With the release of Crysis 2 I thought it would be a good time to bring up something that many people seem to overlook. Something many people seem to think is that for a game to have great graphics its characters need to be made up of X amount of polygons, and that textures need to have X level of detail. This is untrue. It simply needs to look good.
Most of you reading this probably just gave a resounding 'Duh!' to that. Many people who play games such as Braid with its beautiful 2D backgrounds and sprites, Zelda Wind-Waker with its cel-shaded world, or Okami would say that they have great graphics. This is not because they are some graphical powerhouses, but simply because they look good. This is due to their art-style.
Games such as the aforementioned Okami utilize cel-shading, an interesting colour palette, and textures that make the game look more like a painting then a typical game. It gives the game a unique look and can help to capture a players interest right off the bat. Even games with simple graphics such as VVVVV (I think it's 5 V's...) manage to look good by utilizing a simple 8-bit esque look, though you could argue that was chosen for this game due to it being a one man job and therefore needing a simple art style to make it feasible to be made.
(Why did this game sell so poorly D: )
Games with a unique or well done art style almost always stand the test of time better then games that go for a more realistic look to things. For example, a game like Far Cry which, while boasting fantastic graphics at the time, has not aged well at all due to it going for a realistic look. Having a realistic artstyle makes a game not age well because due to graphics constantly improving, a tree that could be made of, lets say 100 polygons one year, could then be made of 500 two years down the road because of technological advancement. At that point the tree made of 100 will look bad. compared to the new one. Now if you utilize a unique art style, the game can still look good down the road because it was never trying to look realistic, and instead went with something different.
Now of course, having a unique art style is not always a good thing, especially when that artstyle is done poorly. The easiest game to pick on in this case is Gears of War. (Also probably 50%+ of Unreal Engine 3 games.) You know the one, men with hunchbacks, huge shoulders, INCREDIBLY brown? I knew you did.
Everything about this games art-style irks me. The colours, the character design, the environment design...Oh gears, if you didn't play so well I'd throw you out the window. The artstyle simply makes the game look unattractive and bland. I know they did it because they were trying to have a gritty look, but c'mon at least Killzone had SOME colour.
So, on a final note, Unique artstyles are awesome, realistic graphics age poorly, and gears of war is very brown.
P.S. I am not a graphics whore despite what writing an article about graphics may suggest
P.P.S The art style to Alice: Madness returns looks awesome!