What a game looks like might not be as important to the overall quality of the experience as what it plays like or what story it’s telling – depending, of course, on what kind of a game you’re playing – but the visual aspect’s importance is still undeniable. Through technical fidelity, stylized flourishes, evocative art design, or any number of other ways, games can create the sort of visual splendour that stays long in the memory, and contributes significantly to defining the game’s very personality. More than a few games impressed us on this front in 2022, and here, that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about, as we take a look at the brightest spots as the year, before picking one of them as 2022’s most visually impressive game.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
FromSoftware games have never really been bothered about chasing cutting edge-tech, but they always more than make up for that with their incredible art design. Elden Ring represents those tendencies at their peak. Its world is massive, and yet it keeps on finding ways to surprise you, a lot of which is down to the gorgeous, breathtaking sights and intimidating, gargantuan enemies it keeps on throwing at you.
Evil West is very much what one might call a AA game, but even so, it’s no slouch in the visuals department. Once again, a lot of credit goes to the art direction, which does an admirable job of bringing the game’s dark fantasy wild west setting to life. Gothic locations, intimidating foes, and impressive visual fidelity to give Evil West a very distinct look.
GOD OF WAR RAGNAROK
Has the God of War franchise ever failed to set new standards for video game graphics? Never- and that’s true for Ragnarok as well. Regardless of whether you’re playing it on a PS5 or a PS4, it’s nothing short of a visual masterpiece. Not only does the art do wonders with its Norse mythology setting, the game also displays a level of technical fidelity and attention to detail that is frankly staggering to see.
GOD OF WAR (PC)
God of War was already a gorgeous game when it launched for the PS4 in 2018, so we could only imagine how good it would look on significantly better hardware. Thankfully, we no longer have to imagine it- on a powerful PC, this game is an absolute stunner, boasting a level of technical sheen and polish that you’re unlikely to find in many other games. Of course, a great deal of credit for that goes to how well optimized this is as a PC port.
MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES (PC)
Just like God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales was one of several PlayStation titles to make the jump to PC this year, and just like God of War, the results were impressive. This is the sort of game that’s best played on higher frame rates, and the fact that powerful PC hardware enables you to do that without any comprises with the visual fidelity is a huge boost to the experience. Sure, Miles Morales looks great on PS5 as well, but unsurprisingly, the PC version has the upper hand.
GRAN TURISMO 7
Gran Turismo games always get the most out of whatever hardware they’re on, and while GT7, being a cross-gen game, obviously couldn’t properly showoff the PS5’s capabilities, it still ranks as one of the most dazzling experiences of the year, visually speaking. Polyphony Digital prides itself on attention to detail like very few other developers do, and every inch and pixel of Gran Turismo 7 can proudly attest to that.
When it comes to racing sims, it’s hard to deliver the same kind of visuals that the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo do on a regular basis, but if you drop down a tier, there’s still plenty of good-looking games to take note of. Milestone’s MotoGP games tend to be in that group ever year, as is MotoGP 22. From the meticulously crafted and wonderfully detailed motorcycles to the tracks that you race on to the weather effects, MotoGP 22 tends to look quite impressive.
Scorn’s H.R. Giger-inspired look has been catching people’s attention for a long time, and though the game itself may not have lived up to expectations for many, as far as the graphics go, it’s a mighty impressive game. Scorn’s oppressive atmosphere is one of its highlights, and it achieves that largely through a blend of technical fidelity and evocative art. Succeeding equally on both fronts as it does is no mean feat.
THE CALLISTO PROTOCOL
For whatever reason, horror games have often been some of the most visually impressive titles in recent years, and The Callisto Protocol continues that tradition. It may not be particularly scary, and its gameplay does have several design issues, but purely where the graphics are concerned, we have nothing but good things to say about the game. Calling it “gorgeous” might not quite be fitting, given how gleefully disgusting and horrific almost everything looks in the game, but boy is all of it rendered with immaculate detail.
HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST
Horizon Zero Dawn took our breath away when it first launched in 2017, and by no means is diminish returns even a slight issue with its sequel. We’re just as stunned by how good Forbidden West looks as we were by its predecessor, if not more. Its overgrown, post-apocalyptic world is a sight to behold, its mechanical monstrosities sport incredible designs, and the level of fidelity and polish it exhibits throughout its massive world is hugely impressive.
It’s hard to believe that Supermassive pumps out games as frequently as it does, because each of them looks great. The Quarry, in fact, may very well be the best-looking game to have ever come out of the studio. Characters and their faces are where this is most evident, while animations also impress on a consistent basis. There are a couple of bugs to speak of here and there, but on the whole, this is an excellent-looking game.
A PLAGUE TALE: REQUIEM
By no means does A Plague Tale: Requiem have the budget or backing that most AAA games do, and yet its graphics can still easily put many of them to shame. Just as it did with A Plague Tale: Innocence in 2019, Asobo Studio has delivered a visual beast with A Plague Tale: Requiem. It’s a gorgeous game that never fails to impress with its attention to detail- especially in moments where you’re being faced by staggeringly massive rat hordes.
THE LAST OF US PART 1
The Last of Us Part 1’s visuals are quite literally the biggest reason to play this game. It makes no story changes to the original, and its gameplay improvements are granular at best, but where the graphics are concerned, it’s legitimately a generational leap. Naughty Dog can pump out stellar-looking experiences on a level that not many developers can hope to match, and The Last of Us Part 1 proves that yet again- not that that needed any proof at this point.
NEED FOR SPEED UNBOUND
If Criterion set out to give Need for Speed Unbound a visual identity unlike anything else out there, they can rest easy in the knowledge that they did that emphatically. The open world racer takes a photoreal approach to its visuals for the most part, and does an admirable job with it, but the masterstroke is the stylized animated effects it layers on top of that experience. With vibrant colours, eye-popping effects, and so much more, NFS Unbound is absolutely brimming with personality.
GRID Legends doesn’t ever touch the heights that so many other racing games do with their graphics, but even so, it’s hard not to be impressed by what it achieves on that front. Codemasters has a knack for crafting good-looking environments and highly detailed vehicle models, and all of that is on full display here as well. Don’t go in expecting anything close to Forza’s level, but there’s still plenty to be impressed by here.
THE CALLISTO PROTOCOL
The Callisto Protocol is clearly a game with several issues, and it may not have lived up to all the hype, but there’s no denying that it also has several redeeming qualities- its stunning visuals being one of those. Explosions of gore and viscera, crimson trails or blood spatter, bodies with entrails hanging out of them, and gorgeous, evocative environments- no matter what it is that you’re looking at in The Callisto Protocol, you can’t help but marvel at the sheer mastery at work in how the visuals bring it all to life.
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