The design that goes into video games is under appreciated. You run through these third- or first-person worlds and neglect to stop and take a look around, just like in real life. You’re in such a hurry to get to a destination, when the world around you is so damn beautiful you’re missing out every step you take. Suppose you’re that type of person; one who’s not about the details and instead runs through these worlds full steam ahead, not noticing the beauty. Do we have something for you! Art books baby, the creme de la creme of seeing the details. We’ve got two art books for you on tap to review.
The Art of Assassins Creed IV Black Flag
The Art of Battlefield 4
Full disclosure: Both of these books are published by Titan Books, so in a sense nobody loses when it comes to a recommendation. On top of that, we’ve got one game painting a beautiful picture of fantastical pirates of the 1800s in the Caribbean and another showing off realistic world war set very much in the familiar world we live in today. Stark contrast; one of adventure, the other of disturbingly real yet poignantly dramatic beauty.
Interesting aspect of costume design to make it easier for the player to know who’s who.
Let’s start with the Battlefield 4 book which is good, if you love digital rendering and a lot of self congratulation. Overall there’s a lot of good art in this book, much of it taking place in Shanghai, and for you spoiler worriers, yes there are details that’ll ruin the experience. That said, a lot of the art seems generic in this book. The verbiage that goes along with the imagery is good, but at times admits the artists jumped on Google for shots of the locations rather than actually going there. Sure that does make sense in the technology age, but let’s face it, if you’re admitting you’re using the internet to research in your text blurbs, doesn’t that mean you don’t have much to add in general? That’s the rub with this book, there’s not a lot of insight as far as art design or story. There is a good chapter on characters, how the artists had to differentiate between class styles of soldiers to make it easier on the player to distinguish skills, but aside from that most of this book is location shots which end up being boring. It’s also unfortunate how little we get from this costume/character design chapter.
Much of Battlefield 4 is filled with blank and empty rooms.
That isn’t to say the art isn’t awe inspiring, as weather and scope are big parts of the design in this book. Also, it’s possible the art design is subdued in this book because it’s all made for first person perspective. You see the locations but not a lot of humans living in it. That hurts the ability to gain perspective. On the other hand, Assassins Creed IV has a ton of diversity, epic shots and awe inspiring art. Need I say Creed beats Battlefield when it comes to art and direction?
Assassins Creed really has it all, from early development shots, to explanations on how things evolved over time. There are fantastic paintings to be had too. The thing is, we all know how the world will look when we pop the game in, but to see it from an artist’s painterly perspective is quite liberating. You can see a mood and atmosphere that a digital rendition just can’t imbue. It also comes complete with designs of weapons (which BF4‘s book, oddly, does not have) and boats. There’s just so much here one wonders if AC IV had more art to spare for their book.
Scenic beach that spells doom for a pirate.
And the Winner Is…
Let’s face it, this deck was rigged to begin with. How could a very realistic war centered first person shooter match up with an adventure game with the ability to bend reality? Well, for starters, BF4‘s book could have delivered more detail. That said, BF4 isn’t a total wash, just isn’t something I’d recommend to everybody. Fans of the game, sure, but AC4‘s book delivers on every level when it comes to art books. There’s really no comparison, the book is so intoxicating you’ll want to reread the damn thing. That’s saying a lot when you consider it’s mostly art with some brief notes.