremendously high standards. The 360 is an interesting case, at it had a long run, and existed in an era with particularly rapid change and diversity for game visuals. Thus, the console is littered with all sorts of games that span from crude to gorgeous; from stylish to bland.
In this list, we'll sift through the console's plethora of titles over its span of almost a decade on the market, and pick out 5 games that still look particularly pretty, along with 5 that really show their age.
10 Shows Its Age: Hour Of Victory
Yeah... This FPS is just about as generic-looking as it sounds.
Aside from running with typical tropes of the dull grey and brown palette many games (especially shooters) in the early 2000s used, the environments themselves are pretty bland. Most of the visuals in Hour of Victory from Midway look like they were plucked directly from Counter-Strike, a far more appealing shooter which predates it by several years. While it may not be fair to slag this game too hard considering it launched early in the 360's life; the bland art style, flat textures, and abundance of jaggies do it no favors.
9 Looks Great: Borderlands 2
Pandora may have decayed into a toxic, chaotic wasteland in the BL2 universe, but to our eyes, this hostile world holds up and looks as pretty as ever. Sure, these days it's all about the long-awaited Borderlands 3, but its predecessor still manages to hold its own visually, despite being over 8 years older than its flashier, younger brother.
Such is the benefit of more stylistic art; it allows your game to age more like a fine wine rather than old milk. Borderlands 2's colorful, cell-shaded flair gives this game a fun comic feel and a relatively timeless aesthetic. The developers have managed to do a lot with a little here, minimizing any crudeness or jaggedness with its flat, cartoony graphics; and it shows.
8 Shows Its Age: Perfect Dark Zero
Still, given the high standards of this game's far more refined predecessor on the N64, we just expected more; not just from a gameplay standpoint, but also from a visual one. And besides, Rare's other debut 360 game, Kameo, actually holds up somewhat, with its vibrant, cartoony vibe.
Perfect Dark Zero not only looks dated, crude, and blocky, but it has this odd, prominent glossiness. This, we suspect, is an attempt to mask the game's rough graphics and to make it look slicker than it really is, but it mostly just causes the aesthetic to look even stranger.
7 Looks Great: Forza Horizon
This title from Playground Games deserves props - not only was it one of the earliest examples of the "open-world" racer, but it still pretty much dazzles graphically, even when compared to its more modern, prettier sequels on Xbox One. The game displays a vast, diverse set of awe-inspiring Colorado landscapes, and beckons you to explore every nook and cranny.
Despite the game being a tad restricted to a less-than-smooth 30 FPS, the original Forza Horizon still manages to look visually impressive and feel thrillingly fast; thanks in part to the slick motion blur effect throughout.
6 Shows Its Age: Duke Nukem: Forever
It's sort of a bummer that this game looks as average as it does, given that it was the long-awaited follow-up to one of the most beloved FPS titles in gaming history; and one that sat on the cutting edge of 3D graphics at the time. This sequel, on the other hand, usually feels more like a typical, paint-by-numbers adult shooter, despite its goofy humor.
Still, fans shouldn't be too taken aback by Duke Nukem Forever's crude, aged appearance, given that the game was stuck in development purgatory for well over a decade. After all, back when the wheels started in motion for DNF, Goldeneye-esque blocky polygons still pretty much reigned supreme.
5 Looks Great: Halo 4
Fans of this iconic console FPS were a bit uneasy when it was announced that original devs Bungie would be handing the flag of the Halo series over to newcomers 343 Industries. And while this 4th iteration of Halo on the 360 doesn't quite ascend to the lofty heights of the original trilogy, it's still a solid shooter, and one of the prettier games on the console to boot.
Halo 4 contains some very sleek environmental and character models, enhanced with some highly impressive lighting and particle effects throughout. Subtle details like shining lens flare and dust particles blowing in the breeze really help paint the sci-fi scene.
4 Shows Its Age: Crackdown
This once-great open-world action romp is now pretty much known for its rough graphics and gameplay, thanks to a pretty tepid - if not borderline broken Crackdown 3. Yet, the original breakthrough on the 360 did at least have some appealing gameplay. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the blocky visuals, which try to balance realism with stylistic flair, while not succeeding in pulling off either.
The game's environments feel pretty bland and often empty, and the abundance of flat textures and jaggies make this look like a late effort for the original Xbox.
3 Looks Great: Resident Evil 5
While this classic survival horror franchise has since been dialed back to a sort of gritty, minimalistic realism, the 5th and 6th installments represented the height of visual bombast for Resident Evil. And while the gameplay was questionable at times - ditching some of the nuances for mindless action - the games look as slick as ever.
RE5, in particular, is a thrilling, theatric ride, that's rife with some detailed, open environments, epic cutscenes and polished 3D models in-game. The level of style and refinement in the zombie character models makes for some intimidating baddies.
2 Shows Its Age: Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust
The rough sequel to this once amusing franchise is quite the bust indeed... It's like the developers knew what gamers were in for ahead of time.
While this action-adventure game tries very hard to present a goofy, cartoony aesthetic with its colorful visuals, it mostly just comes off as cheap and rushed. It's also a peculiar choice given the game's often lewd, "mature" themes that clash with the style. Yet, unlike Conker's Bad Fur Day, a game with similar conflicting themes, this just feels odd rather than charming.
The awkward, up-close facial animation of the character models look like a demo from an early iteration of Maya software, and the blocky, bland environments seem to be ripped out of a late N64 platformer.
1 Looks Great: Gears Of War 3
While the recently released Gears 5 is currently hogging the spotlight on the Xbox front, this grandiose shooter from Epic Games is the Gears franchise at its finest. Not only is it arguably the high point of this gritty series, but it's also one of the all-time best looking games on the 360, which still shines today.
Epic seems to milk just about everything they can out of their more-than-capable Unreal Engine 3. Gears of War 3 showcases tons of pretty, atmospheric environments, smooth and glossy models, and gore-laden action that looks just as gruesomely detailed as ever.