Finally, games that push your PC to the limit

April 24th, 2010 in .Blogs
Bobby O’Reilly
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For the last couple of years one thing has frustrated me more than anything else when it comes to home computers. No-one’s been making games that push expensive hardware to the limit any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved watching the rise of casual gaming, netbooks, the Wii console and small portable apps for the iPhone because all these things have democratised technology and put cool, fun stuff in the hands of people who’d never considered using a computer for enjoyment before. They’ve explained to an older generation my passion for computers and gaming in a way that the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written on the subject never could.

But it has saddened me that at the same time, I haven’t had to upgrade my graphics card for nearly three years. A graphics card that could run the latest games at a fast enough framerate back then is still good enough for the latest games today. And I, for one, miss the way that not so long ago, you couldn’t go for twelve months without a radical hardware breakthrough that made game worlds more and more realistic, and developers and gamers would physically and financially hurt themselves to see them.

I don’t want to see an endless parade of also ran games that look more or less similar to each other. I want to see improvement, innovation and the kind of coders who torture graphics cards into doing things they were never designed to do. I know it sounds crazy, but I want someone to make a game that forces me to upgrade my kit.

And it looks like I might just get my wish.

As part of my job as a hardware tester I’ve been doing some benchmarking recently off the back of the launch of NVIDIA’s latest GeForce GTX 400 cards, and the funny thing is that game engines are actually getting more complex again. Largely, this seems to be a result of DirectX 11, the latest revision to Microsoft’s graphics code base, which developers use to write their 3D code for Windows games.

It’s odd, because a lot of analysts wrote off as being one of the least radical upgrades to DirectX in its long history, but the truth is that Metro 2033, one of the first games to use some of the clever new features in DirectX 11, does look different. The remarkable Unigene engine, which is available for developers to incorporate in their games, is a significant step forward in photorealism.

It’s been a bone of contention – and a reason for flat sales of PC games – that image quality has hit the level of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and stuck there. A couple of good games – like Crysis 2, maybe – that really are more demanding and make the ‘next gen’ consoles look dated could revitalise the whole PC market.

It’s early days, for sure, but I’m starting to feel more excited by the state of PC games and game technology than I have done for a long time. Fingers crossed.

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