The Last of Us Definition: Complete

No other game that has come out so far has been as complete as The Last of Us. The story, gameplay, characters, world, all make up for one of the most absolutely complete experiences in modern gaming.

Each aspect of the game compliments one another beautifully.

Ellie and Joel our two protagonists are your typical surrogate daughter to a father that had lost his daughter. (We actually watch that happen in the first 20 minutes of the game) Through this relationship, we’re given a window to a much more subtle story telling than many are used to in video games.

The world of ‘The Last of Us’ is post apocalyptic, but in the most beautiful way. Plant life springs through the cracks of buildings, and animal life roams through the world. Even when the story reaches it’s darkest points this post apocalyptic world is just so beautiful you can’t help but look at it.

The game play is a mix of scrounging up materials, and a third person shooter with survival horror elements. Ammo is scarce and sometimes the best option to take is to avoid combat altogether.

That’s what works so well about the ‘Last of Us.’ Everything works in conjunction. Gameplay reinforces the world and genre of the storytelling, and the characters are shaped by the setting and experiences of the game and the player is fortunate enough to see the progression of all these aspects while playing the game. Allowing me to easily claim ‘The Last of Us’ as the most complete game ever made, at least so far.

Bioshock Definition: Story

Bioshock was and remains a masterpiece in terms of Video Games.

Did it have a weak third act? Yes. Was the final boss terrible? Yes. Weren’t both the “good” and “bad” endings ultimately disappointing? Yes.

But what Bioshock was able to do so well was that it was able to tell a story through minimal cut-scenes and used the absolutely terrific atmosphere of Rapture to tell a story through game play.

I could freeze my enemies with a plasmid (power inducing gels) and then I could shatter their bodies by hitting them with a wrench. I could light a splicer (enemy) on fire, and watch as said splicer runs to a pool of water to put out the fire, once in said pool of water I could use an electric plasmid to finish them off.

Choice became the theme of the game, and allowed for this meta commentary on the state of games. Player choice, the active involvement in shaping outcomes is the visual story being told by Bioshock.

The story took a more cynical approach by forcing you to do a ‘fetch’ mission basically telling you “while you have choice, you’re still forced to do the whims of the game’s creator” which I hope opened the eyes for developers to realize that we have yet to reach a game that allows you ultimate player choice, but maybe we’re not so far off, from complete gamer choice.

 

Metal Gear Solid 4 Definition: Nostalgia

I love the Metal Gear Solid series, and many, many, other Gamers do as well. Hideo Kojima banking on that love created Metal Gear Solid 4, a 20 hour cut-scene with 5 hours of actual game play, and many of us loved it.

The reason being: nostalgia.

Hideo Kojima, director of the Metal Gear series, allowed for flashbacks, callbacks, and even allowed gamers to visit Shadow Moses (The setting of Metal Gear Solid) in Metal Gear Solid 4. Players were finally able to play as Solid Snake, not since Metal Gear Solid 2 have we played as Solid Snake and even then it was for only 1/6 of the game before we were forced to play as (ugh) Raiden.

It’s like Kojima had the epiphany that the game that for some (like myself) was something we wanted to visit again, but with enhanced visuals, and with a bit of experience. Visiting Shadow Moses in Metal Gear Solid 4’s fourth act, not only brought with it nostalgia, but a melancholic feeling of closure.

Like completing a circle.

Gamergate

Unfortunately, in the autumn of this year we had to face the realization that our culture, as a whole, isn’t as inclusive as we like to think it is.

You’ve heard of Gamergate and you’re probably sick of hearing it, and I’m sick of discussing it with friends.

Instead I want to discuss the ideal that we should be able to give the same critical eye to Video Games as we to movies, and television.

Both of these mediums have plenty of work left in terms of creating women that are as multi-dimensional as the male leads, I’m looking at you ‘Hannibal’ (great show, though), but strides have been made, and critiquing in those two mediums isn’t as toxic as trying to point out misogynistic tendencies in Video Games.

Felicia Day, Anita Sarkeesian, and Zoe Quinn, have all received Death threats from gamers. Regardless of what you think of their beliefs, nobody should be receiving death threats.

We’re gamers. Our whole deal is to be as inclusive as possible. So, when gamers like those three ladies are threatened by what I believed to be one of the most welcoming cultures in media, I can’t help but become a little upset, and question said inclusiveness of playing video games, I just hope I’m not wrong.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl Definition: Multiplayer

Nintendo may be the weakest of the big three in terms of releasing quality games on a consistent basis, but there’s something that Nintendo understands intuitively with games like Mario Kart, Mario Party, and specifically Super Smash Bros., and that is people want to play with each other.

Super Smash Brothers on the Wii is the best form of multiplayer interaction in the medium. Super Smash Brothers like Dark Souls is a throwback to the way video games should be played, and the aspect Smash Bros. addresses is local play.

Video games like Call of Duty have a great multiplayer component, but that component is great for playing with strangers from across the world. There’s a disconnect when you can’t trash talk your friends, trash talking with strangers can quickly devolve into nasty and (unfortunately) homophobic remarks. So, the remembrance that you’re playing with humans is reinforced and the trash talking is with friends, and teaming up with buddies to take out Oscar, who insists on demolishing everyone with Princess Peach is oh, so satisfying.

Super Smash Brothers is a party, and I plan on inviting myself to Nintendo’s latest shindig in the coming months.

Dark Souls Definition: Hard

Dark Souls is hard. That should be stated and put upfront as many game reviewers have been clear to point out. Dark Souls is also one of the purest throwbacks to old school video games in the medium.

Dark Souls is all about trial and error. You will die, and unlike many games that pick you up and place you back where you immediately left off *cough* Prince of Persia (2008) *cough* you will return to a checkpoint in the form of a bonfire, and another thing is all those enemies you may have already cleared from before will also respawn.

There requires a lot of thought and encounters must be handled with deft maneuvering, but most importantly the game is fair, hard, but fair.

The controls and the world will be learned by trial and error, and a very clever mechanic was to allow other gamers to hint, through the use of messages on written by one another on the floor, to fellow gamers about using specific items or to avoid certain enemies as well.

The sense of community in Dark Souls which is for the most part a Single player experience is one of the biggest surprises to come from that game.

Uncharted 2 Definition: Cinematic

Uncharted 2 did a lot of things, it revitalized and helped re-brand the PS3, when the ps3 desperately needed a reboot, but what it did most importantly was give video gamers a popcorn flick in the form of interactive entertainment.

That’s huge!

Video games are expensive. To not only be able to enjoy a video game, but to be able to play a game that others can enjoy by simply watching is just such a cool idea.

As a kid I would constantly go over to my cousin’s house just so that I could watch him play a video game. Some were incredibly fun to watch like Metal Gear Solid, while others most certainly cater to the single player experience.

Uncharted, specifically Uncharted 2, have made it fun to simply watch a game being played. A lot of the comparisons Uncharted 2 received upon initial release was that it was basically a Tomb Raider rip-off, but the other comparison constantly being made was that the game was a lot like watching a spiritual successor to Indiana Jones, and that’s a cool experience to have.

The experience is so similar that when my little sister first watched me play the game, I paused the game to leave to work and the first thing my sister asked when I got back was “to play that Indiana Jones game”

I replied “sure, sounds like fun.”