This year’s competition of technical and artistic visuals was stained by so many problems that leave accidents like Arkham Knight far behind in the rear view mirror. Rise of the Tomb Raider, Mafia III and Dishonored 2 are just a few examples of games that required heavy patching before becoming playable. Problems aside, we have been spoiled with some sharp and detailed graphics, courtesy of today’s technology, to immerse ourselves in some of the most diverse and unique settings in years. We’ve explored the chill inducing Siberia and a devastated New York then seeked the warmth of sunny Toussaint before going to the almost sunless Mars ending in the muddy trenches of World War I with a few stops in between in cities like Paris, Sapienza, Bangkok or Prague. But even if I’m to overlook the visual power driven by advanced technology, we had the pleasure to enjoy the distinctive artistic direction of games like Unravel, Dark Souls III or Inside.
The year 2016 was quite a visual journey and choosing a winner is hard, but my choice goes to a game of over achieving technology combining graphical fidelity, physics, thrilling world design and maybe a bit of false advertisement.
The Division’s graphics might not be the next technological revolution that was promised to us, but it’s coming really close. New York has never looked better in a video game, even if it is in a disastrous post-pandemic state. I’ve never seen a world so immersively beautiful that can induce a feeling of warmth or cold like The Division has managed to pull where reused assets get lost in a sea of remarkable visual details. Moving through the abandoned streets filled with mountains of trash and body bags all covered in snow and bathed in the Christmas lights while the environment dynamic constantly changes through the day-night cycle and weather variation has been a mesmerizing visual experience. The powerful Snow Drop engine mixing revolutionary technologies like dynamic material shaders which allows for real time snow melting, with procedural destruction, dynamic illumination and advanced particle effects is missing only photogrammetry to induce a photorealistic landscape.
It might have been downgraded, but The Division remains a superb blend of beauty and horror that’s hard to describe in words. So for that matter, I’ll let the screenshots do the rest.