The PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 were amazing, and here’s 5 reasons why.
Mario Galaxy is a game of awe and wonder (and rescuing Princess Peach, but that’s old hat by now) where each world you explored became a virtual playground, inviting you to come look a little bit deeper, to stay a little longer before moving on to the next. The visual elements in each and every world were truely incredible, from the beautiful world orbiting star launches of the Good Egg Galaxy to the dramatic volcano and fireball sequences of the Melty Molten Galaxy, every detail in every world felt like it was there to evoke that little bit more awe out of you. The sound track only bolstered these emotions, I still remember the heroic sounds of the Buoy Base Galaxy and the epic trumpets and strings of the Gusty Garden Galaxy, this was music that made you want to stay in the levels to enjoy it more. So, why does Mario Galaxy deserve to be one of the top games of the last generation? Simple, everything in the game, from the smallest detail right up to the largest planet was finely crafted to give you, the player, a taste of what magic looks like.
I previously wrote for CalmDownTom about how The Last of Us was one of the best games last year. But it was also one of the best released last console generation and dare I say, ever? What is it about The Last of Us? Why do we love it so much?
For me the answer is easy, it’s an incredibly emotionally engaging game. We grow attached to Joel and Ellie in a genuine way. They feel real. This emotional engagement and how it builds up is played out in the gameplay itself. It’s not all cut scenes and happening out with our control. On more than one occasion my heart was pounding as I ferried Ellie across water on rickety rafts. The poor girl can’t swim, I mean who’s going to teach her in a world gone to shit? The chit chat our characters have as you poke about the games beautiful ruined landscapes is so much more than just dialogue. We hear about their past, or don’t in the case of Joel. The way he stubbornly cuts short Ellie’s attempts to get to know him and how he later slowly opens up to her is touching on a level I have yet to experience in other games. I’ve been touched by games and I’ve even welled up at games (RIP Aeris). Journey managed to invoke bonds and feelings rarely seen in games. But nothing has compared to emotion I felt with The Last of Us. If the games intro doesn’t rip your heart out then in the words of the Kenshiro, “you’re already dead”.
The emotion invoked is helped largely by the superb voice acting and motion capture from both Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, and also from the beautiful haunting score from Gustavo Santaolalla. Troy Baker continues an excellent track record for voice acting in games, following on from Bioshock Infinite, Persona 4 and Arkham Origins. He really made Joel real for me and created one of my favourite characters of all time. The gritty moral grey of Joel sets the tone of the whole game. Would I be any different you often find yourself asking? What would I do in their situation to survive?
The Last of Us is a very well paced game. It’s essentially three different games; survival horror, stealth action and exploration scavenging. The way it paces these segments apart gives the game a nice flow. Intense heart jumping encounters are often followed by a stretch of calm as you scavenge for supplies while Ellie quizzes you on what the world was like before it fell apart. It’s a reminder of all the things we take for granted. The game also take a surprising change of pace about three quarters through and culminates in one of the best game endings ever. I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t played but those who have will surely know the change I speak of. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to play The Last of Us: Left Behind, the eagerly awaiting DLC prequel.
So. GTA V. It was good wasn’t it? It did sell a bazillion copies and make a gazillion pounds. (Figures correct Jan 2014, source; The Internet.) GTA V (as of 2014) is the best presented GTA so far and the good people at Rockstar North seemed to manage to tease every last inch of processing power out of the 360 & PS3.
GTA V stood out for me for one major reason; Trevor. Trevor was such a unique character in that (for me) he had no redeemable qualities whatsoever. the other guys felt like they were in over their heads trying to make a better lives for themselves, Michael wanted to reconnect with his family and Franklin wanted to escape the life of the ghetto. Trevor, on the other hand just loved to cause carnage and rather that baulk at any of the squeamish tasks at hand, he revelled in them. This made him very hard to like as all he ever did was challenge my own moral sense of right and wrong. With the other 2 at least you felt they were doing wrong for a good reason, with Trevor there was no redemption, no moral compass. Trevor never believed he did any wrong and he sure as hell wasn’t going to repent for his sins.
Some have complained about the moralities of GTA V, I would say that if you can’t tell that Trevor/Michael /Franklin’s actions are wrong then maybe you need to have a look at your own morals you great, big, sociopath… So yeah, the new map looked amazing, the underwater sections in particular were truly stunning, if you found the sunken cargo ship or transport plane you’ll know exactly what I mean. Also the heist system worked well and the dark humour that GTA is well
known for is ever present throughout.
One thing I’d point out, I bought GTA V solely to play the single player, online does not interest me, I tried it, didn’t really like it. Couldn’t care less.
The sequel is out now, but even with Dark Souls 2 looking like a worthy successor to the original, nothing will ever quite match up to your first visit to Lordran.
There’s so much I could say about Dark Souls. About how I love my pyromancer but hate how vulnerable his spell casting makes him. About how the quiet moments with a lack of music and windy, desolate soundscape helps build the games atmosphere. About how it felt to defeat Havel the first time, or Gwynn the second time round on NG+, or how I love the way that my character swings his Gargoyle Halberd about as effectively as I would in real life (not at all). I could even talk in-depth about the brilliant community around the game, the hint system that lets players write messages to aid there fellow adventurers or the PVP element. Instead I will simply say this. Play Dark Souls.
If you love strange new worlds. If you hate tutorials. If you think games today are too easy or too scripted or too linear, or if you just want to play a game that treats you like an adult, that sets you a challenge and asks you how brave, clever and cunning you can be. Play Dark Souls.
Heavy Rain has some moments where you think to yourself, “I have never seen anything like that before”. While most developers are content to ape Hollywood movies and lift action scene or imagery wholesale, Heavy Rain’s tone and cinematography are so original that they don’t remind you of something from cinema. They are better than things you’ve seen in cinema. That moment when Jayden smashes the globe in the virtual reality world of ARI and changes the environment is genuinely draw dropping.
All of this originality and ambition was surprisingly met with success. Heavy Rain sold comparatively well and secured David Caige the license to go out and develop this unique genre of game further. Most impressively of all, despite guaranteed success Quanic Dream did not develop a sequel. What a tragedy then that Beyond: Two Souls was such a travesty of a game, failing spectacularly to live up to the promise of it’s predecessor. It’s failure makes Heavy Rain all the more special; it’s lighting in a bottle, never likely to be captured again.