Runner-up: Child Of Eden
Polygon poetry in motion, Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s opus takes in all the sights and sounds of his career – from the sparkling colour spectrum of Every Extend Extra to the wireframes of Rez – and weaves them into a dazzling, coherent whole. Whether explored using a controller or via motion control, from the sea to the stars, Eden is a place to revel in and worship as the thumping beats go on.
Runner-up: Battlefield 3
Talking simply in terms of visual fidelity, PC Battlefield 3 proves DICE is among the industry’s most formidable technologists. However, the game isn’t just a showcase for the engine’s ability to assiduously ape reality. Take a moment to observe the way that light fragments into defocused glitter, or that windswept surface water sheers and ripples, and you’ll soon realise that this is the cutting edge being wielded with an ?acute aesthetic sense.
Winner: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Format PS3 Publisher SCE Developer Naughty Dog
With Uncharted, visual design isn’t just about details such as Nathan Drake’s twisting clothing, smudged, scratched skin and charming, twinkly eyes. Nor is it about the ripple of sand dunes collapsing naturalistically beneath his feet. The sumptuous, multicoloured finery of a Middle Eastern bazaar – with its tourist trinkets, local food, and bright swathes of fabric all on sale – and the dilapidated beauty of a crumbling, overgrown château can only communicate part of Uncharted 3’s visual appeal, too.
Instead Naughty Dog’s latest epic is about all these things together in a single game and more besides. Because as well as detail, this is a developer that understands scale – the camera pulling back to reveal that Drake’s been swallowed up by those flowing sands, or artfully framing scenes to reveal hazy horizons and bright, sparkling city views. There’s stylisation here, for sure, and formidable technical skills are at work, too. But, wherever you are, there’s also a sense of authenticity that can only reflect hours of painstaking research. Uncharted is a series that’s been built upon the thrill of discovery, and Naughty Dog continues to ensure that no matter how far Drake travels, on both a small scale and a large one, his and the player’s reward is always something beautiful to witness.