The future of shooters — and game graphics

I spent a bit more time with the Lost Planet demo last night, and man is it awesome. Imaginative alien/mechanical enemies (one looked like a flying flounder fossil with a lit bulb for a tail), a cool grappling hook thing, super intensity, best explosions I’ve ever seen by a mile. I don’t like how your guy swivels at the waist when you look around, so if you try to look right the view first pans in front of you before actually turning. Also at some point a clanking noise pops up and doesn’t seem to go away. It didn’t seem to be connected to my steps or an enemy.

But the best part is the graphics; the character models are just amazing. Judging by this demo and the video of Gears of War, the Xbox 360 graphics are about to come into their own. Part of it is just a level of detail we haven’t seen before.

There’s something more though; it’s like my eye is picking up on something my brain hasn’t been able to fully process. I think it might be the physics. The hardest thing for 3-D graphics so far has been to accurately reproduce the mass of objects, their heft, the way they move and interact with gravity. Even CGI in movies hasn’t figured this out. But Lost Planet and Gears of War might be doing just that. The character in Lost Planet has exceptionally realistic body movement; when you jump in Lost Planet, his legs move just like a real person’s do. And in both games it seems like the movement is a little jerkier or less smooth than most video games. I think this is because most video game graphics, like most movie CGI, are too smooth, too liquidy. They look like graphics, not reality. So far, Gears of War and Lost Planet look to be doing an unprecedented job of merging the two.

— May 12, 2006

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