It’s the inside that counts. Many games may look pretty nowadays, but may not have narrative or gameplay elements that are quite up to par. The unfortunate entries on this list of mediocre games with beautiful graphics are perfect examples of why some substance is needed behind the phenomenal presentation values we indulge ourselves in today.
Mediocre Games With Beautiful Graphics – Star Wars Battlefront II
Some may argue that EA and DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront II is a good game today, though that certainly wasn’t the case when the title launched late last year. It had a lot going for it, including a campaign mode, space battles, and the promise of no season passes. Though fans did get all of this at release, they were also met with an in-game currency system reminiscent of some free-to-play mobile titles.
The gaming industry as a whole is still feeling the ramifications of this loot box controversy, with governments around the world looking into the model to determine whether or not it should conform to gambling laws. Battlefront II‘s in-game currency overshadowed its gorgeous sci-fi visuals, which recreated the Star Wars universe in perfect detail. That’s not to mention the title’s sound design, which puts fans right in the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE fighter.
Mediocre Games With Beautiful Graphics – The Order: 1886
Developer Ready At Dawn is well known in the PlayStation community for its work on PSP exclusives Daxter, God of War: Chains of Olympus, and God of War: Ghost of Sparta. The hype around its first home console title, The Order: 1886, was understandably momentous, considering how each of the games the studio had made so far were system sellers.
Early demos of The Order made its impressive presentation values clear. Rendered in a wide-screen format to give off a more “cinematic feel,” each bullet could be seen firing from a gun and splinters fly off wood in astonishing detail. Characters look real due to the excellent motion capture work that simple actions like picking up picture frames look incredibly lifelike.
Unfortunately, little else about The Order: 1886 is special. Fights with enemies are fairly generic, the plot doesn’t resolve the game’s main conflicts, and a lot of the cast is shallow and one-note, which is a shame given how beautiful they look. Here’s hoping a sequel does this new franchise justice, if it even gets one.
Mediocre Games With Beautiful Graphics – Agony
Agony is perhaps the best realized version of hell in gaming. It’s horrifically grotesque, offering hungry horror fans no shortage of gore, mutilation, nudity, and demon babies. There’s no escaping this literal hellscape of screams, which seem to grow more deafening as players venture deeper into Agony‘s pretty pit of despair.
Unfortunately, actually playing the game can prove to be quite, uh, hellish. Littered with bugs, poor voice acting, a terrible save system, grinding, and plot inconsistencies, Agony may have players wishing that they themselves were in the real netherworld. At least there’s good company down there.
Mediocre Games With Beautiful Graphics – Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse: Son of Rome is an Xbox One launch exclusive that showed us a preview of the eighth console generation’s technical potential. Developed by Crytek, the game boasts fluid animations that make players feel like they’re a skilled Roman centurion who knows what they’re doing on the battlefield. A vast array of enemies appear onscreen at once, vying to spar with fans and draw some blood. Once protagonist Marius Titus does inflict some damage on opponents, it’s satisfying to see blood drip down his shield and armor.
Though combat is impressive considering how realistic it looks, attacks and executions become stale fast. Enemies are unintelligent and patiently wait for you to murder them. Ryse may have marvelous visuals, but its gameplay is boring at best. There’s hardly any complexity to be found in the title’s narrative either. While it’s a shame that this new property from Crytek and Microsoft hasn’t seen a sequel yet, fans can’t blame either company for moving on to more sophisticated pursuits.
Mediocre Games With Beautiful Graphics – Need for Speed: The Run
Modern racing games are pretty. The same can be said of Need for Speed: The Run, which released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii back in November 2011. Tracks and surrounding environments are beautiful. Locations like New York and San Francisco are faithfully recreated in-game and car models gleam under the virtual sun.
The game doesn’t do a whole lot outside of this. Its linearity and lackluster progression system steered racers away from online play, forcing them to endure a boring sequence of events that are seemingly tied into one another, but are never properly pulled together. The AI in the title is fairly unsophisticated, too, at times allowing players to win races by purposefully slowing down as they near the finish line.
Mediocre Games With Beautiful Graphics – Lair
Developed by Factor 5, the famed studio behind Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, it seemed as though PlayStation exclusive Lair was poised for success when it released shortly after PlayStation 3’s launch in November 2006. It was frequently showcased in promotional materials for the console given its beautifully crafted world and art direction. The screenshot above exemplifies the detailed open environments that are available to players almost from the start.
Lair‘s most glaring flaw is its control scheme. Though fans are given the ability to mount a dragon and fly wherever did see fit, they’re meant to control the beast using the PlayStation 3’s Sixaxis motion sensor. Navigating the game’s world is nearly impossible without traditional analog sticks, as the Sixaxis functionality is far too sensitive to properly fly in the air. Factor 5 had patched in support for a new control scheme after the title has released, though the damage had already been done by then. The studio later closed its doors, partially as a result of poor sales from the title.
Looks aren’t everything. As video games become more photorealistic by the day, it’s important to not rest on our laurels as passionate contributors to the medium. Sure, a title may look impressive, but can its gameplay and story be held to the same standard? It’s also important to not immediately dismiss games whose graphics aren’t as great as others in the AAA market. There’s something to learn from most titles in the medium today. With an open mind, we can learn to appreciate everything that developers come up with (with the exception of knock-offs and shovelware, of course).