We all love pretty graphics. They can immerse us in worlds not too distant or return us to past moments that are captured in stunning detail. We all love some nice visuals. But since the latest generation of consoles has landed we have seen an uptake in games that look amazing but upon release are found to be emptier than my fridge after a 9-hour alcohol binge. But in all seriousness, does having the best graphics around really count for shit if your game is only fun for an hour or two?
Now let’s get one thing crystal clear before we dive into this! I do not have an issue with games with good graphics, nor do I think games with sub-par graphics should get a free pass. This is simply a discussion piece. So chill, stop writing that angry comment and take a deep breath… Now let’s crack on.
So if you follow fighting games or have caught any new trailers at shows like E3, you have seen some damn good looking fighting games released in the last few years. Guilty Gear Xrd blows people away with the amazing anime styled visuals that look so fluid and vibrant that it’s a game that will never show any real age. Mortal Kombat X and Injustice have a hard edged dark look to them while games like Street Fighter V go for a more colourful almost action figure looking style.
Then we move onto King of Fighters 14. The game that has literally had to fight its way just to get people to notice it. The graphics are not very impressive. Character models look basic, environments are just okay and the game graphics themselves don’t have that level of detail that games like Street Fighter V or Guilty Gear Xrd have.
However, where King of Fighters 14 stands out is in its content. The game comes with a whopping 50 characters, full story mode, mission mode, training mode, online mode and a full gallery featuring the best artwork of the series up to this latest iteration. And this is at LAUNCH. This is not a port of an arcade release or an updated version of the game this is the original version of the game.
Compare that to King of Fighters 14’s closest competitor: Street Fighter V, which launched with 16 characters, a disappointing short 4 fights per character story mode that was told through still artwork and voice over, survival mode, practice mode and online mode that was not very stable and was missing key features like lobbies that supported more than 2 players.
I am not saying King of Fighters 14 stomps Street Fighter V, but the comparison is undeniable that perhaps King of Fighters 14’s graphic engine not being the best looking one on the market means that the developers can focus on adding more characters and more modes to extend the life rather than try and make the game the best looking title.
This graphics over content is not just present in fighting games as it has been pushing its way into most game genres. The most painful example of this would be the highly anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront, a game that I myself was rather excited for. Unfortunately, I would get one of the most polished, visually stunning looks at the Star Wars universe that I would ever get… But with the most boring gameplay and short lived fun factor.
Take Call of Duty Black Ops 3 as an example; a title that isn’t bad to look at, but is running on a seriously old engine that has been modified heavily. Black Ops 3 doesn’t really push the power of the new consoles to the limit, it looks good but doesn’t exceed that. However, Black Ops 3 launched with a full campaign (Yes it wasn’t very good but that’s not the point), zombie survival mode and the series signature multiplayer mode.
You could argue that Star Wars: Battlefront wasn’t re-using assets or has more new than Call of Duty which historically is known for playing it super safe with re-use of assets and gameplay that remains largely similar across each entry. However, my counter point is that if Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t offering me a campaign and is multiplayer focussed then the game should be jam packed with content, because single player has been sacrificed for a better online. But it didn’t happen like that. We got extremely beautiful game that ran out of steam past the first few weeks.
Graphics are important to a game, I will not lie and say they aren’t because that would be silly of me, I score games based on a combination of many factors including the graphics. However, I personally as a player would love to see games take a step back from being so focussed on who can achieve the most photo-realistic graphics. I would always prefer to play a game that keeps me gripped and entertained with incredible gameplay experiences and lots to do. There are reasons why games like Street Fighter V, Star Wars Battlefront and Rainbow Six Siege begin to slow down after the initial release and it is because once the hype of the upcoming film has died down, or once that new game smell has worn off, people realise “Well shit… I am bored now”