Technology always moves forward, and video game graphics continue to push the boundaries. Cutting-edge technology helps create more realistic visuals. But, even more important is a strong art style and talented team of developers. So, it’s not just recently launched games that offer all the eye candy. There are older titles that still look impressive even after several years.
Character models, lighting, particle effects, environments, and creative design set these games apart. While graphics aren’t everything, these games still look great if you boot them up today. Even better, you can run these titles in higher resolutions and frame rates with a modern PC.
In 2011, Id Software launched a first-person shooter set in a Mad-Max-like environment. While some textures exhibit lower resolution, the character models look fantastic. The game lets you wield several unique weapons with a rough-and-tumble visual style.
Some may object to the linear design of certain areas as it’s not as open when compared to newer games. But the areas that are available like the city hubs are full of interactive elements. The vehicle sections also look and handle well, allowing you to race and battle at high speed. The lighting design includes elements like God ray’s that peek through the ruins as you explore.
8 The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings Enhanced Edition
CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher series upped the graphical fidelity with its second entry to the series. While The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt improved even more, the second game still looks sharp. Environments are detailed, characters are modeled well, and locations all feel lived in.
The Witcher 2 lacks the open world of Wild Hunt, but it provides some great set-pieces. The major battle at the start has Geralt in the middle of a castle siege. You’ll notice tons of NPCs on screen along with explosions, sparks, and blood effects.
7 Ryse: Son Of Rome
Developer Crytek has produced some great-looking games over the years. In 2014, Ryse: Son of Rome hit PC and consoles with jaw-dropping visuals. This game still looks good today, with intricately designed armor and large-scale battles.
This third-person action title puts you in the role of Marius Titus, who is no stranger to wielding a blade. As a Roman soldier, you fight across changing landscapes, heading toward Britannia to seek revenge. The game offers striking visuals, from stone streets and towering columns to lush forests.
6 Mirror’s Edge
Mirror’s Edge launched with unique parkour action in 2008. This first-person platforming game has a sterile but pleasing modern art style. The contrast of colors between the white towers and bright yellow, orange and red elements still looks excellent.
You play as Faith, a free runner, delivering goods and information via the rooftops. The futuristic city of the glass looks enticing but is a highly controlled dystopia. Even though Faith travels at high speed, you can’t help but stare in awe at the towing glass structures. A warning to those with a fear of heights: this game will test your limits.
5 Watch Dogs
Ubisoft made some questionable choices before the launch of Watch Dogs in 2014. These missteps would, unfortunately, taint the original launch. But, the game players got ahold of still offers a vibrant open-world recreation of Chicago. You play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker and vigilante with revenge on his mind.
This action game looks excellent, with unique neighborhoods, soaring skyscrapers, and dark alleyways. Characters and vehicles are detailed and modeled well for an immersive experience. Also, the developers did an outstanding job visually showcasing the hacking mechanics.
4 L.A. Noire
This 2011 title from Team Bondi did incredible motion capture work to bring the 1940s to life. You play as Cole Phelps, a rookie officer working his way up the ranks. Everything feels authentic to the era. The classic vehicles, clothing, architecture, music, and advertising immerse you into another time.
You have an open world to explore and can do so at your leisure, but most of the game has you looking for clues and interviewing suspects. The facial animations are very detailed and hint at a suspect’s truthfulness. L.A. Noir may have dipped too far into the uncanny valley with its robust motion capture, but, regardless, the game’s facial animations remain top-notch.
3 Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut
In a future where humans can meld with biotechnology, Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut shows the dangers and possibilities of augmentation. Eidos Montreal did a fantastic job crafting this world with impressive gadgets and weapons. Everything has a slight yellowish tinge but remains gritty rather than sterile.
Your character, Adam Jensen, features detailed textures and character modeling. The environments also capture what you might imagine as a cyber-alternate reality. The weapon effects and animations are top-notch and don’t look out of place today.
2 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Developer Naughty Dog improved nearly every aspect of the original game with the launch of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. You play as wise-cracking adventurer Nathan Drake, who always seems to find trouble. This time, you are after the Cintamani Stone while battling off a dangerous war criminal hot on your heels.
There are many impressive set-pieces, including being trapped in a train dangling off a cliff. But, one of the most graphically remarkable sections has you navigating a detailed recreation of Nepal. Witness unique architecture, environmental destruction, and the imposing Himalayas in the background. Uncharted doesn’t have a bad entry in the series with a total of four main games and a spin-off.
1 Half-Life 2
Considering this shooter emerged nearly 20 years ago, it still holds up well. As scientist Gordon Freeman, you’ll fight against Police, Soldiers, Headcrabs, and more. You’ll solve traversal puzzles, drive vehicles at high speed, and deal with crafty AI.
This game has several standout features, including robust physics and excellent lighting design. The environments, characters, and weapons still look decent, if a bit rough around the edges. With modern equipment, you can easily run this game in 4K for a clear and crisp gaming experience.
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