Gaming is a visual form of interactive entertainment. There’s a foundation beneath each game you hold in your hands, that was created by a team of artists. Maybe some of them dabbled in traditional forms of expression. Maybe some of them created textures for a patch of grass in a level that you blitzed through. But they all contributed towards a final product that usually looks utterly stunning, whether it be running at the usual 1080p experience or its searing your eyeballs with 4K enhancements.
This award goes to those unsung heroes, those developers who put in the hours to create a universe with a distinct look. We’re in an age now where games don’t just look more realistic than ever before, but also boast visuals where every frame is a painting. So which game looked the best in 2016? It could only be…
Every year, gaming inches that little bit closer to finally bridging the uncanny valley divide. This year, Uncharted 4 didn’t just step forward, it leaped beyond what should be possible right now. Nathan Drake has never looked better than he did in Uncharted 4, but there’s so much more than just character models who look and move the way that a regular person does.
Uncharted 4 had it all. Environments which were stunning and varied. Textures which made clothing pop. Lighting effects that were dynamic to say the least and incredible in even the smallest details such as when Nathan’s ears had some sunshine illuminating them. Uncharted 4 is simply an artistic tour de force, but it’s also the smaller moments that really made it feel special.
Sly chuckle, winks and nods between the cast that got players emotionally invested in this final chapter. It’s an incredible achievement, not only in a technical sense, but also in a heartfelt way.
Runner-up: Dishonored 2
If Uncharted 4 is console gaming pushed to the bleeding edge, then Dishonored 2 is very much a more stylised take on action. Dishonored 2 is like watching an oil painting in motion, a decadently coloured palette that conveyed not just style but a sense of class as well. Dishonored 2 is also teeming with Easter eggs for the eagle-eyed viewer, never dropping a beat with its fine art fatalities.
Whenever someone asks me to describe Overwatch to them, I always tell them to imagine their favourite Saturday morning cartoon come to life. Overwatch is colourful, a far cry from the usual Blizzard Entertainment aesthetic and it benefits from that shift. Consistently fun to look at, it’s vibrant stuff that is also massively approachable in a way that fans don’t just appreciate. They emulate it as well.
Sometimes, the old adage of less is more can ring beautifully true. Take Firewatch for instance, a game whose palette is more limited yet more vibrant in its approach. Firewatch is distinctive from the first minute, burning bright with a passion that is hard to deny. It’s the kind of game, where you could very easily just lose yourself in.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was unique for its time, thanks to a style that felt like the Renaissance injected with cyberpunk themes. Mankind Divided didn’t stray too far from that template, but it also dirtied up the approach somewhat. Technology was aging, people were scavenging and the class gap grew ever wider in a world where the mechanically augmented were kept separate from the more normal side of humanity.
That made for an ugly game, which is precisely why Mankind Divided stood out. The filth, the grime, all lovingly recreated into something that looked unique and sparked. The second Renaissance was ending in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, as the ugly side of humanity began to creep into the world and reflect a more segregated populace.
Last Updated: December 14, 2016