Remember, The PS4 And Next Xbox Have More To Offer Than Just Prettier Graphics

It's such a crude yardstick, yet it's the one most people use when trying to gauge the leap between console generations. Graphics. How a game looks. It's great for sizzle reels and screenshot comparisons, but at the end of the day, it's not where the real leaps in video games are made.

Those are made under the surface. With each progression in hardware the horsier horsepower can make things prettier, sure, but they also make things bigger, faster, more complex. Seeing Zelda make the jump from 2D to 3D was amazing, but when people get misty-eyed about Ocarina of Time, they don't sit there for hours talking about the graphics. They talk about the massive and living world Nintendo was able to build underneath them.

What's funny about the difference between those two reactions is the timing involved. You're usually only impressed with a game's visuals when you first see them. It's only later, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years down the track that you can appreciate the other advances a hardware generation has made for games.

So with the PS4 only having just been announced, and the next Xbox yet to come, we've only got the visuals to be impressed by. Only our most immediate and superficial impressions. And the graphics haven't been that impressive. Sure, they're better than what you'd see on a PS3, but as most people are probably aware, we're in the field of diminishing returns with each leap in hardware since the dawn of the 3D age in the mid-1990s. We'll likely never be as floored as we were when the PlayStation, N64 and Saturn rolled around, because we'll likely never experience such a sharp shift in the way our games can be played. Mehs are to be expected.

Killzone's PS4 gameplay looked fantastic, then, but as many PC gamers currently playing through Crysis 3 — or even modded versions of older games — could tell you, it wasn't that great. It doesn't take a visit to too many forums, or comments sections, or Twitter feeds to pick up on the fact that many gamers just aren't that excited about the graphics of the games shown so far for the PS4. The next Xbox likely won't be much different.

Despite the incremental advance in visuals though, these new machines are still a lot more powerful than their predecessors. So remember: that power is going to be put to use on more — and dare I say more important — things than just how pretty things look.

It'll mean bigger worlds. More believable AI. More realistic physics. More characters on screen, more things to kill/solve/race, more realistic handling, just generally more.

As an example, let's look back to the earliest years of the current generation, at the two games I think best exemplify what a real advance in hardware is capable of. The first is Dead Rising. It looked... OK, but the way it managed to include so many damn zombies on the screen at once created a unique and brand new experience the likes we'd never seen before. Mostly because older hardware simply couldn't do it. The second is Grand Theft Auto IV for similar reasons; sure, there had been GTA games on older consoles, but the level of fidelity and life Rockstar built into Liberty City made full use of the hardware for more than just prettier cars.

Those are the kind of games to look forward to. Not the initial batch of generational cross-overs, those sexy cinematic trailers shown at press conferences which are basically prettier editions of things you can already play. If you want to get excited about something in the future, get excited about the games we see in a year or two that use the new console's power to the full extent.

Just think: if the epic Skyrim could run on hardware released in 2005, imagine how big the world could will be, and believable the characters feel, in an Elder Scrolls game running on hardware released in 2013.


    There was an article on this very site saying people weren't blown away by PS4 graphics. Ita about a lotmore than that these days thankfully. Good read!

    Honestly, I think this kind of article will need to be fed to games several times throughout the year, because it will take some time to sink in. You can bet that even when the consoles come out later this year, you'll still see people angry at how the graphics jump isn't as big as they thought it would be...... lol

      Sadly, people will be angry no matter how many times an article like this is printed.

      I think they fail to realise, that simply jumping from 720p to 1080p isn't simple, that alone is quite a graphical jump.

    im more excited by the fact that consoles wont be holding games back again.

    Eg, Skyrim (without mods) couldve looked a lot better but they had to scale it back for consoles

      Consoles will always be holding back games that have the potential to have amazing graphic fidelity.

        The difference this time is that the new consoles' hardware will be far closer to contemporary PC hardware than the previous generations. Everyone will have x86 CPUs, everyone will have GPUs that have unified shader architectures and are good at both graphics and compute, everyone will (or at least, will be able to) have a comfortable amount of RAM available. PCs and the new consoles will be siblings, where PCs and the current gen were awkward cousins.

      There is a pretty obvious redundancy in this argument. Without consoles, Skyrim had about 1/3rd (if not 1/4) of the market. Which means less money. Which means worse games.

      Consoles might cause a few crappy ports here and there, but the business they bring is the reason a lot of these games exist in the first place.

    Elder Scrolls 2 Daggerfall has a bigger world then 10 Skyrims put together and it came out in 1996. The thing is to make bigger worlds requires more developer input which in turn requires more money spent on the game. They could of made Skyrim bigger on the current generation I don't think the consoles were the limiting factor but the budget was.

      Yeah, but most of Daggerfall's terrain was randomly generated.

      How can FF7 on the PSone have 3 Discs and that was huge. Yet we now can finsih games in a weekend.

    seriously though, my sentiments exactly.

    I was pretty damn impressed by the Killzone demo. The gameplay was nothing new, but graphically I thought it was a serious step up from what we've seen on consoles to date. And that's a launch title which still has about 8-9 months of polishing left to and was built on the assumption that the final hardware would have 4Gb of RAM, not 8Gb.

    The Digital Foundry analysis makes for good reading.

      Most impressive is that the game sustains 30fps effortlessly at 1080p, something that even current generation console won't do on 720p (let alone the the countless sub-HD titles).

      I agree, the skyscrapers were breathtaking. I feel the people saying the graphical differences will be small, are the type that don't believe graphics matter at all. Graphics are part of games and like gameplay, story and features need to be part of the balance as they increase immersion significantly.

      Last edited 27/02/13 1:02 pm

    For me its simple! I take the PS4 for what it is and nothing more. I have a PC and I love my graphic, but I have to say that always playing in front of a 24 inch monitor isolated in my little room isn't always fun. Now with the PS4 I will finally be able to enjoy all the games I play on the PC on my 42 inch screen with the same graphic quality with 60FPS game play in the comfort of my living room. and with the extra option to keep playing the same game streamed on a vita everywhere in the house is already more then I need. I think the one thing that people forget about console compared to PC is that on console you can play on huge screen size which give you a much better immersion feel than a 24 or at best 27 inches screen. For me the only draw back at the moment with PS3 is that all the games on my 42 inch TV looks very pixelized so I prefer playing on the PC. but now with the PS4, everything is gonna look as polished as on my PC even when playing on a massive screen! and that my friend, is gonna make a hell of a difference. MMOs like guild wars 2 and Diablo 3 on PS4 sounds like heaven already.

    Can't wait.

    Maybe we'll get some decent rain and characters that can sleep under bedsheets.

    It’ll mean bigger worlds. More believable AI. More realistic physics. More characters on screen, more things to kill/solve/race, more realistic handling, just generally more.

    Yes, this, so much this.

    Great read, and I agree wholeheartedly!

    I've been thinking a bout this very topic a lot actually, and I think that the obsession with "graphics" has a lot to do with marketing and how games are sold. When publishers wish to push out billboards and posters, even short videos to some extent, what is being judged is how the game *looks*.

    One of the things I am looking forward to with moving to an 8 core x86 architecture is the gameplay elements that the extra parallel processing can provide. Moreso with using AMD hardware, where openCL will provide some awesome GPGPU utilisation.

    But yeah.... how do you convey this on a poster? Hopefully with video becoming more accessible as a medium, even with advertising [electronic billboards and whatnot], and the rise of youtube, this will become less of an issue.

    The last barrier, of course, is the user. We need to come up with more effective ways of convincing a prospective customer that the advanced AI/physics/NPC interaction etc really is a shining example of why you should get the game.

    I completely agree, I haven't bought a Wii U yet because I want to assess my options before moving to next gen and there aren't any games on it YET that makes me wanna go out and get one right now.

    That being said they're the ones that are standing out for me at the moment since their Gamepad does offer much more in terms of gameplay variety, the PS4's touchpad just looks awkward and hard to hold and use.

    So Sony and Microsoft GET CREATIVE

    I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting games to look nice. gameplay and story is what I stay for. but everyone out there knows graphics are a big part of it. No-one likes their world being interrupted my mass amounts of pop in textures, and clunky visuals.
    If people really didn't care about graphics, they'd still be playing commodore 64.

    GTA has been the Jaw Dropper for me. The first time I played the original top down version I loved the sandbox, but it was just too hard to control properly.

    And then came GTA 3 and I had to pick my self up off the floor and call my orthidontist to re-attach my jaw. I have never lost as much sleep to a game as GTA3!!

    San-Andreas further expanded on the amazingness that is GTA by making it prettier and evolving the characters

    I went and bought the PS3 just for GTA4 - the moment it was released. I was not dissapointed in one single little way! (unless you count the lack of aircraft and pushbikes)

    Whoever releases GTA 5 first will be the console that I go and purchase.

    I have never chose a game based on graphics alone. Heck, one of my favorite games currently is Minecraft. Sure graphics will grab attention, make you 'ooh' and 'ahh' at the flashy visuals flying across your screen, but after continuous play you stop paying attention and start focusing on the meat of the game, the actual gameplay itself.

    Because of this interest in 'pretty visuals', a lot of games cut corners in order to provide that experience. Having outstanding vistas out at some inaccessible distance as you shoot through a bunch of soldier As and Bs. If you somehow get closer you notice they are just painted cardboard on the skybox. Sure it makes the surroundings look awesome, but more than anything I want the ability to GO there.

    Bring on the bigger worlds!

      Mine is Transport Tycoon or now OpenTTD, for me I want a game to sit down and finsh over a period of time, not a weekend or few days like games packed with graphics and short storylines.

      This is why I am a Nintendo fan Zelda, SSB, Mario all have extras to finish or in Zelds's case take a while to finish. Also the draw you in, get you hooked.

    This is why I have hope for Nintendo and the Wii U. Although graphically the Wii U may fall behind Nintendo has the great titles, confirmed Smash Bros, Zelda and Mario games that will be great on the system. So far I am enjoying the Wii U and I hope that its success continues with great games whether or not the graphics are high.

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