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As another year comes to a close, it's time to reflect on the happenings that took place within the video game industry. Microsoft and Sony released their new consoles, EA was once again voted as worst company in America, and it appears as though gamers will finally be getting a healthy supply of Star Wars titles during the next several years.
But the one question every gamer is sure to ask at the end of every year is: what was the best game of the year?
Fans of fighting games got to beat the crap out of their favorite super heroes and villains in Netherrealm's Injustice: Gods Among Us. The side view combat that Netherrealm made for Mortal Kombat was sped up with simplified combos. Complimented with devastating stage transitions, Injustice was easily the most fun game to split-screen this year.
A new Grand Theft Auto only comes around every 5 or so years, but when it does it's guaranteed to make a roar in the press, at your local Gamestop, and surely some controversy among soccer moms across the country. With it's story-line over arching three playable protagonists, missions structured around grand, over the top heists, and a fresh new take on multiplayer, Rockstar's GTA V didn't disappoint.
With the PlayStation 4 just on the horizon, Naughty Dog could have easily cashed in on one last entry in the Uncharted series to round out the PlayStation 3's last days. But instead they dared to launch a brand new title, The Last of Us. It's incredible facial animations, exceptional pacing, and realistic character behaviors made The Last of Us a game to remember.
So which one of these outstanding titles should be dubbed as game of the year? The Last of Us. In fact, I'll go so far as to say The Last of Us is the best game of the last generation. The reasoning behind this can be broken down into four parts:
With all the over crowding many games have in their HUDs, finding one with simple mechanics and only a few things to look at on screen is usually only found in indie games. Whether it's a health meter, a map, an objective tracker, or the location of allies, the more information displayed on screen, the more difficult it is to digest all that information.
The Last of Us does an exceptional job of keeping only the bare minimum amount of info in its HUD. The upgrade systems and crafting work in tandem with this simplistic design principle. It ensures that the player doesn't spend more than a few minutes improving guns or making tools. All of this allows the player to focus on the aspects of The Last of Us that makes it shine in comparison to other games.
Whether it's exploring the ruins of a destroyed town, sneaking through a camp of merciless bandits, or fleeing from a horde of clickers, The Last of Us always manages to make the transitions between these events well-timed and surprising. While some may frown upon its linear structure, there's no arguing that this funneled experience makes for a roller coaster ride of thrills, chills, and conversations that will tug at your heart strings.
Just when you think it's been an awfully long time since you last saw any of the infected, you'll stumble upon a building crawling with them. When you think that there's sure to be violence and death lurking around the next corner, you may stumble upon a pleasant surprise that reminds you that there's still some beauty left in a post-apocalyptic world.
The Last of Us has a great amount of diversity in the moods its characters and settings give off, and in the types of characters and situations you'll come across. But it's the way in which they all tie together that makes the game greater than the sum of its parts.
With a new generation of consoles having just been released, it's hard to believe that a game made exclusively for the PS3 could look so great. But it's more than just the look of the game that makes it so believable. Facial animations never appear stiff as in other games. The smallest of expressions such as a grin are easily visible and look more real than any other game to date.
Player movement in games can suffer from feeling "floaty" or "stiff." But in The Last of Us character models act and react in the ways you would expect them to. When they are running and quickly turn to run in another direction, they don't simply shift on their invisible axis. The whole body comes to a stop and you see as they shift their weight into a new direction. Minuscule details provide a level of believability unparalleled by the vast majority of other games.
4. A fresh, multiplayer shooter
The best comparison I can make to The Last of Us's multiplayer is Gears of War. When Gears of War was first released it played unlike any other game on the market. It did many things differently, but didn't lack in quality or enjoyment. The same can be said about The Last of Us's multiplayer.
Supply points scattered around the map award those who don't set up camp in a corner. Collected supplies allow for crafting of med kits, bombs, and other useful items to help eliminate opponents. But its stealth gameplay is what really makes the multiplayer stand out. Sprinting players are visible on the mini map and outnumbered players are easily taken care of. As a result, the most efficient way to win is to quietly creep around the map with your team, gather supplies, and ambush lone players.
It's like a battle of wolf packs. But with guns. And bombs.
And yes, it is as incredible as that sounds.