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Freezes, Hiccups, locks — the downfall of game immersion

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Telltale's The Walking Dead game features some of the most immediately compelling storytelling and characters to ever grace a video game, but its moment-to-moment action full of choices and consequences can't seem to keep up. Every decision you make grinds the action to a halt for half a second at a time. Sometimes the intensity of a scene is lost in the relentless hiccups. Are these the issues of the end of a console generation or the consequences of today's more complicated and demanding development process?

Some games get it right, and the difference is profound. The Uncharted series and Dead Space 2 both feature easy-to-follow plots, compelling characters, and gripping narratives. Not to take anything from the writing teams on these games, but I have to wonder how much of that story clarity is the result of graphical clarity. In both games the visuals only serve to enhance the plot, rather than distract, and they're both so polished that you're never given a chance to be distracted by a weird glitch.

343 Industries' upcoming Halo 4 is touting full 720p visuals with full-screen anti-aliasing — an effect that should provide unprecedented visual clarity for a modern 360 game. The majority of games still run at sub-HD resolutions and are plagued with hard, jagged edges. For all the beauty in the foreground, distant enemies are often a mess of indecipherable pixels — your mind tends to fill in the blanks. If you don't have to do that extra work, how much does that allow you to stay focused on the action and story? If 343i can maintain a clean visual palette across the board, Halo 4 could end up being the most engaging game in the series, and you may not even know why.

The next generation will be even more impressive than this one, but it will take responsible developers to craft truly next-generation experiences. Graphical pornography can be tempting, but it will be the developers that know when to hold back that will truly further the art form. Clean, polished, crystal clear graphics will be the future that will bring game stories and experiences the respect they deserve.

Tags: PS3, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

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