So far, we don’t know a lot about Death Stranding. It’s seemingly strange trailers, and gameplay footage has revealed the absolute minimum. Much like the setting, the game has been left in the dark. There is only one thing that fans can take from Hideo Kojima’s new title. The game will look absolutely stunning. With several trailers, ironically, the only thing that’s been consistent throughout the six is its almost lifelike cinematics and gameplay. And the amazing thing is, since its announcement in 2016, the graphics have actually improved. They’ve evolved alongside Kojima’s own, Decima engine. Though, despite all of this appraisal, how does it stack up against other ultra-realistic games?
The immediate answer is pretty well. Soon to on GameStop shelves (November 2019), it’s expected in today’s industry that a AAA game with several Hollywood actors would be nearing the peak of this generation’s graphics. From what we’ve seen, it’s one of the most detailed, lifelike worlds (besides our own) ever. The detail of the most minute feature is barely distinguishable from the real world. The grass of Death Stranding could be swapped out with my own garden’s and I wouldn’t even notice. It looks like Kojima is meeting his aim that he revealed in a 2016 interview, of creating “photorealistic” graphics, but he’s got some competition.
The PC – Console Comparision Problem, that isn’t Really a Problem
Understandably, PC will inevitably look better than console. And you can’t argue with that. Unless your PC isn’t as good as a console, obviously. But in terms of photorealism, using a GTX 1080ti won’t make the graphics anymore realistic than your PS4 or Xbox One – a face is a face. Like any movie, a higher resolution will make it look nicer, and a higher framerate will make it smoother, but you don’t watch a film in higher resolution to make it more realistic.
So in other words, Grand Theft Auto V won’t look any more realistic on a console than on a PC, though it could look ten times prettier. As Death Stranding is on PS4 and rumored to eventually be ported to PC (unlucky for Xbox gamers), it means it’s completely fair to compare a distinctly PlayStation game (like God of War) to its trailers which inevitably came from a very high-end PC. Glad to clear that up. Onto the competition.
Death Stranding’s Competition
Horizon Zero Dawn
Although two years old, Horizon Zero Dawn still looks tremendous. If you take the time to look before jumping onto some poor metal animal, Aloy, the playable character, has blushes, subtle freckles, slight blemishes, and even noticeable skin pores. Placed next to Norman Reedus’ Sam Porter Bridges, Death Stranding’s main protagonist, Aloy is clearly outdated. But for a two-year-old game, it could still pass as stunning today. Though not quite as stunning as that beard on Sam Bridges.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Arguably 2018’s biggest release, Red Dead Redemption 2 also shines when it comes to photo-realistic graphics. Roger Clark’s portrayal of Arthur Morgan is one of the best capture performances ever. And when comparing the actor to his in-game counterpart, it can be hard to distinguish which is real at first glance. Though it seems that Rockstar was using a soon to be outdated game engine when making the sequel, so the finished product, despite being released later than God of War, seems more like a predecessor (in terms of graphics) to it. The lighting doesn’t quite nail it. But only slightly.
Another Rockstar game, and probably the most famous, also puts Death Stranding to the test. Despite being released in 2015 on current-gen consoles, Rockstar has updated Grand Theft Auto V enough to allow it to stay in competition with games four years newer than itself. Putting titles like Star Wars Battlefront II to shame, GTA puts lighting and reflections to a photo-realistic rivalry. Though, as they haven’t updated the character models since release, the world doesn’t quite meet the realism of the developer’s more recent Red Dead Redemption sequel.
God of War
Last year’s God of War puts up some strong resistance to Death Strandings realism. The details of the game’s setting, Midgard are currently next to none. The beautiful snowy glossed landscape, contrasting with Kratos’ evidently aging body shows enough detail to tell stories of their own. To achieve realism, lighting is key, and in God of War, it’s seamless. Based on real physics, and in using motion capture technology, it’s evident that the developers took a long time to perfect it, which was definitely worth it, as the game’s unique feel goes to show, which may be because it rivals no other. If only God of War could be put to the real test on PC; a GTX 2080TI could make Kratos look better than real life.
So Could Death Stranding be the Best?
Currently, it’s undeniable that God of War’s Kratos is the most realistic character model in a game, ever. Though, to replace his title, it wouldn’t be difficult for Death Stranding. God of War runs on an engine developed in-house specifically for the game, which albeit was slightly ahead of its time, but now is over a year old. Compare this with the Decima engine and it would be a tough call, but as it is a year newer, it could be this that tips Death Stranding over the edge to become the most photo-realistic game ever. Comparing the visuals aside one another, Death Stranding seems to be a little cleaner, as well as being slightly closer to the photo-realism that many titles are striving to achieve.
It makes sense. Newer means better. But how does it compare against some other to be released titles?
Death Stranding’s Upcoming Rivals
More recently, and not yet released either, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order looks almost as good as the films. Harnassing the power of the Unreal Engine 4, EA is powering it’s new Star Wars game with an equally new graphics engine. EA had previously used the Frostbite engine, which with help from the company, became very controversial. The company’s somewhat incredible game trailers, which were downgraded into somewhat less stunning games at release. Which could be another problem that Death Stranding could face, which we’ll discuss late on. With what we’ve seen from the potential power of the engine, as well as the detailed game graphics from EA Play 2019, Fallen Order is hands down the best looking Star Wars game to date. But that’ll depend on whether what EA has shown is equal to the finished product, also coming in November.
Another Hollywood casted game also looked absolutely stunning last month at E3 2019. Cyberpunk 2077. Keanu Reeves’s first game looks ridiculously good, and that’s not because he’s in it, its the fact that Johnny Silverhand, Keanu’s character, pretty much looks like he’s in a real live-action movie. Compared to Death Stranding, the only similarity is that it’s set in the future, and are probably the best looking games to date. Though Cyberpunk 2077 looks more visually stunning, this is only because of the bright and colorful world set in California’s fictional Night City. From what we’ve seen from both game’s brief trailers/footage, it’ll be a tough call to come to a clear decision of which game will look best. More annoying we won’t find out for several months, as Cyberpunk 2077 won’t hit the market until April 16th, 2020.
What You See Isn’t Always What You Get
As we’ve touched on, what you see, isn’t always what you get. EA is a key example of this, advertising both Battlefront games with greater graphics than actually were on the finished product. Though this wasn’t as noticed as their 2019 Anthem, which seemed to have some of the best graphics at E3 2018, in reality at release were perfectly average. EA received plenty of not so constructive feedback from those who did and didn’t buy the game. Hopefully, EA and the game industry have learned from this mistake, especially with Fallen Order’s release around the corner. Hopefully, Death Stranding also, won’t disappoint.
Nothing Lives Forever
Though Death Stranding’s graphics seem to be some of the best to date, like most things, they’ll soon come a game that will make it look like it’s from a Gameboy. Maybe it’ll be Cyberpunk 2077. But obviously, as technology progresses, games will progress in visuals, therefore old games will become outdated in visuals. Just like Horizon Zero Dawn. But could they one day reach the limit of photo-realism? Probably. But for certain it isn’t Death Stranding, but it is a step in that direction.