The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

Last week, I was so happy to publish a feature about the incredible screenshots of DeadEndThrills, a.k.a. Duncan Harris. Duncan is regularly cranking out so many terrific shots over on his site that I thought it would be fun to share some highlights from each week, as well as a few classics from his many collections.

This week, he's been posting some crazy-pants screens from up-res'd versions of Wii games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy, and appears to have just gotten his hands on S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, god help us all.

The gallery can be clicked through above (I recommend expanding the images or viewing them in a separate window to get the full, HD effect). As always, you're encouraged to go peruse his site, which contains many more great shots.

At top, we've got "Starman," which is the first of several shots from Super Mario Galaxy. Duncan is using a technique that Luke detailed for you last week to rip the (already owned) game onto a PC and run it in HD. The results are ridiculous looking, and have shattered my notions of how the great art direction of Nintendo's Wii games makes up for the system's lack of hardware prowess. Yes, Super Mario Galaxy and Skyward Sword still look lovely, but goddam would they look better in HD.

Duncan's notes:

Tools and tricks: Dolphin emulator (OpenGL), 2160p rendering, antialiasing (4xMSAA), textures patched (HUD, pause screen), free camera, bilinear downsampling.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

Portal 2 Collection Shot

This shot is one of 50 included in a "DeadEndThrills Presents" collection of shots from Portal 2. They're all outstanding, given that that game and its engine are (in my opinion) utterly beautiful. And even better in motion, I think. This one might be my favorite, in that it captures the arachnoid grace of GlaDOS's character design.

Duncan's Notes:

About the screenshots. They weren't really possible until Valve finally patched in custom FOV to coincide with its release of the Portal 2 SDK. I'd tried this thing with combining timescale modification with the game's zoom function (an FOV slide, effectively) but it was a pain in the butt. There's also a quirk in recent versions of Source that makes 2160p unavailable when using triple buffering, and let me tell you it took ages to figure that one out. Finally, there are the extraordinary gymnastics required to get Chell in shot through the thirdperson camera.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

"Veteran"

A great shot from one of Modern Warfare 2's most memorable bits—this is a great example of how a free camera can give a perspective on a scene that was unattainable while playing. I was personally way too concerned with not falling off the mountain to notice how gorgeous everything was.

Duncan's Notes:

Tools and tricks: game client 1.0 (boxed version), MW2 Unleashed command console patch, high quality ambient occlusion, custom LOD bias, 2160p rendering, antialiasing (FXAA), no-HUD, timestop, free camera, custom FOV.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

"Ms. Platonic"

Another outstanding shot from Super Mario Galaxy. Some of these are almost unsettling, given how unused I am to seeing Nintendo's characters rendered with such clarity.

Duncan's notes:

Tools and tricks: Dolphin emulator (OpenGL), 2160p rendering, antialiasing (4xMSAA), textures patched (HUD, pause screen), free camera, bilinear downsampling.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

Portal 2 Collection Shot

Another amazing one, of one of Portal 2's most striking bits of level design. Same notes apply as the last one.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

"Beyond the Moon"

The last of the Super Mario Galaxy shots, and my favorite. Lookit that junk! Could you imagine if this game was playable in HD? I am much more excited about the WiiU than I have been previously.

Duncan's Notes:

Tools and tricks: Dolphin emulator (OpenGL), 2160p rendering, antialiasing (4xMSAA), textures patched (HUD, pause screen), free camera, bilinear downsampling.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

"The Burning Season"

The first of what I hope will be many shots from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. (God, do I really have to do the periods thing every time I write that game title?) This shot manages to evoke what makes that game so great—the openness, the bleak beauty, etc. I hope he tackles Far Cry 2 at some point.

Duncan's notes:

Tools and tricks: 2160 rendering, antialiasing (SMAA), free camera, time demo recorder, no-HUD, STALKER Complete 2009 mod, STALKER FOV Switcher 1.7.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

"By A Nose"

Terrific shot from Super Smash Bros Brawl - it almost doesn't look like a game. In fact, I'll say that this image is a touch disconcerting… which I like.

Duncan's notes:

Tools and tricks: Dolphin emulator (OpenGL), 2160p rendering, antialiasing (4xMSAA), in-game Photo Mode, free camera, bilinear downsampling.

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots

"Smoke on the Water"

It woudn't be DeadEndThrills without an epic Skyrim shot, so here is one of the most epic he's done. Fuck yeah. In Duncan's words: "Like much in Skyrim, this falls somewhere between being a massive anticlimax and the best thing ever." Notes on how he accomplished the look are here.