Choosing a winner for the best graphics gets tougher every year. We live in a time where virtually every game that is released looks really good and the differences between the worst looking games and the best looking games is constantly shrinking. Now more than 4 years into the current console cycle, developers are comfortable with the hardware and are able to exploit the power available. Countless titles in 2017 dazzled us with the latest in graphical effects and the rise of 4K gaming, but none of them did it as well as Assassin’s Creed: Origins, the winner of the Shacknews Best Graphics of 2017 Award.
After a self-imposed 2 year hiatus, Ubisoft’s open-world murder simulator made its world premiere at E3 2017 as a showcase title for Microsoft’s Xbox One X. The series made a move into ancient Egypt and was promised to deliver a true 4K experience to the console. By the time it finally released, Assassin’s Creed: Origins was clearly the best looking game for the Xbox One X, but failed to live up to the “true 4K” billing.
Ubisoft employed a dynamic resolution scaling implementation that let the game shift its rendering load around to keep the game running as close to a smooth 30fps as possible. At times, it is possible for the game to hit a 3584x2016 resolution, which is much higher than the PS4 Pro’s 2816x1584 maximum resolution, but the game mostly hovers in the 1440p to 1800p range. Ubisoft was clearly able to leverage the extra muscle of the Xbox One X’s new GPU to deliver a clearer, more crisp image than its Sony counterpart.
All the extra resolution provided by the enhanced versions of the current generation consoles was needed for the game’s outrageously detailed environments and character models to be experienced to their fullest. Assassin’s Creed: Origins provides a staggeringly large open world while managing to deliver image quality that matches or exceeds what can be seen in games with a much smaller scope. Every inch of Ubisoft’s ancient Egyptian recreation is packed with details. Every piece of clothing looks like the real thing, right down to the individual stitching.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins launched with what can be argued as the most lifelike lighting yet seen in a video game. From the sun-drenched dunes to the extravagant palace interiors bathed in diffused light, this is as real as it gets. Shadows are accurately cast on every surface. Even when you find yourself swimming through the sunken remains of a temple, a quick glance upwards rewards you with the treat of seeing the sun’s god rays break through the water’s surface and highlight the aquatic vegetation.
Speaking of the water, Assassin’s Creed: Origins may have the best water I’ve seen in a game. With the majority of the action taking place in and around the mouth of the Nile river, players will spend lots of time in and around water. The reflections of nearby palm trees or mountains on the water’s surface really help build up the game’s level of immersion. Even long glances at areas far away retain all the graphical bells and whistles that work together to make the landscape a real work of art.
Even more impressive are the recreations of Alexandria, Memphis, and the other locations that make up the towns in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Players will enter Alexandria during the early hours of the game and be treated to an insanely detailed and dense city on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. The city bustles with activity during midday and is awash with intoxicating dark blue hues and beautiful speck of orange firelight during the nights.
In case this wasn’t enough, the PC version of Assassin’s Creed: Origins takes everything the console versions offer and provides an even more refined presentation, with better shadows, less pop-in, better textures, and higher quality post processing. Along with this, users with higher-end machines can take advantage of a true native 4K presentation at locked 60fps. No console version runs above 30fps (and the original PS4 and Xbox often struggle in the mid-20s).
The PC version’s buttery smooth presentation along with the razor sharp visuals work hand in hand to provide unmatched image quality. The game looks like a pre-rendered cutscene when maxed out on the PC. There is no shimmering on edges in the distance. Every single one of the palm leaves is razor sharp, regardless of distance from the player. Animal fur is as good as anything you can find in competing games. The reflection of sunlight on the backs of wet hippos stands out like a bright star on a dark night. Everything on display is top notch. This is the top of the mountain when it comes to real-time video game graphics. Even if the series’ gameplay has become tired and cliche over the years, the visual presentation is strong enough to make Assassin’s Creed: Origins a must play title and worth of the Shacknews Best Graphics of 2017 Award.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4 Pro) and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4 Pro)
This pair of knockouts for Sony’s PS4 Pro are simply the best you can get from a console. Horzion: Zero Dawn was the showpiece for Sony’s mid-cycle upgrade and offers a high-resolution HDR presentation that can be jaw dropping in places. While it doesn’t run at a true 4K, the game’s checkerboard rendering technique provides image quality that is very comparable to what you might see with a native 4K picture. The lush environments and amazing cybernetic creature designs are a must-see.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a standalone follow up to the best looking game of 2016, Uncharted 4. While the experience in Lost Legacy does not last as long as its predecessor, Naughty Dog managed to make the game look even better, especially with the PS4 Pro enhancements. The Hindu mountains and temples found in this adventure are breathtaking when seen from a distance or when you find yourself hanging off of them.
Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.