Far Cry 3 is a very, very pretty game ... but it's no Skyrim.
Hear that? That's the sound of a thousand custom gaming keyboards being simultaneously hurled through a thousand 36" plasma monitors all across the world. Let me explain: graphically, Far Cry 3 is like little else you'll see this year. It's visually stunning -- jaw-dropping even. But that only matters to the people it matters to: high-end PC gaming nerds who not only understand what a v-sync is, but also have, on occasion, manually synced the v's when they found the official options lacking.
"Ugh. Look at those v's. Totally unchoreographed."
What most of us mean when we say a game is "pretty," or "looks amazing," is that it had a great designer. Whoever conceived of the things the graphics engine is modeling knew how to impress human beings, and it wasn't with sheer pixel count or dynamic sand integration: it was through setpieces. Skyrim wasn't graphically the best-looking game, but it had moments where the player would stumble onto a setpiece somewhere in the open world -- a mountain path framed so that the player came upon a dramatic overlook just as the aurora flared into life; a snowstorm that raged into existence just as a dragon launched from its cliffside perch; a beautiful sunrise just as your horse glitched into an eternal backflip and sent you clipping into the nether-dimension between mountains -- and it took your breath away. I'm not arguing that Skyrim was the prettiest game or anything (for my money, nothing's ever beaten Okami), it's just the latest, most prominent benchmark in design over raw computing power.
"But how can you say that? Look at the v's flying around, willy-nilly! It's hideous!"