SIONL: A Tale of Two Games

When I was talking about this year in gaming, I was telling some friends, before it came out, that this year’s best game was going to come down to two games – The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls.  The Last of Us was an experience like no other.  A cold but heart-warming and tear-jerking experience that right up to the very end had powerful writing, incredible characters and gameplay that was both punishing and forgiving at the same time.  Beyond: Two Souls is a game that has unbelievably good performances from two A-list Hollywood stars, a story that is miserably sad and engaging, while making you think, but has controls that are awkward in a lot of places, taking some of the punch out of some moments, when you have to control everything.

The Last of Us is the best game of this year, without a single challenger.  A lot of people are saying that Grand Theft Auto V should be, but they are idiots.  It’s Grand Theft Auto.  What great questions were asked?  What poignant moments were had?  What amazing character development happened, outside of people getting shot?  None.  For what it is, it is a good game, but when one looks at a game that defines a year, representing the best of all things, The Last of Us brings everything to the table.  It is the kind of game that will be talked about for years to come.  I could talk, for hours, about the various characters and why some are good and some aren’t.  I got into an argument with a friend about whether or not Joel is a bad person or not.  I argued that he isn’t, but my friend was insistent that he was.  It was the kind of argument that show that video games have finally risen to a challenge that the late Roger Ebert posed – that they aren’t art.  While other games are arguably able to prove him wrong, this is the definitive death-knell to that idea.  It has happened.

But I don’t want to sell Beyond: Two Souls short.  I love that game!  It is my favorite game of this year, by far.  In the review, I had to be honest, but here, right now, I get to be myself talking about it.  That game is another one that I hope people are talking about for years to come.  It has finally taught me something that I have been thinking about for a while – that video games are looking to replace Hollywood.  Ever since Mass Effect 2, when the voices of Martin Sheen, Carrie-Ann Moss and Seth Green were among some of the best voice-work actors, I got to thinking – video games are finally getting recognized for the potential they have.  The likeness and presence of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe was incredible.  This was a game that was one that I immediately wanted to play again after I was done.  That is the highest honor that I can give a game, and it is the thing that all my favorite games share.  The only, and I do mean ONLY reason why this game falls so short of best game of this year is that the controls are so damn awkward.  However, I could fawn and gush and debate about things about this game for hours, too.

2013 is a game-changing year for the industry.  We have seen some INCREDIBLE games come out this year, like the two in this post, Bioshock Infinite, the reboot of Tomb Raider and the well-done reboot of Devil May Cry.  All of these games are awesome, with the latest iteration of the Bioshock series also being a profound and thought-provoking experience.  Games that can be thought-provoking while beautiful is something that we are seeing more and more of.  Sure, there will always be the mindless shooters that make a fuck-ton of money, like Call of Duty and Battlefield, but those games are starting to fade into the background of conversation.  No one is talking about deep characters in either of those series’.  No one is debating the morality of any of the decision in those games.  They are pretty much “America, Fuck Yeah!” the video game.  But no one is talking about them, other than to point out the bad effect they have had on modern FPS games (and there is a discussion to be had).

In its last year, the PS3 is rubbing Microsoft’s nose in it.  Microsoft has fallen so far, so fast, that it is kind of impressive.  While they listened to the outcries of the people, it was too little, too late.  The damage was done, and their reputation was irreversibly damaged.  Losing customer loyalty is the last thing they need, because the fact is that Microsoft hasn’t really innovated on anything in a long time, which is strange because they have the money.  If there is a company that can afford to take risks right now, it’s them.

In its last year, this console cycle is showing the potential that the innovations in gaming can have.  From deeper stories, better and more expressive characters and heart-warming moments that get people thinking, this is the gaming that we always wished we could have.  The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls are a big part of that.  These are two games that everyone who played them is thinking about them.  Or, like me, wanting to play them again immediately afterward.  These games are the titans of their respective genres.  While so many games have come close and crash at the finish like, like Mass Effect 3 and L.A. Noire, these games showed what is possible.  What’s more, they opened the door for new possibilities.  With Hollywood wanting to get in on the action, the potential for better characters and better voice-work is higher than ever before.

I love these games.  I love them both so much.  They are on my favorites list, because you can sit my ass down in front of them, put it on, and whether I am playing or not, I am hooked.  Much the same way as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Journey, my two favorite games.  And Sony, excellent work.  This year, the two best games, are exclusive to you.  Last year, my favorite game, Journey, was an Indie title that was also exclusive to you.  You are showing Microsoft how it’s done.  Not to mention, that ad with “how you share a game on the PS4” was hilarious.  I swear, that was a straight-up middle finger to Microsoft, and bless you for it.

Until next time, a quote,

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” -J.K. Rowling

Peace out,

Maverick

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5 thoughts on “SIONL: A Tale of Two Games

  1. I loved your article, and great writing on your part. I never played the “Last of Us” or “Beyond Two Souls” but both games look really good for what I have seen..By the way, you seem to really like the Last of Us. Is it your favorite video game? On your statement on how video games are growing into an art form, personally, I think Video games have been art since the very beginning but today, it just seems like they are being more noticed for their artistic merits.. I like how games are kind of having qualities that movies have such as voice acting from movie stars and music from some film composers such as Clint Mansell in Mass Effect 3, or Normand Corbeil in Heavy Rain, but I don’t want video games to always have the idea that “for it to be art it has to be like a movie”. Video games are not movies, their interactive stories and sometimes you can convey emotion in a video game without over the top graphics and voice acting.

    • True enough. My favorite game, Journey, is one without a single word of spoken dialogue. It conveys everything through visuals, with a character who has no name, no history and you never hear a spoken word out of. When that kind of character is one who you can cry for as the cold is killing them, that is powerful story-telling. The Last of Us is high on my list, but Journey is the one at the top, followed by Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Thanks for the comment.

      • You see I never played Journey, but what you have just described sounds like an amazing experience. Just for the record, my favorite game is Persona 3 FES, and that game conveys its emotion with a perfect mix of game play and storytelling similar to a movie.If you haven’t played it give a try, uhhhh even though it is a long game. (Hey I can’t convince my colleague on my blog to play it). Also play “Catherine” because that game is one of the most mature and adult games I ever played. It is a game about cheating and sex yet it doesn’t show sex at all in the game. I love your quote at the end of your article and take that Roger Ebert as much as I respect you as a critic.

      • Thanks. I also have a soft spot for Catherine. It is a very mature game that actually takes the concept of cheating seriously. I never thought that that would come from a video game. But yeah, you absolutely MUST play The Last of Us. To give you an idea of the quality of story-telling in that game – you have about 3 minutes to get to know a couple characters, and when there is a tragic moment with them, it makes you cry. Now THAT is what I’m talking about with telling a good story.

  2. Sounds awesome. I just need a ps3 to play it. Why can’t the price drop already for a ps3! I have an Xbox 360 and I kind of wish that I had a ps3 because of how many exclusives it has. Oh well, I will get it eventually. Untill then, I will just enjoy my Nintendo consoles, Xbox 360, and ps2.

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