Here are 12 games that’ll have your friends going green with envy at your bleeding-edge PC’s bulging Tech Biceps. Jump past the break to see them all.
Realistic Graphics (Tie): Crysis 2
Regardless of how you feel about the game, there’s no denying it: Crysis 2 is a looker. Sure, it might have blown even more minds if it hadn’t made the nanosuit-powered leap to consoles, but the game’s hyper-detailed decaying cityscapes and alien-devoured slices of scorched earth are truly sights to behold. The level of variation in environments, too, elevates this one’s showcase potential beyond that of its predecessors.
Realistic Graphics (Tie): Bulletstorm
When it comes to frightening levels of detail, CryEngine 3 and Unreal Engine 3 are at the top of the game. And so, just as CryEngine’s most recent product is a clear best-in-class, so too is Bulletstorm. On top of being loud, crass, and utterly unashamed, Bulletstorm’s gorgeous. It’s also insanely colorful – something once thought impossible from an engine that invented new shades of brown to avoid exploring the visible light spectrum.
Devil’s in The Details: Metro 2033
Metro may not be in quite the same league as Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm when it comes to sheer visual oomph, but that’s not the point. Instead, the game’s locations teem with tiny details – dust flecks floating about, makeshift clotheslines, rotting bar tables, crowds of people. In its own way, Metro is one of the most beautiful games out there. It’s a post-apocalyptic world whose every inch hides some new treat for your senses.
Most Characters On-Screen at Once: Shogun 2: Total War
The Total War franchise has always been known for its ludicrously large armies, and the latest entry in the franchise doesn’t disappoint. Sometimes, we find ourselves motionlessly marveling at all the tiny men duking it out on our screen. Not-so-coincidentally, those are the same times we find ourselves losing. Horrendously.
Best Draw Distance: Just Cause 2
Fog. It’s dreary, depressing, and has rendered many a videogame character all but invisible the second you stepped more than two feet away from them. Not so with Just Cause 2. Near, far, wherever you are, details abound. Lush jungles, snow-capped mountains, airplanes that have been grappling-hooked to other airplanes – Just Cause 2 has it all. 400 square miles of “it all,” to be more specific. Also Bolo Santosi, but we don’t talk about her.
FIRE: Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 is far from perfect, but when it gets something right, it goes all the way. Its environments look great, but you know what’s even better? Setting them on fire. Smokey Bear would have a field day with this one, but he’s not in Africa. Also, fictional. At any rate, Far Cry 2′s fire spreads into a sea of all-devouring orange. It’s the perfect game for the arsonist in your life who you’d really like to distract so that he stops trying to burn down your house.
Physics: Red Faction Guerrilla
Physics is the king of sciences. Disagree? Try playing Guerrilla and saying that again. Put simply, everything breaks. And it’s glorious. Concrete turns to dust, sheets of metal tumble every which way, and – with startling frequency – something explodes. Really, it’s like watching a train wreck, only you’re not just watching. Destruction completely alters the way you play, and it’s an absolute joy to behold. Also, two words: Ostrich Hammer.
Best 3D: Crysis 2
Love it or hate it blah blah blah we already did that part. Bottom line: Crysis 2 is a tech marvel, and that extends to its 3D implementation as well. The game was designed from the ground-up with 3D in mind, and it shows. Even your HUD pops when the third dimension involved. This isn’t some slapdash attempt to catch a ride on the 3D bandwagon. It’s the real deal – one of the few games we’d deem worthy of investing in the necessary hardware for full effect.
2D Graphics: Braid
2D’s days in the spotlight may be long passed, but that doesn’t mean it’s a dead form. Evidence? Well, Braid, for one. The time-bending 2D platformer will almost certainly tie your brain in knots with its devious puzzles and bottomless plot, but your eyes will be too busy learning how to love to notice. Rich, warm colors and lavish hand-drawn vistas are the stars of the show here. Are games art? Who knows? But Braid is like looking at a painting.
Sound (Explodey): BF Bad Company 2
Plenty of games toss around fancy words like “surround sound” and “guns that don’t remind you of watching flies ping harmlessly off a bug zapper,” but few really use them. BC2, however, sounds like an actual, well, battlefield. Explosions pound, gunfire closes in, and each weapon has its own sonic signature. If you want to put your brand new speakers through their paces and probably wake your neighbors (and the dead), this is your game.
Sound (Scary): Dead Space 2
Generally, we consider ourselves mature, well-adjusted adults. There are certain things, however, that will reduce us to cowering children in the blink of an eye. All of them are Dead Space 2. Every gory piece of the game is horrifying in some way or another, but incredible sound design stitches the experience together. Pained screams, clumsy thunking sounds, and so much more create a haunting aural landscape that feels like it’s out to get you.
We’re not including this one as a game so much as we’re considering it a really awesome visualizer. Audiosurf takes your music, chews on it for a couple seconds, and then spits out an entire racing track based on your music’s tempo, variation, etc. It’s an incredibly fun (and often relaxing) way to experience music, making it the perfect way to break in a new speaker system.