Visual Downgrades: A Growing Concern

When it was first revealed at E3 2012, Watch Dogs became the game most associated with the then unannounced next generation of consoles. It was a new property at a time when there weren’t a whole lot being announced, it featured interesting new gameplay mechanics, and it looked monumentally better from a visual standpoint than anything on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. However, after it was pushed out of the console launch window very late, only to resurface several months later looking noticeably worse visually, interest has certainly declined.

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Now, there is still every possibility that the game will be fantastic, even if it doesn’t look quite as sharp as it was originally presented. Graphics aren’t the most important element of a game, and there are plenty of outstanding games with less than impressive visuals. Still, to see the game looking as good as it did only to now look not quite as good is a disappointment, and it should be a wake up call for every gamer to look at all early in development game footage with a very skeptical eye. Considering The Division is also a Ubisoft title and that looked even better than Watch Dogs ever did when it was revealed last year, caution is certainly warranted.

I think people get far too worked up when a game winds up looking different than what was originally revealed, especially when you start throwing around the notion that developers were being deliberately disingenuous. I don’t think Ubisoft was trying to trick people with the original Watch Dogs footage, nor do I think From Software was doing anything similar with the Dark Souls II preview builds that looked much better. Performance optimization is often one of the last things done before a game is finished, and I’d imagine it can be a pretty demoralizing turn of events for the developers when it’s determined a game has to be scaled back from the original vision in order to get running smoothly on console hardware.

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Even still, for consumers it often feels like a punch to the gut when you get your hands on the final product and it doesn’t match up with what you were led to believe you were buying. After seeing this several times recently with the aforementioned Dark Souls II and Watch Dogs, Aliens Colonial Marines, Deep Down, and of course historic examples like Killzone 2, this is something everyone should be wary of going forward. For as exciting as it is to see amazing visuals for upcoming games like The Division and The Order 1886, I recommend remaining skeptical until we get our hands on the final products.