In order for the naked surfaces of 3D objects to appear properly, lighting, some shadow, and a texture (wallpaper) are required. There have already been plenty of example of water in its liquid form, but how about in the frozen state? Bioshock simulates the structures of ice crystals rather well already, but the shine on the surfaces is still rather unnatural. Whether this is due to a lack of transparency or complex patterns is difficult to say, but the overall impression just doesn’t quite work.
Fire appears to be a fascinating element, and PC simulations of flames are very advanced. In Far Cry 2, for example, fire is used as a method of destruction—trees and grass burn properly, and grow back later.
Stalker has done a good job of driving forward representations of cement, stone floors, brickwork and moldy wallpaper. The textures appear very realistic under the lighting used.
Wood sometimes looks better and sometimes worse, depending on the texture quality; Gothic 3 has snow-covered wood down well.
Plain metal is still a major problem, with reflecting materials almost always avoided. Matte surfaces don’t work and are only improved by strong lighting.
Bricks profit from the depth effects caused by Parallax Mapping and the fine surface shadowing by Bump Mapping.