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Critical Hit Game Awards 2020: Best Art Direction

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We’re living in an age where photorealistic games aren’t too far beyond the realm of possibility. Every year video game visuals evolve in leaps and bounds, further lessening the uncanny valley gap and coming oh so close for being recognised as a slice of real life. But video game graphics aren’t just about realism.

It’s how they’re used, how they tell a story, and the impression that they leave behind. A pixel is worth a thousand words in the era of 4K visuals, and these are the games that pushed the graphical envelope to beautiful new heights in 2020. Let’s start with some honourable mentions!

Hades

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps

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DOOM Eternal

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If Found

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

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And the winner is…Ghost of Tsushima

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I think it’s a testament to the strength of Ghost of Tsushima that its thrilling action was regularly interrupted by people wanting to pause the action and snap a few screens in its fantastic photo mode.Developer SuckerPunch’s feudal Japanese sandbox is nothing short of gorgeous, but it’s done in a manner that heightens the realism and is respectful to its source material.

Here is a land, juxtaposed between raw beauty and sophisticated progress, begging to be explored. All too often a sandbox is mere set dressing that’s easily ignored due to its biomes having been experienced a thousand times already, but Ghost of Tsushima is an unrelenting tour of ancient Japan that regularly results in your jaw hitting the floor. You’d wander into a broken village where embers of devastation danced on the wind or you’d stroll into a field of blood-red flowers and face down a horde of invaders.

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You’d turn snow into a bloody paste when assassins came after you, you’d bask in the beauty of a temple that time forgot or you’d mourn the devastation brought forth to a once vibrant forest, the land now scorched and the trees hollow burnt-out husks. And that’s where Ghost of Tsushima stands out from the pack.

Already a brilliant action game with an intense story, Ghost of Tsushima is never visually boring. It makes the most of its world to deliver a memorable experience, showcasing just how brilliant the PlayStation 4 was at the very end of its lifecycle. It is a sumptuous feast for the eyes, a benchmark in storytelling through visuals alone, and a fitting end to one of the greatest console generations of all time.

Last Updated: December 4, 2020

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