Up For Debate – Have gaming graphics improved dramatically in the last five years?

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When was the last time you were absolutely floored by a game’s visuals? It’s probably been a while, to be honest, caught as we are in the calm before the storm that is the next generation of consoles. Those modest boxes have been squeezed to within an inch of their lives, while we’ve enjoyed slightly better-looking versions at higher frame rates and resolutions on PC. There hasn’t been that seismic leap we’ve come to expect every so often though, even if ray-tracing threatens to be the spark which ignites a graphical revolution.

If we take a look at how far we’ve actually come over the past five years, however, you may be surprised. 2014 was the year of Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dark Souls 2, Titanfall, Far Cry 4, and Watch Dogs. It case you haven’t noticed, it was a bit of an average year until Alien Isolation and Wolfenstein: The New Order came along and rescued it from the doldrums

But, the point of all this is to see how far we’ve come graphically over the past five years. We’ve moved from Wolfenstein:  The New Order to Youngblood, and from DA: Inquisition to Anthem. From Dark Souls 2 to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. From Watch Dogs to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. 

It’s been a steady, almost imperceptible creep at times, but play any of those older games and they’re already beginning to show their wrinkles. Watch Dogs looks frankly ugly up against AC: Odyssey. The drab city blocks of Ubisoft’s version of Chicago is almost unfairly stacked up against the wonders of Ancient Greece there, but Odyssey looks wonderful. Likewise, Watch Dogs Legion finally looks as good as the original Watch Dogs did in that notorious gameplay reveal.

On the consoles, too, they’ve really been flexing. I went back and played PS4 launch title Killzone: Shadow Fall (easily the best-looking launch game) and it pales in comparison to newer exclusives such as Spider-Man and Detroit: Become Human. Time has marched on, and visuals with it, but we’re also on the cusp of a potentially seismic improvement to visuals once real-time ray-traced solutions really take hold. That elusive photorealism creeps ever nearer, and once the bottom line that is home consoles takes a performance hike, we’ll be all the better for it with our pixel-pushing powerhouse PCs. 

Of course, you may disagree. You may be disappointed by the relatively slow visual improvements we’ve experience as of late, although we doubt anyone will fail to have their head turned once Cyberpunk 2077 finally drops next year.

What are your thoughts then, have gaming visuals continued to improve dramatically over the last five years? Or do you feel we’ve stagnated somewhat? Let us know your thoughts (and your best-looking games) in the comments section below!