FEAR was 2005 and it looked better than CoD 2. It can be argued that Doom 3 or Half-Life 2 were the best looking games in 2004.
I also love how once dedicated GPUs for the PC were released, the PC quickly started becoming the go-to platform for best graphics.
Crysis 3 is also a 2013 game and played on a proper high end PC looks better than Ryse. They do run the same engine, only you can push a lot more graphics on a PC than you can on an Xbox One. Ryse has a better artstyle though with more vibrant colors.
I wasn't sure whether to go with FEAR or COD2. To me, both looked just as good as each other. But trying to limit my list to just one game per year makes it really difficult. Same goes for Crysis 3 and Ryse.
By the way, Ryse uses a 4th generation CryEngine, while Crysis 3 uses CryEngine 3. While Crysis 3 has higher resolutions and more texture details, Ryse has higher polygon counts for the assets as well as improved cinematic lighting & shading effects. Ryse could have looked a lot better if it was a PC game though.
Higher resolution assets don't mean much when you're limited to 30fps at 900p. If we want to go by pure asset fidelity then modded Skryim blows everything else away no competition. The limitation of the resolution combined withe lower frames reduces the overall picture quality compared to that of Crysis 3 running on a PC at recommended settings. Furthermore Ryse has smaller environments, though that could very well be a product of the game's design, not the limitations of the hardware.
With graphics king your looking at the best overall picture quality you can get, that has to combine both art and technical aspects of graphics. It is biased towards upgrade able platforms like the PC because of the limitations of hardware of a closed and fixed platform. If Ryse was on the PC it would probably look better than Crysis 3 at its best, but as it stands Ryse's best is still not as good as Crysis 3 at it's best.
Yes I have seen it, yes it is a fantastic looking game, no it's not the best looking game of last year. It's highly doubtful any console game will ever be awarded that again unless somebody breaks the mold and builds a console that is on par with the best PCs of the time.
The last console game to ever be crowned graphics king will be Gears of War. At the time the Xbox 360's unified shader GPU was ahead of anything on PCs. The next year the PC far suppressed the Xbox 360, but for those few months Gears of War was the best looking game. It's just not possible anymore for a $400-500 machine to do the graphics of $1000 GPUs. Even with the native advantage of having a low level API that gets more out of the hardware, the gap in power is too great for any sort of optimization to fully win.
Crysis 3 and even Battlefield 4 on ultra settings on the PC look better than Ryse at it's best. That's also why I'm not talking about Killzone Shadow Fall despite being 1080p and looking very good, when you play it there are a lot of unfortunately obvious cuts they had to make that hurt the final picture quality (mostly distant LoD models).
No it's not fair, but that's how it is.