Yeah I’m with you on that. I’d seen games with graphics that impressed me before that, plenty of them, but none of them really like, blew me away. I got two Voodoo2s and had them in SLI, and I was slightly like “Meh” about them, I mean, sure, it was nice to have ridiculous FPS and higher res in all games but they weren’t quite as exciting as I expected.
Then Unreal hit, I got it a couple of months after it came out I think, and wow, holy shit, what the fuck?
It completely blew me away visually, just like completely. The detail texturing, the reflections, the way a lot of effects were complex particles rather than bitmaps (though I dunno if I knew the terminology back then), it was just incredible. This came out the same year as Half-Life, which was a better game, but visually incredibly bland in comparison, and somewhat “last gen” looking.
It took what felt like a long time for games generally to catch up with that look, until 2002 maybe?
I’ve been equally impressed since, but that not before then, despite seeing games evolve from 8-bit to 16-bit to 32-bit and huge leaps being made.