Six effects in games ahead of the curve

Every generation brings with it new challenges and it’s up to the various developers to do their best to push the boundaries. Every so often you get a developer doing something absolutely amazing in a game that is so ahead of its time that you wonder how on earth they managed to pull it off. Below are six such examples.

Silent Hill 2 – Shadows (PS2)

Back in 2001 the PS2 was only around for a few months in the West when Konami launched the spectacular Silent Hill 2. It’s regarded as a classic and there was something that just set it apart from any other game in that era – the shadows. Up to that point the shadows in games were mostly little dots underneath your character’s feet, but Silent Hill 2 changed all that. As soon as James entered any building and turned on his flashlight, the interior came to life. I remember getting a mini heart attack because of the shadows realistically panning over the area as James made his way up some stairs. It was eerie as hell. Each and every item saw a realistic shadow being cast and was a benchmark for many years. Not even the HD remaster could match the original PS2 outing.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – Fabric and plastic curtains (Gamecube, PC, PS2, Xbox)

By 2005 most developers were on top of their game and producing some spectacular results for that era. But Ubisoft was always at it, trying to get the most out of the hardware and the Splinter Cell team did some fantastic things. By the time they got to the third game in the series, they created some magic every time Sam would walk through a fabric or plastic curtain. The fabric or plastic curtains would flap as if it was the real thing. It’s probably not the most impressive feature by today’s standards, but it was well ahead of the curve at that stage.

Driveclub – Windscreen rain (PS4)

Driveclub might be no more, but to this day it still has the most spectacular rain effects you’ve ever seen on the windscreen of a car. Unlike other racers you won’t just see mere drops hitting the windscreen and being removed by the wipers. Oh no, It would stream down the sides of the windscreen in a realistic fashion. Hit the breaks and the direction of the water would change too. It’s absolutely incredible and to this day I can’t find any racing game that tops that specific effect.

Dead or Alive 3 – Snow deformation (Xbox)

When the original Xbox launched in 2001 it came with several great launch games and everyone knew that it was the more powerful console out of the lot, but Dead or Alive 3 included one effect that showed off just how powerful it was. Like Dead or Alive 2 on the Dreamcast and PS2, Dead or Alive 3 also included a snow level… but wherever your fighter moved it would leave trails behind with the snow deforming as you move over the battle arena. At the time it looked fantastic and it was awesome to see Tecmo progressing the already impressive fighter.

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – Rally dust trails (PS2)

It seems 2001 was the cause of some big events as GT3 comes from that era too. Up to that point any rally game would see very pixelated puffs of dust popping up behind the car to resemble the trail of dust your car has left behind it, but it just never looked like the real thing. Until GT3 launched. Rally games have since improved on it, but GT3 held that benchmark for a very long time. Start up your PS2 today and it still looks impressive. In fact, it was so impressive that GT4 could not match the quality of the dust particle effects and actually moved a step back in that particular aspect.

Gunstar Heroes – Pseudo 3D (SEGA Mega Drive)

In 1993 Doom just arrived on PC. The 3D era was just about to kick off in a big way, but on console things weren’t quite as straight-forward, yet. SEGA’s failed 32X hadn’t even arrived yet and Panasonic’s 3DO was in the pipeline, but very expensive. The tail-end of the 2D era brought us some fantastic games and this SEGA Mega Drive gem from Treasure did some things on that old console that should simply not have been possible. Towards the end of the game you enter a chamber to fight a boss where everything, except the foreground you’re fighting on, turns into a three-dimensional scene. There is a lot of trickery going on there and it’s not really three-dimensional (more of a pseudo 3D effect), but it blew minds at the time and was a precursor for what was to come.

What effects in games stood out for you over the years?

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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