This is the second and final part of my 2014 retrospective. And you thought it was never coming.
Last time I said I thought 2014 wasn’t such a bad year, and then spent most of the post raking two games over the coals for their collective bad design decisions. I think it’s only fair I start talking about the games I really liked in 2014. These games would be on this list regardless of how well the AAA market was doing.
3. The Last of Us Remastered
In a market that is increasingly dominated by games that seem more interested in being movies, The Last of Us is the most movie-like game I’ve ever encountered. This is not a compliment. It’s not a straight “movie” like Heavy Rain or even the more recent Telltale titles, but the entirety of the narrative, almost all of the character development, and even much of the most important action sequences take place in cutscenes.
I’ve always been enamored by the potential of the interactivity of video games. “What unique stories,” I thought, “could be told by taking advantage of the player’s input to influence the way the narrative unfolds?” Instead, at least when it comes to big budget AAA titles, everyone’s more interested in making a Hollywood blockbuster with the action scenes replaced by poorly justified shooty segments. These often go together about as well as oil and water, and the player ultimately has no more control over the character they’re playing or the way the story unfolds than a viewer watching a movie. One almost wonders if it would have been better for them to make a movie from the start. And while I’m not presumptuous enough to say that this is an invalid way to make a game, I’m still a bit bitter that anyone with enough money to actually explore this potential is instead wasting it on vapid action movies with by-the-numbers revenge plots.
But perhaps the other reason I dislike these “games as movies” is that I never once got the impression that they’d make very good movies. That is, if you were to strip out all of the gameplay segments and replace them with typical movie action scenes and then release them in theaters as movies, I doubt they’d be very well received. I think film critics would generally pan them, and they’d be relegated to “this summer’s bombastic-yet-vapid popcorn film,” equally inoffensive and insubstantial. It kind of makes the whole exercise seem a bit pointless, doesn’t it? Not only are they often not very good games, with action segments that too often clash with the story they’re ostensibly trying to tell, but they can’t even manage to be very good movies, either.
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