Bronze: Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics
As the years went by, there was no doubt that the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 weren't getting any younger. While we have continued to get great looking games, most of the games we've looked at in the past few years have clearly cut corners in order for the game to work on both of these platforms. Tomb Raider is one of those rare games that really can't be faulted as far as visuals go. The environments are large and well detailed, all of the models throughout are very sharp and the framerate remained rock solid, despite the game having some frenetic moments. Tomb Raider is a fantastic looking game overall and was proof that you could still make stellar looking games on 6-7 year old hardware.
- Ross Hartley
Silver: Grand Theft Auto V by Rockstar North
What an incredible technical achievement. Grand Theft Auto IV looked amazing back in 2008 but in comparison Grand Theft Auto V makes IV look like ranover dog dung. I briefly played the PlayStation 3 version of GTA IV, after V had already come out and it looks awful now. GTA V is a big step up.
There is no doubt that unlike something like Tomb Raider, there are some corners cut here and there. Not every ground texture looks great and the framerate can dip slightly when absolute chaos is going on. But aside from these minor things, GTA V looks incredible and it's easy to forgive these flaws because the game has so much going on. No one else can make open-worlds like Rockstar North. Los Santos and the surrounding area of Blaine County are massive but none of it feels randomly generated. You can tell that the designers have hand-crafted the world with unique details around every corner. Despite logging at least 100 hours in GTA V, I am sure there are loads of nice little touches that I've yet to discover. The game generally looks fantastic with great looking characters, superb animation and the best looking day/night cycle ever in a game. What else can I say? Even though we would probably all buy a next-generation version in a heartbeat, it still looks incredible now!
- Ross Hartley
Gold: Ryse: Son of Rome by Crytek
It feels cheap to give the best technical looking game award to an exclusive next-gen launch title as they're practically designed to be graphical showpieces, but Ryse: Son of Rome doesn't just earn this award because of how many polygons it has, but what it does with those polygons. What stands out are the main character's eyes and teeth. Indeed, his teeth! Teeth in almost all games look like thin stripes of 2D art, but in Ryse they are bold and solid like real teeth. Though more importantly are the previously mentioned eyes. Video game characters always have weird eyes, actually the most jarring thing about them, but Ryse is the first game ever where it was kinda insane how much that Ryse man looked like a real person and less like a polygon person. Yes, the burly main character's armor is detailed and environments and explosions and the lighting all are hella dope, but what struck me the most were the little things like good video game eyes and teeth. Ryse: Son of Rome is filled with other such lovingly-crafted little things, and that's simply fantastic.
- Isaac Wagner