Every 3D Game Needs a Photo Mode

Every 3D Game Needs a Photo Mode

Uncharted Collection offered Mike a feature he didn't know he needed, but now he wants it in everything.

A few weeks ago, I was reviewing Uncharted Collection, Bluepoint's remastered versions of Naughty Dog's adventure series. In addition to the new visual presentation and gameplay tweaks, Bluepoint also added to a Photo Mode to all three titles. At most points during the game - it shuts off during certain actions for some reason - you can hit down on the D-Pad and everything onscreen freezes in place.

My own humble screenshot from UC's Photo Mode.

From here, you're given a series of options, allowing you to move the camera around, change the field of view and depth of field, add various color filters, or additional borders. Once you have your scene set up the way you want it, you can turn off the Photo Mode UI and save your picture via the PlayStation 4's Share button. In my review, I wished that UC's Photo Mode was more robust, with more options. For example, occasionally you'd swing the camera around in a cool scene only to find Drake in the middle of a random facial contortion that did not fit the tone you were going for. I also found that sometimes the camera wouldn't let you move in certain spaces, assumedly because it was constrained by level geometry.

Regardless, I had a ton of fun with Photo Mode. I was pointing this out to a colleague when they mentioned that The Last of Us Remastered and God of War III Remastered also had built-in Photo Mode. In those cases, the Photo Mode is banking on the PlayStation 4's Share capabilities to actually capture the scenes you've set up, but there's no reason such functionality couldn't be extended to Xbox One titles as well. Grand Theft Auto V added the Rockstar Editor when it came to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Shadow of Mordor gained the option in a later update, though at the time it didn't do anything on the Xbox One version, because you couldn't save the screenshots. Mad Max had one as well. I didn't realize some of these games had photo options despite playing them, because devs tend to hide the option in the pause menus.

Some players love being digital photographers, it's just now that we've had a chance to do so on home consoles. We've long had communities of PC gamers who mod and tweak their games to get the perfect screenshot. You can find repositories for their work on the NeoGAF High-Res PC Screenshot thread (not safe for low-bandwidth users) and Maximum Graphics sub-reddit. These users either have very powerful PCs, or they kick up the graphics until they're essentially playing a slideshow. They downsample their games, running them at a resolutions their monitors can't natively handle. They mod the games with new texture packs, shaders, and lighting options. All to get just the right shot.

I found myself missing Photo Mode at times when I was playing other games in my review queue. Tales of Zesteria isn't a graphical powerhouse, but I could've used a photo mode in combat a few times. Assassin's Creed has long needed a way to capture screenshots that aren't directly tied to the character's point of view. I understand it's not always logistically possible - some games use every single button on the controller - but it's an option that encourages players to share their experiences in unique ways. It's an extension of the idea that lead to the PS4's Share button and the Xbox One's screenshot mode in the first place.

Shadow of Mordor, via Imgur user JoeyThaidigsman.

For developers, it's a winning situation. Yes, you have to put in more effort to encode the Photo Mode, but once you do, it's essentially free marketing for your game. Players get to upload sometimes stunning screenshots from their favorite titles. They get to say "I did this" while also getting others to wonder "Damn, maybe I want to play that too. It looks cool." It's another way to build a community around a your game. Hell, Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim still have people making some intense screenshots. That's a healthy community, something publishers and developers alike should support.

Have you been a fan of Photo Modes in games? Do you wish there were more or less of the option? Let us know in the comments below.

Thumbnail image via NeoGAF user BlimBlim. Header image via NeoGAF user Nick Pal.

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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