The Best Games To Test On Your New PC

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You've bought a new rig, and now you want to see what your powerful gaming PC can do. But there's no one, single game that can show off the best of PC gaming's technical prowess all by itself. Here, then, are the nine most demanding PC games that will show you why you spent your money, as well as what makes each of them a unique visual marvel.

Metro: Last Light

ENGINE: 4A Engine

STANDOUT FEATURE: Geometric Detail

The nukes may have fallen, but beneath the dust and grime of Metro: Last Light's post-apocalyptic environment is an incredible level of detail. Rarely does the game rely solely on tricks like bump mapping to give surfaces depth; instead, every single button on a rust-covered control panel will be individually rendered. This goes a long way toward bringing life into an otherwise barren underground world.

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Tomb Raider

ENGINE: Crystal Dynamics Engine

STANDOUT FEATURE: TressFX Hair Simulation

Though Tomb Raider looks amazing when maxed out on PC, it's also currently the only game to exclusively feature AMD's TressFX hair simulation technology. This is worth checking out for a glimpse at what the future could bring: no more bald space marines. I say a glimpse because, when in motion, Lara's TressFX hair can get a little out of control and take on a life of its own. Expect TressFX to make some improvements in the near future.

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Crysis 3

ENGINE: CryEngine

STANDOUT FEATURE: Facial Animation

I could go on about how incredible the surface level details of Crysis 3 are--its lighting, its shaders, its grass that moves so naturally in the wind. But none of those factors are nearly as impressive as the game's facial detail and animation. Psycho, your constant companion in-game, experiences his own emotional arc, and it is convincingly detailed with strong close-ups and subtle expressions that I did not think were yet possible. Crysis 3 proved me wrong.

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Battlefield 4

ENGINE: Frostbite 3

STANDOUT FEATURE: Destruction

I wanted to tell you about how Battlefield 4 has one of the most impressive soundscapes ever featured in a PC game--but that's not as impressive as seeing a building fall down, is it? Battlefield 4 introduces massive-scale destruction effects that, although entirely scripted, offer a jaw-dropping visual orgy of dust and debris. Just try not to be caught under the building once a tank takes out its support struts.

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Watch Dogs

ENGINE: Disrupt

STANDOUT FEATURE: TXAA

Some controversy surrounded Watch Dogs' PC release having hidden graphical options, as well as an apparent scale back from the visual fidelity of the game's reveal at E3 2012. The game still looks fantastic on maximum settings, and it features one of the best implementations of TXAA yet. This works well because it plays into the game's filmic, neo-noir style; one that doesn't necessarily focus on complete realism above all else.

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ARMA 3

ENGINE: Real Virtuality 4

STANDOUT FEATURE: Draw Distance

I know, draw distance is quite general for a standout graphical feature, but it's especially important to ARMA 3 as it allows every facet of the game to think bigger, and run smoother. That means more visual detail within far more expansive environments, along with new tactical opportunities that come from having more vehicles, and more enemy soldiers, rendered at greater distances. ARMA 3 is the first game in the series whose visuals don't feel like they're collapsing under the game's complex military simulation.

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The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition

ENGINE: REDEngine 2

STANDOUT FEATURE: HDR Rendering

HDR rendering isn't exclusive to The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition, but it's significant here because of the way CD Projekt RED employs it. Whilst games like Crysis 3 and Metro: Last Light are chasing after photorealistic visuals, The Witcher 2 uses graphical effects like HDR to pursue a unique art direction. Thanks to this, The Witcher 2 features a visual consistency and vibrancy that no other fantasy RPGs have yet to match.

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X Rebirth

ENGINE: Reality Engine

STANDOUT FEATURE: SPACE!

Developer Egosoft is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to so much as what the controls for the X series actually are, so I don't have the hardcore tech specs for X Rebirth's engine. But I do know that it offers one of the most detailed, awe-inspiring space environments I've ever seen. Just don't go inside the space stations, or look at the NPCs within. Time will tell whether Star Citizen or Elite: Dangerous can trump X: Rebirth in space prettiness.

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Hitman Absolution

ENGINE: Glacier 2

STANDOUT FEATURE: Crowds

Hitman: Absolution takes some inspiration from IO's previous game, Kane & Lynch 2, and douses Agent 47's gritty revenge tale in murky post-processing and colour grading. But beneath those effects are some of the most impressive crowds of NPCs I've ever seen in a game. These are each fully animated NPCs, who are able to be hidden between or grabbed and held as a human shield. It's the perfect technology to power an assassination simulator.

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