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GodisaGeek’s Top 10 “God That Looks Good” Moments in Gaming History

by on November 29, 2010

It takes a lot to shock folks nowadays. People seem to revel in being more cynical than everyone around them. Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped game developers from trying to push the boundaries of their own abilities and the consoles they program for. Their aim; to make us shake our heads in awe and simply say “wow, that looks freaking amazing”.

For your amusement, here is a list of ten moments that we think did that the best.

10. Ridge Racer Type IV – CGI introductions and Reiko Nagase

Remember this?

That is what Namco were doing with CGI early in 1996.

How about this?

This is what the same publisher was achieving just three years later on the same system. That is so significant, I nearly put it all in capital letters. In just thirty-six months and on an identical console developers took CGI cutscenes from looking like bad stop-motion made with greased Barbie and Ken dolls to fluid, life-like animation. The fact that they were animating pleasantly busty and decidedly coquettish Japanese ladies and ludicrously powerful sports cars was almost more than I could handle at sixteen years old. It just seemed utterly unfeasible that any visuals, including CGI, could look that good. I’m surprised that my head didn’t explode.

Ridge Racer Type 4’s intro is still incredible to watch, both as a standout piece of CGI work and a piece of video game graphics history.

9. Virtua Fighter 3 – When the arcade was the king of fighters.

I’m twenty seven. Which means three things: I’m old enough to remember when children’s TV was good (if you are unfamiliar with Round the Twist, leave now, I might commit a hate crime on you), I’m old enough to know that games journalism is hardly is a solid career option (but pursue it anyway) and I’m old enough to remember when the frontiers of graphical technology weren’t being pushed on consoles, but in the arcades.

Right at the forefront of arcade graphics was SEGA (just writing that sentence made me feel about eighty-three years old) with their Virtua Fighter series. Virtua Fighter 3 really pushed the envelope with sloped arenas, stunning smooth character models (light-years beyond the collection of geometric shapes seen elsewhere) and animation so silky you could cut a wedding dress out of it. I remember reading about it when it was revealed to the UK press and wanting just to watch it moving. I then spent a couple of merry years trying to ruin family holidays by scuttling off to arcades at every opportunity managing everything from getting lost to nearly causing us to miss a flight out of Stansted.

All worth it as far as I’m concerned.

8. Fight Night Round 3 Demo – Welcome to next-gen

Welcome to the next generation. That was the simple message from Fight Night Round 3’s stonkingly realistic and palpably painful visuals. Every console that has ever been successful had a title that said “Oi, bloody look hear and see how ace I am. Imagine me in three years! Yeah, think on that”. For the original PlayStation, that game was Wipeout. For the Xbox it was Halo. Surprisingly, for Xbox 360 that game was Fight Night Round 3. Photo-realism is a phrase that games-journos have been chucking around since way before graphics were approaching that level, but Fight Night really laid claim that games could look almost like real life. Flying sweat, tumbling gum-shields and crumpling faces, the visuals did nothing but reinforce the brutal violence of the sport which Fight Night tries to emulate.

7. Shadow of the Colossus – Just look how big it is!

I would have loved to have been in the pitch meeting for Shadow of the Colossus.

Fumito Ueda: I want to make a game about an elf man, his horse and his dead girlfriend.

Producer: It sounds…err…a bit weird.

Fumito Ueda: Uh-huh. It is. You only fight sixteen enemies in about ten hours of gameplay.

Producer: What? Why are you in here? Why on Earth would I pay you for this?

Fumito Ueda: Because the enemies are as big as skyscrapers, constantly moving and more complex than a seven sided Rubiks Cube.

Producer: I’ll just sign my name at the bottom of cheque and leave you to fill in the amount.

Bigger is always better was the reason given when four out of my last five girlfriends left me for somebody else. They might have had a point. Fumito Ueda gave the player an adventure of such unbelievable scale that it will resonate in the memory for years to come. Unveiling the first colossus as you pulled yourself up over the edge of a cliff, the sheer size of your opponent was only appreciable when you ran towards it. It was, pardon the pun, a towering achievement.

It wasn’t even the game’s best moment. The battle against a giant stone warrior, the third colossus, was the battle that will stick in my mind forever. Too tall to fit onto the screen, when he brought down his stone sword the entire level shook. When you finally climbed up onto the shoulder of the creature and looked out onto the world, shrunken and distant beneath you, there was just no arguing it: bigger really is better.

6. Metal Gear Solid 2 – Older Snake and new tricks

The disc that came free with Zone of the Enders (a game which was unlucky not to make this list) was the reason behind many people purchasing Kojma’s robot masterclass.

Years after Metal Gear Solid rail-gunned its stunning visuals onto gaming’s collective retina, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty casually, and permanently, ruined all our memories of the first Metal Gear by showing us that PS1 Snake looked like his head was carved out of a slab of frozen butter.

From Sons of Liberty’s earliest moments, the driving rain sliding of the slick raincoat, the electrified leap onto the deck of the tanker and the detail etched into Snake’s face and sneaking suit, it was clear that never before had the power of PlayStation 2 been tapped into so completely.

More amazing still when you took control of Snake and started to explore the tanker it was clear that the opening cutscenes were gameplay footage. Gameplay-bloody effing-footage! SNAAAAAAAAAKE!

5. Elysium Alps on SSX – Broadening Horizons

As we get old and the memory fades it is easy to forget that early ventures into 3D levels were a little patchy and, often, very foggy. Remember Tenchu? Those that have skied or snowboarded will know that the feeling is tied into two things: the sensation of freedom coming down the mountain and the terrifying vastness and beauty of the scenery when you are at the top.

Utterly unachievable before the PlayStation 2 came into existence, the endless vistas of SSX, particularly the stand-out Elysium Alps, were both jaw dropping and confusing. The reason for this, we had never seen anything like this before, but we had. If you follow me.

Games could now give you experiences previously only possible on an expensive winter package holiday, letting you take in breathtaking views and ride your own ‘go anywhere, do anything’ mountain. And all from the comfort of your sofa. Heaven.

4. Final Fantasy VII – Summoning up the impossible

Imagine being there when the first plane took to the sky, when scientists agreed the Earth was round or when Simon Cowell finally issues an apology for Hear’ Say. Looking upon those moments must be like looking upon the impossible and, for that fact, they are truly things of beauty.

That was what it was like the first time you summoned Ifrit on Final Fantasy VII. It was, surely, impossible for a mere computer to render such wonder. The summons on Final Fantasy weren’t just graphics or effects, they were achievements. The angry flames of Ifrit, the placid cruelty of Shiva, the feature-film length ultra death of Knights of the Round all seemed beyond the abilities of any console, any computer, anything. That they were such fitting reward for the effort that went into attaining them was the icing on the cake.

Sure, Aeris might die, but what the hell. You get to summon Bahamut again in a minute. Aces.

3. Uncharted 2 – Postcards from Nepal

Writing a list about visual wows isn’t the sort of piss-easy fun-farm of a task that you would expect. You not only have to spend many a long hour pouring over game footage on YouTube and playing classic games across two decades of top notch consoles, but also sit and drink cold beers straight out of the fridge whilst you do so.

All that playing and drinking is tiring though, and often times you need a break. During these breaks it is just astonishingly rare to find a graphical wow. It is a tribute to Uncharted 2 that one of its great graphical wows happens during one of its breaks in the action. The incredible visual postcard from Nepal that is presented by Uncharted 2 completely drops the jaw. What’s more, because the pace of the walk through the nepalese village is so steady, all you do is take in some of the most beautiful vistas ever committed to disc.

2. Gran Turismo – Replays and car porn

There was a time before Gran Turismo. But who remembers it?

It feels utterly, totally, completely impossible that the first Gran Turismo, one of the defining games of the first PlayStation and, indisputably, one of the defining driving games of all time, kind of snuck in under the radar upon its initial release. Unfathomable, to those whose only experience of Gran Turismo marketing is that HD/Prologue/uber-delay hatchet job Sony has treated fans to for the last half decade.

And breathe…

I have never wanted a game more than the first Gran Turismo, but not until I had seen my first replay. They were impossibly realistic, with light reflecting out of the windscreen and alloys spinning beautifully as you weaved through the instantly recognisable motors of your opponents. Indulging your own gaming vanity had never looked like this. Gran Turismo did replays so well that I just can’t remember watching a driving game replay before it.

All though Gran Turismo has since been eclipsed by its many sequels, and now perfected by Gran Turismo 5, there is a truly indelible quality about the first game of a series that redefined what we think of graphical achievement.

1. Crysis – The pinnacle of visual achievement

Usain Bolt over a hundred metres. Lionel Messi with a ball at his feet. Jenna Jameson with her feet in the air. Sometimes you just have to celebrate the pinnacles of human skill and ability.

Therefore, we have to mention the team at Crytek, master artists behind Crysis. When you are the best, you’re the best. We’ll let the visuals do the talking. Stunning, truly stunning.

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