The Best Graphics
Before things started to unfold, I thought this year’s graphics battle will be between The Witcher 3 and The Division. In the end things turned out to be different. The Witcher 3 suffered a huge graphics downgrade affecting the quality of the textures, the lighting effects, the view range, the water quality and other graphical assets. The game still looks good but it isn’t all that impressive anymore. On the other hand, The Division’s release date was moved to March 2016 (and a downgrade is visible in the latest videos).
DICE has proved in the past that the Frostbite engine’s capabilities are quite high and they go outside of the Battlefield range. But the engine was designed with shooters in mind and it fits perfectly with this genre creating spectacular landscapes for explosive action. Such is the case for Star Wars Battlefront which takes advantage of the latest version of the Frostbite engine to show the best looking maps that a Star Wars game has ever seen. Adding to this powerful engine the technology called photogrammetry and some of the most iconic battles in the Star Wars universe come to life. Only if the gameplay and content quality was on par with its technology and Battlefront would have been an absolute hit. Even so, the landscapes in this game are close to photorealism with detailed textures and special effects that are a true feast for the eyes. It’s hard to look at Battlefront and not fall in love with its visuals and feel immersed into the Star Wars universe.
One might say that DICE spent too much time and resources with the photogrammetry and too little on developing the actual game which might be true. But this is the best graphics category and there is no question that DICE nailed it. When most of the games are one step in the past held back by the aging consoles and cheaper technology, Battlefront takes a leap forward and it does it with grace running smoothly at the highest settings on any decent rig.
The Best Sound Effects, Voice Acting and Soundtrack
It’s a difficult task to choose the best in a category where subjectivism is probably the primary factor. Nevertheless, I’ll try to find a middle ground between my general music preferences, the quality of sound design and the voice acting.
From the games I’ve played the ones that stood out the most and are relevant to this category are: Kholat, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and SOMA. I’ve enjoyed all these games not only for their overall quality but for their sound design and soundtrack.
Kholat’s sound design is annoyingly awesome to the point that it stands out as the most horrifying thing in the whole game (an adventure horror) and when it doesn’t the soothing narrative voice of Sean Bean surely makes things easier.
The Witcher 3 has found a perfect balance between a slightly original soundtrack befitting for the game’s setting, good sound design and tremendously performed voice acting.
The Phantom Pain has everything for everybody featuring some of the best music of 80s including the foreshadowing track The Man Who Sold the World, good sound design and a great voice acting that is only lacking a protagonist that can speak more than four words at a time.
SOMA’s sound design is excellent with a lot of recording done outdoors to sound as realistically as possible and with monster’s screaming in a terrifying electrical way that make you lose your mind in tandem with the protagonist.
So how can I choose between these games?
To be honest I can’t, so I went for the equality in quantity and quality as it seemed the fairest way to deal with the problem at hand.
The Witcher 3 soundtrack inspired by Slavic songs is extremely amazing and fits perfectly into the eastern European setting. The combat music is so engaging that I still listen to it from time to time to get some courage on the way to my boring work place. The voice acting, that voice acting! How can I describe it in such a way to make it justice? Every feeling is lived by the actors and through their performance is induced to the players. There are so many memorable moments and created by unforgettable voices and supported by good writing making it extremely hard not to sink in this game’s adventurous story.
In a subjective category I choose The Witcher 3 for the best sound effects, voice acting and soundtrack. Did I love the sound in the other games? Of course I did, I was listening from time to time some of the songs in The Phantom’s Pain soundtrack before the game was released and Sins of the Father has become one of my favorite song ever. And this is just an example, there are many others.
I feel like the soundtracks have become more original and more spot on over the years and the sound design has made such huge progress that there fewer and fewer games failing to execute this properly. This year is filled with games that sound awesome so take your pick as my choice shouldn’t necessarily be yours.