Samuel Brace on Fallout 4, graphics and why visual demands are dumb…
Goodness me, where to begin… I don’t know. I really don’t. Well… I suppose… Okay. How about here:
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Deadly Premonition. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Whatever those games mean to you (and they should all mean something) just let those names settle into your subconscious, just leave them there, don’t linger too long, and let’s go on. We have much to discuss.
The 3rd of June 2015, was a joyous day for gamers all around the world. The long awaited sequel to one of the greatest Western Role Playing Games of all time was announced by Bethesda, something that was long rumoured, but finally delivered to us just two short weeks before E3. Accompanying the announcement for Fallout 4 was a trailer, and that might not sound surprising and that’s mostly because it wasn’t. The presence of the trailer itself was no shock but the amount of footage and content in said video did catch us all off guard. In the lengthy teaser (clocking in at around three minutes), what we saw was a wonderful introduction back into the apocalyptic wasteland of Fallout, the world that we have all grown to love — and over the years miss – so very much.
The world looked to be a little brighter, a little more colourful, but on the whole it was very much Fallout, and it was very much Bethesda. This is what we wanted. We wanted Bethesda, the studio that brought us the much heralded Fallout 3 and other such greats of the genre as Oblivion and Skyrim, to deliver the sequel to the game that so many of us got lost in all those years ago. We know Bethesda, we know how they work, what kind of games they make, how those games play, how they look and what we saw that day was exactly what it was, a trailer for a Bethesda game. So the footage bestowed on us shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to anyone, but yet somehow, for some bizarrely unintelligible reason, it was.
Now all of a sudden an angry mob has risen up and started slating the trailer, Bethesda, and the game that hasn’t even come out yet, for having bad graphics and therefore, by some logic that has so far alluded me, being a disappointment, saying that it doesn’t live up to expectations and looking – to an admittedly smaller minority — like a ‘bad game’. My god… what on earth is happening? Since when has stunning visuals and breathtaking graphics automatically resulted in a ‘great’ game purely on merit? Never. Great games and visual prowess aren’t mutually exclusive, they never have been and that particular field has never been Bethesda’s calling card. When have they ever been known for their games visual aesthetic? Bethesda have made their name and become one of the very finest studios in gaming because they make great games, with engaging stories, set in diverse and interesting worlds. Skyrim, one of the finest WRPG’s of recent times, loved by millions, never knocked anyone’s socks off visually upon release. People like that game because of the lore, because of the rich open world, the quests and side quests etc etc. To say a Bethesda game with ‘bad graphics’ is ‘disappointing’, – the Fallout 4 trailer graphics aren’t actually bad at all – is just plain stupid. I’m sorry but it is. Playing a Bethesda RPG and bagging on the visuals is like watching a Mayweather fight and complaining it’s boring (oh wait…), of course it is, that’s what he does and that’s not why you watch him fight and graphics are not why you play Fallout or indeed any Bethesda game.
Even if this were not the case, let’s just say Bethesda were known for state of the art graphics, that still doesn’t necessitate one being down on the game purely because it doesn’t meet your aesthetic needs. So many great games have been made that aren’t great because they have good graphics. Remember those titles I mentioned at the top? Let’s bring them out again. If you loaded up Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater — one of the seminal games on PlayStation 2 — if you booted that game up right now, bad, outdated 2004 graphics and all, would it be a horrible experience? Would it somehow have transformed into a bad game? No. Absolutely not. That game was remarkable because it was a great game. Period. The story, the characters, the customisation, the boss fights, those are what made that game great and still make it so today. Deadly Premonition, a game with universally agreed upon graphical problems, along with some pretty sketchy gameplay mechanics, does this game suck because of that? (Depends who you ask, but stay with me on this) Nope, it sure doesn’t. DP was awesome because of how fucking scary it was, because of its wonderfully unique atmosphere, because of the EXPERIENCE you attained from playing it. Bethesda’s own Oblivion is a prime example, a game with mediocre visuals even by 2006’s standards. Oblivion was fantastic, one of the great RPG’s. This was not a game that made your mouth drool with how beautiful it looked but because it was so engrossing, packed with content and wait for it… FUN to play, it stood out as one of the very best games around. There are so many things that make a great game and a game can be great for any number of reasons, but to single out a title for not having one of dozens of components is nonsensical and there is zero precedence to say that it will be a bad game for that reason alone.
We have gone so far with our obsession and need for graphical prowess, for 1080p, 60fps, that we have lost sight of why we play games and what makes them great. So many times you will hear, “Oh, this isn’t running at 1080p, I’m not playing it”, or, “30fps? Pshh, I won’t accept anything less than 60”. God is that annoying, its borderline being egregiously offensive to my very being. Not every game needs to be at full 1080p, some games run better at 30fps. There is no one rule fits all approach to games, it doesn’t work like that here. It depends on things such as genre, or how cinematic a developer wants their game to be. Sure, if you’re playing a game like COD or Halo, yeah, you want that 60fps, but take a game like Tango Gameworks The Evil Within, one of the best, purest survival horror experiences in years. That game ran at 30fps, they wanted it to be cinematic; they wanted it to play like a horror movie. Did the game suck? No, it didn’t. And I really hate to be the bearer of bad news but not every game runs at 60fps, or whatever the stat may be, for the entirety of the game. A lot of titles that claim to be running with these sexy and fashionable specs are only doing so at specific moments, utilizing those precious extra frames to bring the best out of a certain set piece or particular action sequence. The best resolution and the most amounts of frames per second don’t equate to greatness and shouldn’t be expected, or god forbid, demanded by gamers for every product they look to pick up. That kind of attitude and outlook will cause you to miss out on so many wonderful games. There’s nothing wrong with being a snob for quality but you have to know excellence when you see it and to not turn up your nose at below premium specs.
I feel like I may have fallen into rant mode with this piece and for that I apologise. If this was all a little too much for you, please forgive me. I am sure many clicked away paragraphs ago but this is important and the way we all view and judge games needs to be looked at and revamped in a significant way. Wouldn’t you all rather play a great game, with a top story, a dynamic setting, knockout voice acting and addictive gameplay mechanics if it meant sacrificing Last of Us type visuals? I know I would. Can we have all of those things? Yes, sometimes, but do we have to in order to get amazing gaming experiences? Certainly not. So hold off on the Fallout 4 graphics hate, realise who made the game, what their history entails and what they do best. When it comes, play the game with an open mind, enjoy what is offered. It could turn out to be a bad game, that’s an entirely reasonable possibility, an unlikely one, though yes it could happen but it won’t be bad purely because of the way it looks. Bad games are bad because they are… well, bad. It’s pretty simple stuff. Let’s wait to see more, let’s be excited by the fact we are being treated with the sequel to one of the master role playing games in history. Let’s see if it is actually good or not. Let’s all calm down a little. Hey, I might even join you.