Brut Awards 2013, PART 2: DLC & Main Grub

I sure hope you enjoyed part 1 of the Brut Awards. If you didn’t enjoy part 1 of the Brut Awards, well allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine named, “Ramirez the Psycho Badger.” Say hi Ramirez!

Badger!

I’ll fucking gut your eyes out!

Oh Ramirez, you wacky badger! So if  you haven’t read part 1 yet, I suggest you do. Otherwise you would get a visit from Ramirez. And nobody wants to be visited by Ramirez.
As you can tell, we’re getting close to the end here. Except we still have a few more unrelated titles to touch on before we transition. So without further ado, I give you the best DLC and the best games of this year. Enjoy, because I certainly had fun while I randomly began plucking scales from the back on my head for this one. I can literally create a billion necklaces for my local knickknack store now, it’s ridiculous.

DLC Awards –

Mass Effect 3 DLC Contender

Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC:

The last piece of Mass Effect 3 DLC turns out to be the best one. In the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, you’re sent on shore leave to a private bachelor pad (it’s a captain’s cabin, but we all know it’s a fancy as shit bachelor pad) on the Citadel. The reason for this? Shepard just needs to get some down time, and maybe some space tail on the side.
All goes well, until a mysterious terrorist group attacks Shepard at a sushi restaurant. With as little information as to who was behind this attack, Shepard and his crew (and Wrex) must find out who did this and put an end to the terrorism. While along the way probably downing a couple drinks, and maybe some illegal gambling on the side.

Right off the bat you can tell that this was written by the core writing staff based on the strong interaction between the characters. It’s also the one that made me realize how much this series was missing Drew Karpyshyn’s sharp writing. If you aren’t aware, Drew Karpyshyn was one of the original main writers for the Mass Effect series, but departed right before the release of 2. While I think the current writer in charge of the series Mac Walters did a solid job, with some missteps here and there, the third installment was missing that light-hearted touch that Drew gave to the series. It makes considering the context of Mass Effect 3, but for the most part it was a missing certain element that I think was present in the previous installments, until you get to this DLC.
The immediate first reaction for those who play the game may be that the package is entirely nothing but fan-service, in actuality it’s more of a love letter to the fans. A good majority of every Mass Effect squad-member, yes including you Vega fans, has a shining moment. It’s also some of the funniest writing I’ve seen in a while. Where you have moments involving certain members of your team giving you shit for ruining one of the best sushi restaurants in the galaxy, or ordering pizza before a major mission. It’s not going to be another Leviathan or Omega DLC that’s going to add anything to the lore, however it’s a sweet finishing touch that really sends the game out on the right note rather than a convoluted one.

It won’t make me forget the ending, that’s for sure, but at least it leaves me feeling relieved and slightly teary-eyed. And that’s all this humble dinosaur can ask for.

Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon Contender

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon:

Every impulse in my body is telling me to make this my game of the year. But unfortunately whatever shred of sanity I have left is telling me there are other games that deserve the spot. Oh well, twas was nice thinking that I could make Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon game of the year even though ‘Best of the Year’ lists don’t goddamn matter. But who am I to say what numbers and bullshit are legitimate to put on a list anyway?

So…Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is awesome!

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes place around the far-away year of 2007, where the U.S. and Russia are still suffering under a nuclear fallout from the war. In the game you’ll be playing as Sergeant Rex Power Colt, a super cyborg solider who has to investigate this island and a rogue agent named Colonel Sloan. Unfortunately when you arrive on the island things don’t go as planned, and even worse, the island is native to giant neon lizards that shoot lasers! I don’t now if that’s the most scariest thing ever or the greatest!

Right from the beginning, the game is extremely self-aware of all the menial tasks you go through in most modern action games. Including the notorious long-winding tutorial, which they manage to turn it into one of the funniest highlights of the game. Despite some moments of forced jokes, which are very minimal to be fair, the game manages to keep throwing more hilarious jabs and 80’s references at you. What’s great is that not only will you find some of the best jokes in the game’s cutscenes, which are formatted in a vintage sort of way, but you can also find them in the game’s world. Such as on crates or the descriptions for the side quests you can unlock.

The gameplay itself is straight up Far Cry 3, but layered over with an 80’s aesthetic to it. Meaning make sure to expect colorful lasers and cheap Casio keyboard noises to be around every corner. Hell, even the weapons are references to 80’s sci-fi or action films! There are upgrades for your weapons, forts you can take over, and savage animals to hunt! It all adds up to a nostalgia ride that’s fun even on its own, plus it has one of the best end-credits songs I’ve ever heard.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, I wish I knew how to quit you!

The Main Contenders –

Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag Contender

Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag:

If there’s one thing I’m getting tired of, it’s the Assassins Creed series. And honestly I shouldn’t be considering that, this should be one of my all time favorite videogame series. I mean it does have some great characters, some cool gameplay mechanics, and apparently a good multiplayer mode. But when you keep releasing installments, year after year, no matter how much side content you put in, it’s still going to get stale. And yet Black Flag is on this list, which does says a lot for this latest entry.

Black Flag follows one of Desmond’s great assassin ancestors, Edward Kenway. A swash buckling pirate who aims to be the best pirate he can be, but struggles to be a true assassin. Edward’s goal in life is to become wealthy, and return to his wife with plenty of riches. Cause you know, maybe Kenway wants to gets his future children into pirate boarding school. However just like with most pirates, you start to realize that they’re kind of flawed.
That’s ultimately why I dug Edward, he’s not a good person, but he aims to try to be one. His character arc isn’t anything new we’ve seen in pirate movies or literature, but the writers still manage to inject a lot of great character moments in this installment. By the beginning he’s just some pirate scum, but by the end he’s become a matured adult who tries to correct the wrongs of his past. He’s not as suave as Haytham, but Edward does make up for it with some great character development.

As you can guess, the main thing Black Flag has going for it is that it’s an open world pirate game. Thus you get to board enemy ships, plunge for treasure, and hijack cargo from plantation farmers. It’s Black Beard’s wet dream, and hell he’s even in the game too!
What the gameplay does right is that you’re never always on foot in this game, and that you’ll be spending half the time in a ship. Granted while it’s not the most biggest ship in the world, with enough upgrades you can beef that baby up. Plus you also have plenty of neat side content based around the ship combat in the game. Including battling these legendary ships that just made me want to tear my scales out! Seriously, I think the hulls on those ships were made out of adamantium!

There’s plenty of other neat stuff you can do too, that’s  if you’re getting tired of sailing on a ship for several hours. As I mentioned there are deep-sea troves you can explore to get more treasure, and get attacked by sharks. Then there are harpooning objectives that you allow you to kill whales, and also get attacked by sharks.
Can I just say fuck sharks in general? Seriously, why are sharks so obsessed with gold and Edwards glistening half-naked body? I swear the next game better allow me to barbecue sharks on a ten to twenty-foot wide grill. At least that would give me the illusion of devouring my worst enemy. Please make that happen Ubisoft.

Now where was I at with Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag? Oh yeah, the game itself would have been just decent if it weren’t for the emphasis on ship combat. However because it manages to smooth out the gaps between missions with different objectives, along with a really fascinating story, I think the game still manages to be very entertaining. It could have possibly been even up with there with my pick for game of the year, but I still can’t discredit the fun I had from this pirate adventure that also oddly enough happened to feature not as many burning huts and villagers being raped as possible. Now that’s non-traditional for pirates.

Enemy Within  Contender

XCOM: Enemy Within:

I’m not gonna lie, I had no idea where to put this in terms of category. It’s an expansion pack, but I can’t label the game as DLC or put it in the indie category. It would especially be funny to see the reactions if I were to put it in the indie category, or hell even make up the description:

XCOM: Enemy Within is about a romantic relationship between a man and an alien. But one day their relationship gets caught in the middle of a firestorm as the leaders of the alien empire demand that the humans stop expressing love! Now its up to the wacky couple to save humanity, and protect the true meaning of love! Also it’s turn-based.

Put that on the back of the box!

But at some point you just have to say, “fuck it”, and go on talking about one of the greatest things ever. Sorry, I meant the most perfect thing ever!
For those don’t know, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was my favorite game of last year. The premise behind  Enemy Unknown was that aliens were invading the earth, and it was up to the XCOM division to prevent the invasion. It was a fairly complex turn based strategy game, but still managed to put you on the edge of your seat at most times. You never knew who was going to die on your team, and when they were going to die. It was an unforgiving game, but goddamn was it fun.

With that said, there were some issues with Enemy Unknown. Some maps became repetitive and didn’t offer as many tactical positions for certain classes. When leveling up characters, it became easy to choose which perks you wanted for your soldiers. There were other issues too, I think. It’s very hard to pick out problems when it came to Enemy Unknown. But boy did Firaxis correct the shit out of those issues and gave you more toys to play with!

For starters, you have a new class at your disposal which is the MEC trooper. A hulking mass of metal with titanium punching gloves, and a boner for dead aliens!  Or depending on where you stand with close combat, you can either stick with the metal fists or attach a wicked flamethrower. Then you have the new modifications that allow you to give your soldiers super abilities. These abilities can range from jumping on tall buildings, enhanced envisioning, and utilizing a stealth cloak.

What’s great is that Firaxis has found a way to not make these new additions not undermine the games overall difficulty. It’s more options for the players, and they don’t make the game feel less like an XCOM game because of it. Plus the AI has been improved as well, each previous existing alien has been given more refined stats. Along with a couple new aliens to fight, you’ll also be fighting some of your human brethren known as EXALT. Expect a lot of challenges in your way, and let me just say it gets even more difficult than Enemy Unknown.

The new maps feel great, and have a lot of strategic opportunities that are just lingering in all of them. The visuals haven’t been vastly improved, but you can tell that Firaxis has sharpened them quite a bit.
In some ways the game has been slightly accommodating toward new players, but in other ways there are more opportunities for the game to screw you over with the council missions. I cannot praise this game enough, once again if I had my way this would also be game of the year. Although being sensible to other contenders is a bitch.

I should just have two categories, the ‘Not XCOM‘ category, and the ‘XCOM category’. There, now I can die happily!

GTA V Contender

Grand Theft Auto V:

I life to refer this game as, “Ten reasons why Trevor is awesome.” However there is a game here to discuss, so I guess I can hold that off for a little bit. At least until I get to the very end.

So from first glance, GTA V looks like the same ol’ thing except with really polished graphics. I was like that too for a while until I saw some footage for the game, then I actually played the game and was like, “What the hell is this shit?” Kidding of course, the game is really great and manages to feel fresh again by adding a couple new things.
The first major change here is that you’ll be controlling three characters: Michael Townley, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Phillips. Throughout the game you’ll be switching between them constantly, unless you prefer to play as one character. As a matter of fact if that’s the case, how the hell were you able to progress in the game?

Since it’s GTA, of course you won’t be playing as heroes here. Michael Townley is a retired bank robber who now is living under witness protection along with the rest of his family. Franklin Clinton is a repo man who works alongside his trusty ol’ sidekick Lamar. Then Trevor is a psychopath who was once a cohort in Michael’s bank schemes, and now lives in a trailer park. Eventually all these characters come together, but in a way that makes a car crash look less eye-catching by comparison.
For a game that tries to put a bad light on all the central characters, there are some pretty endearing moments in the game. Michael constantly throws tempers tantrums, but wants to try and be a better person. Franklin is stuck in the hood, but no matter how much he tries to move up, he still gets dragged down to the bottom. And then Trevor, well, let’s just say Trevor can be really generous toward women. You can’t completely define them as assholes, because that would inquire that they’re just one-dimensional characters. Also I should note, has Rockstar really been known for writing one-dimensional characters?

The gameplay itself is more tightened than with previous entries. Shooting feels more precise, and the camera doesn’t feel as pulled out as with other Rockstar games. So you now have more of a focus on all the murder and mayhem! It’s slightly easier to ride vehicles, but only slightly. The character models are more detailed, and when they aren’t looking funky, they can mesh really well with the world.
Speaking of which, Los Santos looks gorgeous and the amount of detail work here is incredible. At points it forget that I was playing the game on my Xbox 360 and not on an Xbox One. There’s also a lot of stuff you can do in Los Santos like partake in triathlons, golf, tennis, and take random strangers on crazy rides. Rockstar has done a great job on making Los Santos feel alive by not only the aesthetics, but with what you can do whenever you’re not being chased by cops.
However the biggest takeaway for me, aside from the perspective switching, is the bank heists. Most of the bank heists in the game involve choosing how you want to approach them. Either through some sort of secretive way, or a full-out assault that’s sure to catch the attention of every cop in the city. Regardless of your choice, you’ll also get to choose who you want on your team (aside from the three main characters). These factors add up to what is one of the game’s biggest strength, and why it’s on this list.

If you manage to pick up the game now, you’ll be seeing GTA Online at its least buggiest. If you’re not familiar with GTA Online, think of a scaled-back MMO except by Rockstar. You can either cause mayhem with friends in Los Santos, or do one of the other multiplayer modes. The only bummer about this though is every time you die, a good portion of your videogame wallet gets emptier. It’s got disadvantages when in comparison to the Red Dead Redemption online mode, but it is still a ton of fun.

Last but certainly not least, this game has perhaps one of the best characters of this year. That character is Trevor Phillips, a lovable psychopath with a heart of gold and at most times made out of pure rage. What makes Trevor such a delight to listen to is the way his dialogue is written, which is like what if a mental patient from an insane asylum escaped into the real world and would drink like an eight-pack of beer every 30 minutes. The description’s a little exaggerated, but so is Trevor in all the right ways.
Across the board, the character of Trevor has garnered a lot of attention from people who’ve played the game. Regardless if its good or bad attention, he leaves a lasting impression on you even more than the other two knuckle-heads. At times he can be scary, at other times he’s just crazy, but at rare moments he can be seen as gentlemen. Usually whenever this type of character is written, he’s just a blatant asshole that no one likes, but with Trevor he’s written very carefully to where you feel a mixture of emotions from him. I could keep going on about Trevor, but I will say that he actually may be my favorite videogame character of this year.

GTA V manages to be a huge hit, not only among the fans, but also among the children of said fans who should really know better than to let their child play this game. For shame.

Bioshock Infinite Contender

Bioshock Infinite:

One of the most anticipated games of this year was definitely one of the most memorable. Bioshock Infinite managed to not only undo the ‘lameness’ that Bioshock 2 was, but it also injected some really inventive ideas. Also it reminded me that even up in the sky, racism is still very popular. In general, I just see large cities in the sky as nothing but KKK rallies just filled with members who do nothing but play Bioshock 2. Okay that last part I added on, but it’s still fucked up!

Bioshock Infinite follows Booker DeWitt, a hard-boiled detective looking to find a girl and to “Wipe away the…obligation that was given to him”. I think that’s the right quote.
From the get-go you realize that this is indeed a Bioshock game. The button prompts are similar, the audio cues are pretty much the same, and I think I saw some reused sewage piped from Rapture as well. However beyond that, what you’ll find is a unique world up in the sky that’s just brimming with very artistic designs. It wasn’t quite as eye-catching as Rapture, but Columbia does definitely have some great sights to see. And when I mean ‘sights’, I mean Elizabeth’s…necklace.

Elizabeth is this mysterious girl who you’re sent to find, and once you find her the game becomes more fascinating. Not only in terms of story does she offer some good banter between her and Booker, but her role as an AI partner is surprisingly not that annoying. She doesn’t get in the way during combat, and while she can’t pistol-whip those Handy-Men into oblivion, she does offer a lot of assistance. Maybe too much assistance at times, like I do appreciate the hundreds of bottles of vigor you’re throwing at me, but…how the fuck did you find all this stuff? Is Ken Levine insinuating that Elizabeth is also a dumpster diver?

The shooting part itself, from what I can remember, was actually the least interesting aspect of the game. If I were to say though what the coolest weapon of the game is though, it would have to be the hook blade, er, the grappling hook. It’s a two-in-one accessory, not only can you climb onto magnetic rails, but you can also decapitate your foes! Even though it’s primarily used in sparse moments, it’s a lot of fun just to slice up enemies and watch them fall off the city. So why need firearms, when you have that?
Speaking of magnetic rails, there are brief moments in the game where you’ll be on a Six Flags roller coaster ride, except with racist (or is that a common thing at Six Flags?) There’s even integral moments where you’ll be facing off against large waves of enemies and carriers while dangling from these rails, so you’re literally playing the game ON-rails! Despite how little they’re used in the overall game and the lack potential that was seized there, those moments in the game were definitely the most fun.

Though I bet everyone is waiting for that moment where I talk about the ending. Sadly it’s been a long time since I last played the game, so I may just be spouting a lot of details that seem fairly inaccurate. So instead of describing what exactly happened in the ending, I’ll just go ahead and say my feelings on the ending. Alright, also…

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*

The ending to Bioshock Infinite is a perfect example of how to do a twist ending without harming the integral structure of the story. Furthermore, there are clues in the story that lend itself to the justification of that conclusion. Because of that, the game instantly becomes far better than it should have. Throughout the game you’re uncovering secrets of what makes the colorful city of Columbia such a twisted and rotten place to also be at. Elizabeth herself is also affected by the violence and treachery that plagues the city, and arrives to the conclusion that she is kind of like her father (Comstock).
Booker himself also has given into the city by having to be baptized in order to proceed past the entrance. What happens to Booker, Elizabeth, and the city winds up making sense at the end. It doesn’t pretend to be smarter than it is, because it already had set-up everything in advance to make the conclusion feel like a gut-punch. And boy does it punch hard, and even better is that it cuts off at a perfect moment to where you have no choice but to let it fester inside your head. That’s what makes Bioshock Infinite one of the best games of this year, and one of the best written ones within the past generation.

*END POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

I wasn’t exactly as fanatical about Bioshock Infinite as some people were, but if one were to remove expectations after playing the first Bioshock, then the game becomes a lot of fun. There’s a lot for your eyes to gander at, and then there’s moments where you’ll feel something for Booker and Elizabeth. Irrational Games and Ken Levine really hit it out of the park on this one, and for that it deserves a spot on this list. It also is one of the few games that has a Cyndi Lauper song in it, so it’s even better than expected!

Tomb Raider Contender

Tomb Raider:

Laura finally hit it big this year with the reboot to Tomb Raider. A game that said, ‘fuck the blue tank top and booty shorts, we’re going down a brutal path with this reboot!’ Also missing in that made-up statement are the gore-y death sequences and the wide assortment of uses for a bow & arrow. Needless to say, this wound up being an incredibly solid experience.

The story here begins with Laura on an expedition to the mysterious island of Yamatai, a very ominous destination located within the Dragon’s Triangle. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle, except with samurai’s and possible near-rape scenarios. As you can tell from the trailers, the ship breaks apart in the middle of an erupting thunderstorm, and the crew washes up on a mysterious island. The crew isn’t having a good time, Laura isn’t having a good time, not even the savage islanders are having a good time! It’s the worst vacation ever!
With the entire crew missing and stranded on this ‘unknown’ island, it’s up to Laura to figure out how to save everyone and get off this rock!

Plot-wise it isn’t too complex, it’s a template that has been applied before to heroes of Laura’s type, but I’d say its done very well here. This mostly has to do with Laura’s well written character arc and the voice actress behind her, Camilla Luddington. What makes Laura one of the most memorable videogame characters of this year is that unlike other female characters in the medium, she’s not bogged down by boyfriend problems or idiotic nonsense that only businessmen would assume that women are into. Her goal is simple and straightforward, rescue her friends and get off the island, that’s it. No bullshit, no punches being withheld, it’s a story of survival with a female protagonist.
Unlike most other videogame protagonists in general, Laura grows more formidable as the plot progresses. To a point where she truly becomes a badass, and actually earns it.

In my review earlier in the year, I compared this game to Uncharted mostly due to similar themes of survival and treasure hunting. For me what makes Tomb Raider more of an entertaining experience than Uncharted is its non-linearity and how it rewards you for it. The game manages to pull this off through mapping out its levels to where if you decide to go off path, chances are you’ll be rewarded. Those rewards can range from finding salvage or upgrade blueprints.
Speaking of which, you’ll also have a host of weapons in your arsenal. Ranging from the game’s iconic bow & arrow to an amazing shotgun that I never wanted to stop using. Each of these weapons have upgrades to which you can acquire by having enough salvage, and even cooler is that each weapon looks noticeably different each time you upgrade it. For the most part I never had a problem with the weapons, each of them felt balanced and had their own unique uses. Some weapons like the bow & arrow can be used to reach across rivers, and the shotgun can break down barricades.
The rest of the gameplay itself is really tight, and well focused. Cover can be accessed by simply walking up to it, which makes the transition to the gun-fights very smooth. Stealth has also been nicely integrated into the game thanks to the bow & arrow and the option to equip silencers to some of your weapons. There’s plenty of ways to take out enemies, and despite which way you feel like duking it out, you’re going to have a great time.

Visually speaking, the game is gorgeous and has a lot of great scenery.The attention to detail not only with the island, but with Laura herself is pretty amazing. Small details such as the cultural findings and remnants of previous stranded islanders are what make this game so immersive.
The games presentation, the gameplay, and the revitalization to one of the most iconic videogames characters ever (for some reason, can’t imagine why) is why this game is on my list. Oh and there’s a decent multiplayer mode there, but who really cares? Go play this game now!

However I’m a bit weary of traveling on a ship now, maybe its the whole I don’t want to get eaten by a group of cannibals vibe I’ve gotten from this game.

Metal Gear Rising

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance:

Revengeance isn’t the most complex game, no it certainly is not. However what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for with crazy over-the-top-action that will keep your eyes on the screen. Trust me, I tried this. I never was able to finish playing Bioshock Infinite on time, but was lucky enough to avoid the Star Trek videogame. Thank you epilepsy!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance tells the story of Raiden, the naked cart-wheeling dude from MGS2. These days Raiden is doing less silly stunts while in the nude, and is more of a cyber-samurai guy who protects prime ministers from evil terrorist acts. However one day some Desperado operatives show up and ruin all the fun by killing the prime minister. I don’t know if you could make Raiden anymore angst-y, but boy was I proven wrong.
It’s a Saturday morning cartoon, except with a lot of insane stuff thrown in. Although in a way it’s also kind of charming because of how the game thinks its making philosophical points. In actuality though, as laughable as those moments are, it creates sort of this well-formed air space between all the chaos that ensues on-screen. The combination between its saturated violence and its honest intentions at trying to make a deeper story is what actually makes this work, despite the latter half not working at all.

The game’s main attraction here is its maniacal, yet very challenging, gameplay. You have your basic hack & slash moves, which of course you later get the hang of, or not if you’re the type who really has never laid hands on a hack & slash game before. Although while combat moves fine just the way it is, one of the best things I may have seen in quite some time is the ‘blade mode’. A frenetic slow-motion action that allows you to slice enemies into a million pieces as a reward for your good/skilled behavior. It’s the epitome of getting a delicious cookie for all the hard work you did in grade school, except with cutting up cyborgs with a katana.
I also mentioned that the game can definitely be challenging, and it really is, but in the best way. Each of the enemies have their own weaknesses and advantages over each other, and sometimes the game will put you in a spot where you’ll face-off against a mix of annoying-as-fuck enemies. However this is great, because unlike other games where they’ll flat-out tell you every single mechanic from the get-go, this game forces you to experiment and disfigure each enemies strategy. This especially applies to the boss fights, which can range from somewhat challenging to incredibly challenging. Oh, and it gets way worse with the final boss fight.

It sounds like what I’m telling you is no different from what you see in other hack & slash games, but in all honesty Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is one of the best experiences I had this year. I may hate having to pronounce its name, but I can definitely forgive it for all the bloody fun it gave me. All the cyborg-samurai slicing fun!

Best Game of the Year –

The Last of Us Contender 2

The Last of Us:

Wow, you mean to tell me a game made by Naughty Dog was game of the year? Color me shocked, yet slightly aroused for some reason. I don’t know, I can’t register how every person reading this might feel about my decision. So I’m gonna say it was a mixture of excitement, disappointment, anger, and being aroused.

In all seriousness though, I do feel like this game does merit ‘game of the year’ on pretty much all accounts (except multiplayer, cause who gives a shit.) Visually its super impressive, gameplay-wise it manages to outdo Uncharted, and as for the writing, well, do I need to say? Just to briefly summarize the game, the story is about Joel and Ellie, a duo of survivors who must course their way past the infected and ruthless bandits to pursue their goal. I’m just going to leave it at that for right now since the game has a lot of tense moments that I prefer not to spoil for any who decide to play the game.

For a super in-depth analysis of the plot along with my feelings on the ending however…

*SPOILERS BEGIN HERE*

At the beginning of the game you’re controlling Joel’s daughter, Sarah, who waits for her father to come home. Once Joel puts her to bed, she suddenly wakes up and realizes that Joel had gone missing. Even more disturbing are the alarming news report and the loud explosion that happens outside which sets the tone from here on out. However once Sarah finds Joel, things become more dire as she finds him being attacked by her neighbor. The two then decide to dip-out and escape the house via motor vehicle while also being accompanied by Joel’s brother, Tommy.
Once they reach the city, they see people fleeing and being attacked by the infected. After failing to pass through the city, Joel, Sarah, and Tommy wind up being chased by a mob of infected and have no option but to run. By the end things take a turn for the ridiculously grim as Sarah gets shot by a soldier, and dies in Joel’s arms.

Cut to a couple of decades later, we see Joel hanging out with a woman named Tess. The two realize that their weapons had been stolen and need to retrieve them back. So they hunt down the man responsible and realize that they were given to a cult known as the Fireflies. Although in order to get back these weapons, they must escort a young girl by the name of Ellie outside of the quarantine zone. More-so, it’s revealed that Ellie is immune to the disease and may wind up having the cure.

Sadly, the party gets a little thin due to the death of Tess, but luckily her message about keeping Ellie alive manages to stick with Joel. So Joel and Ellie go on a long depressing journey to find a Firefly research camp, and along the way encounter some interesting folk.
These people range from survivors trying to cope things through, friends who’ve changed for the worse, or travelers who are more ominous than they look.

By the time Joel and Ellie arrive, the Fireflies take Ellie to a hospital, but also knock-out Joel. Later Joel finds out how they can extract the cure from Ellie, but it’s at the cost of her own life. This upsets Joel immensely, and he pursues to find Ellie by tearing through Firefly guards. Luckily Joel finds Ellie before the operation had started, and attempts to escape.
The ending gets interesting as it turns out Joel had not only killed Ellie’s care-taker, had ruin the opportunity for the Fireflies to obtain a cure, and lied to Ellie about the whole mess he had gotten into just to save her.

What makes the ending so impacting is not only Joel’s action and what he tells Ellie, but where it cuts off. It climaxes at the right moment to where it lingers in your mind, and asks you the same question. Do you sacrifice Ellie for the greater good, or keep the only thing that matters to you in the entire world? Although the biggest takeaway may be the way you think about Joel, do you sympathize with him for what he did or say what he did was a grave mistake?
This is what make The Last of Us not just a typical zombie game, and propels it something greater. It leaves you with questions and troubling thoughts, rather than giving you an all tied-up story. The writers at Naughty Dog knew what to tie-up, and what to leave loose. Plus the journey to get there was just as memorable.

*END OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

What really makes The Last of Us work so well is how naturally the story flows together with the gameplay. Rather than constantly letting you know how things operate or where to go, the game will instead leave as much information as possible outside of the HUD in order for you to be sucked into this world. It’s a lush post-apocalyptic world that doesn’t suck up too much grit, but instead just leaves it hanging like the way the doctor said it was supposed to be. Wow, well that got dirty and kind of specific.
Anyway, the writing here is top-notch along with the performances by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. Aside from feeling like these are real characters, they are also certainly not without their flaws. The subtle interactions in the world also add some depth to these characters in certain ways, and makes you want to play the game again just to see what you missed out on. And with this being a Naughty Dog game, you’ll rarely notice a whole lot of awkward character model moments. The writing, acting, character interactions, and amazing detail work on the character models are what truly makes one-half of this game brilliant.

The other half of this game is a third-person action game, and yeah it’s just as great. You’ll be spending most of your time either constructing strategies as to how to move past enemies or blowing them up into chunks of melting flesh. It’s similar in a lot of ways to Tomb Raider, except where Tomb Raider’s focus was on the action, The Last of Us‘s focus is on the suspense. However that mostly depends on what enemies you’ll be facing.
There are three enemy types in this game, and each group have their own unique ways of trying to eliminate you. First off are the infected, which is composed of sprinting zombies and a one-hit kill enemy known as the Clicker. Second are bandits, who are vicious and will try to weed you out by spreading out across levels. Third are the soldiers, who operate like SWAT teams and will not be afraid to bust out in the middle of an open area with a shotgun. While not too original on the concepts here, infected aside, all three of these groups have really sharp AI to them (except when it comes to noticing your partner) and will do whatever they can to hurt you!
So in order to prevent yourself from dying, you’ll need some weapons. Another thing that makes The Last of Us work as not only an action game, but a survival-horror game is how they balance the weapons. Each weapon automatically starts out like a piece of shit, as it probably should be since you’re not a sharpshooter, but throughout the course of the game you’re given upgrades to better them. And no, don’t expect ‘damage’ to be one of the things you can upgrade on your shotgun or rifle. Like I said, it’s the perfect balance for this type of game without making any dumb decisions that hinder your character, and even without the upgrades these weapons can still function decently.
My favorite aspect about this game though, and this is no surprise, non-linear levels! Most of these levels feel open and offer quiet moments in between the tensity. If you decide to explore some houses or maybe that small area behind the mini-store, you’ll wind up be reaping some serious rewards. Or maybe a bum filled to the brim with syphilis, that right there isn’t a reward.

I could keep going on and on about this game, but ultimately to me this is a near perfect game. Yes I know the enemies apparently don’t notice the AI partners in this game, yes I know it’s something that’s been done before last year with The Walking Dead, and lastly yes I know I have a thing for Ellen Page! Leave me alone, you don’t know how much her…uh…performances mean to me!
The Last of Us truly is a magnificent game that perfectly captures the essence of what the Playstation 3 is capable of, but continues to push forward. It brings back old mechanics we missed, while reminding us that we have come a long way since the days of Crash Bandicoot. It’s not some tech demo, it’s not a mindless shooter, it’s a great game that really is innovative. So you can shove that artsy speech I made down your throat, and not even chew on it before you swallow!

Final Word –

Dammit, I knew I was forgetting something. I’ve spent so much time writing this list that I forgot what exactly I was going to say at the end! Maybe if I just whack myself with this hammer…nah, hammers can’t cure memory loss, but drills can! Actually I take that back, I think I remember now.

If 2012 was the year in which games can be proven to have smartly written stories, 2013 was the year that proved how far we’ve come since the launch days of the PS3 and Xbox 360. It’s also the year that’s about to usher in a new age, but I’ll get to that soon, maybe.
With games like The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, and Tomb Raider we’ve really seen just how much the last generation evolved. Trust me, it did, if you were to compare footage of Call of Duty 3 to Call of Duty: Ghosts there would be no competition between which one looked better. It’s crazy though, because we already had seen games that looked amazing back when they first launched on previous consoles. However now it seems like they would be perfectly suited on either an Xbox One or a PS4. Unless you own a high-powered PC and haven’t been paying attention regardless, because everything already automatically plays better on there.

I guess the bigger question is, have we reached the apex of visuals in gaming? No, but I’d say we’re getting really damn close. I’d say actually that the games I’ve already played like GTA V and The Last of Us look almost just as good as the current-gen games, which goes to show how these publishers were able to push the limits of the previous generation of consoles. Now imagine what Rockstar and Naughty Dog were able to do for this previous generation, and how much things can drastically change once they really get to work on current-gen? It’s mind-boggling to imagine how games can look even better than what they look like already, but it is indeed possible.

Visual aren’t everything however, in fact while I’ve spent time talking about how the visuals could be improved, there is so much innovation that lies elsewhere. But only if the publishers would get their shit straightened, and would allow developers to move onto something ‘new’. I’m willing to forgive Sony for green-lighting another Killzone and inFamous game, but we’re at the point now where there should be less sequels to previous gen-games and more original content. It’s what harmed a good portion of the last generations software, and it could plague this generation as well.
A good example of how the game industry should flourish creatively is what happened during the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era. Where you had many different and unique games coming out, but for the most part you didn’t see certain genres dwindle into obscurity like you do now. And how you prevent genres like shooters from over-saturating the market is by letting the developers do what they passionately want to do. It’s what will make more people drawn into the medium, and it’s what will keep the market going.

For example, I love Shigeru Miyamoto, I really do. He’s one of my favorites developers of all time, maybe even my most favorite. But you can tell that even his work has suffered due to publishers wanting to go the safe-route, rather than let him work on some vastly innovative and creative project.
Games like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy were all made with the insight of Miyamoto. However games like Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario World 3D World felt like products that were banked on fans nostalgia rather than creative originality. They’re definitely fun games, but it’s not that same original creativity I can easily expect from Miyamoto. Hence why its part of the reason Nintendo has been falling behind, and why his work within the past 5 years summarizes perfectly what’s wrong with the videogame industry today.

Like I said, let the developers do what they want to do. It’s at the point now where you have to take risks, because going the safe route will just hurt franchises like Assassins Creed, Call of Duty, and others even more. Take breaks, look at Crystal Dynamics did with Tomb Raider and what Naughty Dog was able to do with The Last of Us. Trust your developers and, as bluntly as I’m putting this, you’ll earn a shit-ton of cash!
But seriously, now is a great opportunity for a gaming renaissance. Don’t lose it.

***

That’s it for my list! Phew, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Oh wait, is that the ‘Worst of the Year’? No, no, NO!

COMING SOON – WORST OF THE YEAR!

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1 Comment

Filed under Best/Worst of 2013

One response to “Brut Awards 2013, PART 2: DLC & Main Grub

  1. Pingback: Brut Awards 2013: Just the Worst | Brutlounge

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