By Chris Abbott, 7/24/2012
With the amazing high-def, 3D visuals that were introduced in this most recent generation of gaming consoles, video games are definitely one of the best ways to show off a killer home theater system these days. Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like cranking up the receiver and getting completely immersed in an intense gaming experience. And while it’s virtually impossible to truly narrow down a list of best HD gaming experiences, we decided to give it a shot with some of our favorites. From the explosion-laden Battlefield 3 to the high-speed Forza 4, here now are 10 amazing games to show off that home theater you’ve invested in.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Nathan Drake’s second chapter in the Uncharted series is certainly something to behold. Among Thieves brings a level of graphical fidelity that deserves to be witnessed in beautiful high definition, and has enough sound options to make any audio enthusiast pleased. With Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and Linear PCM 5.1 settings for its uncompressed audio, Naughty Dog delivers the goods.
Originally released in the early 2000’s on both Dreamcast and PS2, Rez got the HD treatment in 2008 when it showed up on Xbox Live Arcade. The game is a rail shooter that takes players through a Tron-like computer environment, illustrated by wire frames and vector graphics with splendid colors and lighting. Electronic music accompanies the unique sights, and players alter and enhance the soundtrack with every action on screen. Rez HD is greater than the sum of its parts; it’s a visual and aural odyssey that builds until the game’s last area that will have you cranking the volume on your receiver and getting lost in the sublime sounds.
With the latest entry in the Battlefield franchise, developer DICE continues to impress in the audio/visual department. Their Frostbite 2.0 engine allows gamers to blow environments to bits with grand explosions; a few well-aimed shots with an RPG-7 will reduce buildings to rubble. To make the destruction even more believable, Battlefield 3 sports unbelievable sounds. DICE has won several awards for sound design in previous games, and they are continuing to set the bar here.
Crytek has upped the ante of what a game’s visuals should look like. The first Crysis was brilliant, but its sequel trumps it graphically. Animations, special effects, and environments look utterly gorgeous, but the real star of Crysis 2 is the lighting. The way light touches the environment and every object in it -- enemies, buildings, trees and bushes -- requires a high definition screen to truly appreciate.
God of War 3
Before God of War 3 was released, David Jaffe (who directed the first God of War) said “...it looks like a painting come to life - it’s THAT good looking” on his blog. After watching a few minutes of Kratos traversing lush environments and beating enemies with a ferocity that has yet to be matched, Jaffe’s not wrong. God of War 3 pushes the PS3 to pump out images and scenes so lavish they make Kratos’ brutality more ferocious than ever.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Kojima Productions made Guns of the Patriots with painstaking care. From animations to camera angles, you’d be hard pressed to find a game with the same level of presentation than MGS4. Beautiful sights aside, this game demands a surround sound experience. To put things in perspective, the sound design team spent countless hours recording footsteps in different shoes to deliver an unparalleled level of authenticity. For rich, layered sound effects and an unbelievable score from Harry Gregson-Williams, look no further than Metal Gear Solid 4.
Forza Motorsport 4
Since the first entry in 2005, Turn 10 Studios has improved its racing sim with every sequel. But with Forza 4, Turn 10 rebuilt its graphics engine from scratch, and it definitely shows. This means that there are over a million polygons making up each vehicle that the game has to offer. The tracks themselves have been given just as much tender loving care, and driving a lap around Laguna Seca in your dream car is so photorealistic that the roaring engines with transform your living room into the driver’s seat.
Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 is the culmination of the blood, sweat, and tears Epic Games has put into their Unreal Engine. Planet Sera appears fantastically run down and war-torn, and the Locust Horde has never looked so menacing. The sounds of Horde popping out of emergence holes frighten, and the raucous gunfire soothes -- but nothing beats the violent revving of your Lancers chainsaw combined with the scarlet blood splattered on your screen.
Let’s face it: when it comes to facial animation, LA Noire has yet to be beat. Team Bondi set out to make the most believable digital characters, and succeeded thanks to new technology called MotionScan. Fantastic acting coupled with the sounds and style of the late 40‘s, LA Noire is a very cinematic experience. Seeing characters’ lips move in perfect sync with the dialogue makes the game more immersive, but the soundtrack is what gets LA Noire on the list. Andrew and Simon Hale have crafted such fitting tones, jingles, and themes that listening to it on anything less than a 5.1 system would be selling it short.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Never mind that the Wii can’t compare with Sony and Microsoft’s tech specs. In Mario’s second adventure across the galaxy, Nintendo demonstrates that art style matters just as much as the resolution on screen -- perhaps even more so. The exquisite orchestral arrangements of classic Mario tunes perfectly complement the sweeping experience. With vibrant, vivid visuals, breathtaking music, and immersive environments sure to captivate any gamer, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is essential in showcasing your home theater system.
Now Let's Hear Yours
You've read our recommendations for games to show off your home theater, but we're interested to hear what other titles you'd recommend. Let us know in the comments!
Chris Abbott regularly writes about video games for IGN and 1UP.com. You can follow his twitter for even more gaming recommendations.
Display: Samsung UN46EH6030 LED-LCD TV; Audio: Yamaha HTR-3066 AVR/AMP, Sony Core Bookshelves (Sony SS-CS5) and Center (Sony SS-CS8) as fronts, Cambridge Audio S20 Bookshelves (CA S20-N) as surrounds, Dayton Audio SUB-1200 as subwoofer; Sources: PS4 (doubles as primary BD player), Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Motorola RNG150N (Cable Box)