Last month I came across a post written by Scott over at Insert Memory Card about the ‘exquisitely polished, jaw-droppingly pretty’ Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Although released over a year ago in May 2016, Scott says it still beats many other PlayStation 4 games in the looks department – and the glorious screenshots provided in his article show it.
This got me thinking about the numerous hours I spent with Horizon Zero Dawn in 2017, not only playing the game but also messing around with its photo-mode. It’s one of the most gorgeous titles I’ve ever experienced and it’s the small things that make it so special: for example, the way Aloy’s hair ruffles when the wind catches it and how she hugs herself as she’s battered by rain. The mechanical beasts that interact with their herd while casually grazing, then limp and spark when wounded. The huge open vistas full of mountains and sunsets but smaller details such as tiny tree ants too, if you take the time to look closely enough.
Scott’s images from Uncharted 4 were stunning and I left a comment referring to Horizon, to which the lovely LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release later replied. The mention of her own numerous screenshots from the game show I wasn’t the only one who was rather taken with the photo-mode! I make a joke about starting a petition to ensure a similar feature is added to all open-world RPGs in the future and laughed when Ellen said I’d secured her signature.
It was shortly after this brief conversation that I decided to restart The Elder Scrolls Online and, despite becoming addicted all over again, it wasn’t long before I felt as though something was missing. I just couldn’t achieve the same picture quality as I could with Guerrilla’s title: the best I could do was get my High Elf to pose using an emote and then snap quickly before it ended. But this wasn’t enough and I wanted to be able to change the angle, move my character around, select expressions and soften the lighting. Maybe my idea about starting a petition wasn’t such a bad one!
As Scott picks up on in his post, a video game doesn’t need to be completely realistic in terms of looks in order to be visually-appealing. It’s obviously important for the graphics to be in-tune with the developer’s vision for their project and suit the gameplay otherwise it just isn’t going to come together in a coherent form. Indie titles have brought us so many different styles and each are special in their own unique way: compare RiME to Hellblade to Cuphead, to name just a few recent examples.
But when a game is as gorgeous as Uncharted 4 or Horizon, doesn’t it deserve a photo-mode? It’s clear to see just how much work has gone into creating the world and such a feature is a great way to allow gamers to show their appreciation for the developers’ efforts. Let us spam our Facebook pages with images of Nathan Drake as he gazes out at the sky while standing on a perfect beach. Let us post countless photographs of Aloy’s model pose atop of mountains on our Twitter feeds. Let us show the internet how beautiful each title is, and how much more interesting selfies are when they feature video game characters.
We’re the tourists in a video game’s foreign lands and, just as we’d want to take pictures of our real life adventures, we want to do it in our digital ones too. Leave a comment below if you’d like to sign my petition and let us know which titles deserve a bit of visual appreciation.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.