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Eye candy: The best looking games of 2012

Beauty isn't in the eye of the beholder...

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Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 may have had fans up in arms about its ending, but there's little doubt that the quality of its visuals provided an amazing look to the conclusion of the epic sci-fi series. In a game already renowned for its top quality graphics, Mass Effect 3 took the bar and shoved it several notches higher, with movie-quality cut scenes and cinematics, plus character conversation and interactions that enhanced the dramatic storytelling as Shepard and his crew battled the awesome apocalyptic power of the reapers. Art Director Derek Watts said, "Mass Effect 3 gave us a chance to polish it [the look] even more; what we wanted was an epic feel to the levels, more dynamic energy, creatures two kilometres tall, we wanted to bring all that excitement to the game. " His personal highlight? "Vancouver - it was a great joy for us to blow that thing to living hell."

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Shogun 2: Total War

Shogun 2: Total War revisited the original and some would say the best (though Rome: Total War players might dispute that) with the 2012 remake of the epic Shogun: Total War. The game has always segued perfectly between its turn-based strategy and real-time battle elements and there's no doubt the return to feudal Japan resulted in the most beautifully realised version of the campaign map. However, it's Shogun 2: Total War's battlefield visuals which were truly astonishing to behold, with thousands of Samurai clashing in huge encounters that could have been torn straight out of the pages of history. As a kid, if you ever dreamed of bringing your armies of toy soldiers to life, then Shogun 2: Total War made that dream a reality in the most stunning way imaginable.

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The Witcher 2

When the acclaimed PC series came to Xbox 360 this year there were bound to be some visual compromises, yet CD Project's RED engine still powered one of the most attractive 360 RPGs around. Whether you were fighting close quarters through the blood and mayhem of a castle siege, gambolling through some idyllic woodland fighting mythical foes or romping in a hot tub with a sexy sorceress, The Witcher 2 was one of the best-looking games on Xbox this year. Our Witcher 2 review said it's "darker than Skyrim, sexier than Mass Effect", but Witcher 2's lead level artist Marek Ziemak said he wants even more from future instalments. "For me, it's all about the visual quality. I want more creative freedom and more great graphics - that's what really makes me want to create games. It's like pushing the limit again and again, creating bigger and greater stuff. I'm looking for like real-life animations on consoles."

Other honourable mentions...

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