Xbox 360 FPS Triple Review: Part 1 – Graphics

When I sign into Xbox Live and check what games my friends are playing, more often than not, the answer is one of many first person shooters. The FPS genre has morphed from its popular beginnings as primarily single-player adventures such as Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and Doom (1993) into the genre of choice for an evening of multiplayer online gaming. As the genre has grown in popularity, certain franchises have climbed to the top, and everyone has their favorites. Most of my friends are Xbox 360 owners, and so the biggest rivalry I have witnessed is between the Halo games, and the Call of Duty games. Regardless of personal preference, I want to play games with my friends when I can, so I have spent plenty of time with games from both series. Then, within the last year, a third FPS called Battlefield: Bad Company 2 started popping up on my friends list. As I was already playing Call of Duty and Halo, and I had played a Battlefield game before, I didn’t rush to get Bad Company 2 when it was released in 2010. It wasn’t until early this year that my closest gaming buddy picked up two copies for us. So now I’ve played all three, and I’m surprised to find I continue to do so. Though I have my own game preferences, the purpose of this article is not to bash on one game or another. I’d like to discuss the pros and cons of each series, perhaps creating a triple review of sorts, using the most recent entries, Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. And for the sake of comparison I’m only going to consider the multiplayer components of these games. Triple Multiplayer Review Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Graphics Graphically, all three games impress. That isn’t to say the graphics couldn’t be better if the games were developed for a high-end gaming PC, and perhaps Call of Duty and Battlefield look better on the Playstation 3, but on the Xbox 360 the games look good enough that they don’t distract to gameplay. However, each game has a very different graphical style. Call of Duty: Black Ops seems to go for the “realistic” video game look the most of the trio. Sadly, this means a lot of brown and grey. There are other colors when the levels include bright signs or plants, but they always look like they are covered in dust. Screenshots of the game show off the detailed textures that look great, especially on the character models. However, once the game is in motion most of the details blur together. As many of the firefights happen at range the graphics go to waste as players are busy shooting at every enemy they can see. The style does come in handy though, as the lack of bright colors makes sitting still the best camouflage for snipers. And regardless of how you play, the well designed gun models look great in your characters hands.

  Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has a lot in common with Black Ops visually simply because they share the modern military setting, but Battlefield developer DICE’s Frostbite engine provides a bit of a different look. When I first jumped into a game of Bad Company 2, I did a double take because for a split second I thought the game was somewhat cell shaded. I quickly realized I was wrong, but the lighting in the game has a brightness, and the shading a sharpness, that isn’t shared by Call of Duty. This makes the game world look perhaps a little less realistic, but I find it brings more life to the action of the game. Like Black Ops a lot of the color palette is brown and grey, but the trees, bushes, and even the blue skies are more vibrantly colored bringing shocks of color to the environment. The texturing seems plenty detailed for the size of the levels, though I did notice that because of the level size there are more graphical repetitions. For example, often a lot of the buildings within a level will be identical, as if the level designers copy and pasted one structure all over the place to save time. This is no surprise in levels that take minutes to run across but the structural uniqueness of Call of Duty is preferable. Halo: Reach is the most different visually of the three, and I have heard of plenty of people who find it too “candy-colored” for their taste. Halo’s visuals represent the most science-fictional game worlds of the trio of games in question, and the colorful environments seem to enhance that. The visuals for the futuristic and alien technology are flashy, colorful, and fun without straying too far from what we are used to in a shooter. Player armor coloration is usually bright making stealth more a matter of staying out of sight completely than using the graphical cover to hide. The background environments in the multiplayer levels are often beautiful works of science fiction art, with space battles, mountains, or interesting weather effects in the distance. Players who don’t feel that their games need to look as realistic and dirty as usual will appreciate the style more than others. The texturing is quite detailed which is nice most of the time, but to compensate the game does suffer from some noticeable “texture pop”. This means that when using the scope on many of the ranged weapons it sometimes takes a split second for the textures to exchange for their higher resolution variants to compensate for the players closer view. This is especially noticeable in split screen play when the game has to work harder to keep up with the amount on screen.