Oh, you're still here? Well, that's just great, because we didn't know what to do with all these awards! Oodles of awards! Billions of them!
...actually, there are only four, just like every day this week. But they're good ones! As always, if you want to see all this stuff summed up in a droll video format, or hear how the proverbial award sausage is made, please employ the hyperlink functionality of your Internet web browser.
The Last of Us
When Naughty Dog revealed it was creating The Last of Us, there were two reactions. Do we really need another zombie story? If we really need another one, at least it’s Naughty Dog trying to tell it? And The Last of Us proves there’s much to be found in the familiar, especially when it comes to humanizing the characters we play and interact with. The Last of Us succeeds not because it’s just an interesting take on well-worn fiction, it succeeds because we care about Joel and Ellie’s journey across Earth’s hellscape.
The Last of Us is a triumph of everything Naughty Dog has been building on this generation, a not-so-subtle merging of cinematic storytelling combined with the joy of interactivity that only games can offer. In games, character motivations can be justified by the act of play. Joel is not a good person, even if he’s someone you might root for sometimes, and The Last of Us manages to incorporate its horrific violence in a way that underscores the lengths Joel goes to for survival. Not every game character has to be a hero.
That’s to say nothing of the game’s ending. You know what we’re talking about. That moment.
If there’s one thing Nintendo’s become really good at these past few years, it’s complimenting its games with stellar music. Super Mario Galaxy’s interactive tunes were a revelation, and A Link Between Worlds making old favorites feel fresh is equally incredible. These are some of the most covered and remixed musical pieces in games, yet they don’t feel run down here. A Link Between Worlds invokes nostalgia for the right reasons: that stuff’s still good.
It fits in perfectly thematically, as well. A Link Between Worlds itself is a remix, taking advantage of and subverting expectations of A Link to the Past to surprise you. The moment Link crosses over into Lorule (this game’s version of the Dark World), there’s an air of anxious anticipation. Everything is familiar, yet everything is a bit off, enough to put you on edge and not truly know what’s around the corner. The music does a terrific job of selling this “new” world, and every rearranged tune feels like a fuzzy new blanket.
Runners-up: BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V
Most Disappointing Game
SimCity. What should have been a high point for EA this year quickly turned into a nightmare as the full nature of Maxis' reboot came to light back in March. It's not just that the game required an online connection and ran into launch-time server troubles. It's that the underlying game had so much squandered potential. The small cities were trivial to fill up with stuff and not big enough to let you get everything out of the game in just one city. This forced players to work together--which would have been fine if that's something players actually wanted to do. But even if you wanted to build the city (cities?) of your dreams alone, you'd still have to connect to the same online servers and hop between cities to make sure that each one was producing the thing you need it to produce. Lame.
Tack on the rough launch that forced the removal of the game's fastest speed setting and the abundance of confusion surrounding EA's statements and you've got a game that looked fantastic prior to release, but one that brought nothing but disappointment afterwards.
Best New Character
Lamar Davis is his own man. Yeah, Franklin, it's great that you're paling around with a couple of old men who are getting you into a different type of crime, but Lamar Davis is busy trying to get this kidnapping going. Lamar Davis makes his own money and doesn't need you, Franklin. Fuck you, Franklin.
...actually, Franklin, would you mind going and saving Lamar Davis? He seems to have gotten in over his head again and could use a hand. I mean, it shouldn't be that big of a deal, just keep him from doing anything too dumb and/or shoot the people who want to kill him. Bring your old man posse if you think that would help.
Lamar brings a few much-needed light moments to Franklin's story in Grand Theft Auto V and helps ground that section of the narrative in something that feels real, even if it does get a little outlandish. We'd say that he's the character we'd most like to party with, but that sounds like a great way to end up dead. So instead we'll just save him when he gets into trouble and hope for the best.