Reflection is good. It’s nice to look back on was has been and, remember the great achievements of times gone past. I’d like to think that’s why Game of the Year awards are so popular, not just so we can screech at each other about supposedly wrong opinions – something that’s sadly all to common in the world of video games. We’ve admittedly left our Top Ten Games of 2013 list a little later than most but, we did so that we might better experience all of last years big titles, in the hopes we don’t leave any great experiences unrepresented. 2013 was a fantastic year that saw some truly staggering games hit as the last generation systems gave way to the next. A natural conclusion The Last of Us is our top game of 2013.
The Last of Us – Playstation 3
Thinking back over the last year there were so many great games released, picking out just the ten greatest has been genuinely difficult. Yet selecting the top spot was done with ease, it was impossible to choose any title for the highest honour other than The Last of Us. With the incredible success that Naughty Dog captures the emotional highs and lows of Joel and Ellie’s post apocalyptic journey, it would feel wrong to pick any other game. The tenacious duo’s grim story follows them over a year of their lives through a touching, tragic and often horrific trek across the shattered remains of a US ravaged by a viscous fungal infection which effectively zombifies it’s human hosts. Amongst the back drop, a world inhabited by monsters and humans that kill indiscriminately, Naughty Dog tells what may be the best story ever in video games; I’m deadly serious.
Naughty Dog expertly builds a believable devastated world, brimming with little touches that instil it with a sense of lost humanity – unique crayon pictures scribbled by children rest on individual work desks and, family portraits sit on mantles – the world feels truly abandoned. Scattered throughout are notes; diary entries written both before and after the pandemic, those penned before show the triviality of life in comparison to the tragic present. Fourteen year old heroine Ellie remarks that she can’t imagine a time where girls worry about what to wear and, if a boy likes them. Those scribed during the pandemic tell engrossing stories in their own right regarding the trials the survivors have went through – some are truly touching.
Even with their own unique charms none of scrawled notes carry the same emotional weight as the story of the protagonist tag team. I’d barely switched the game on before I was given the first emotional kick in the gut – from that moment on The Last of Us’s emotional hooks were in and, they wouldn’t let go right up until it’s unbelievable finale. The relationship between Joel and Ellie is fascinating, and ultimately believable as fate throws them together.Younger Ellie constantly attempts to win over the cold middle aged Joel who is initially uninterested in the teenager, escorting her across country out of necessity rather than want. Quickly their relationship evolves into almost a father daughter one, as Joel teaches the naive Ellie about the world before its collapse. Talented voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson bring life and energy to the pair.
Unlike it’s action packet colourful sibling the Uncharted series The Last of Us is grey, downtrodden and, flits between action-adventure to survival horror in a blink. This is thanks to the two distinct groups players are pitted against, the intelligent team working human survivors and, the creepy zombie-like infected. Humans are fought like a regular action game, their team work helps them encircle Joel and, they’re best dealt tactically – though using melee is advantageous as to conserve ammunition. In this world though even melee weapons degrade, nothing is really safe. Infected on the other hand are far more sinister. The lighter runners throw themselves violently against Joel, whilst the spooky clickers are blinded by there infliction navigating using mere sound alone. Sneaking and, careful dispatchment in the dark corners they’re encountered in is necessary – they’re powerful, capable of killing Joel in one terrifying gory strike.
Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic survivor/action game controls like a dream. It’s simple crafting system keeps players on their toes and, multiplayer matches the tone of the single player experience masterfully. It’s enemies are spooky, yet humans are dangerous reminding us who the real monsters are. But none of that matters. At it’s core The Last of Us has heart – something few games do. It makes you care about characters in a way that very few stories can, it pulls the heart strings in its best moments and, truly is one of the best video game tales ever crafted. If you could only play one game last year, this should have been it.