Before reading this article, understand that there may be spoilers contained for The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite. You have been properly warned!
It seems as if every time a console generation begins to dwindle into oblivion, and the hype for fancy new products are on the cusp of everyone’s mind, there will always be a game or two that really stretches the limitations of the current hardware. It is no surprise as developers become more familiar with the hardware, they begin to have more confidence to explore different avenues of creation and really push the boundaries of the platforms for which they create. This has never been truer than with this console generation.
When I first purchased BioShock Infinite, I was extremely excited. More so than I usually am at the purchase of a highly anticipated, triple A title. This has everything to do with my immediate love affair with the original BioShock, still one of my favorite games of all time. I was stunned to see that BioShock Infinite had the same feel as it did in the original. Not to say that the controls and basic mechanics were the same, but I had the same feeling of wonderment and surprise. It felt new and fresh, as if I had never played anything like it. It was amazing.
When I finished the game, I sat on my couch, jaws dropped, as I witnessed the explanation of inter-dimensional time travel and Elizabeth’s knowledge of quantum mechanics. Everything made perfect sense, yet I had so many thoughts rushing to my head that I had to talk about it. The game really opens your mind to such magnificent existential discussions. Are there parallel universes? Can we theoretically travel to these places? Can you really fix the past to protect the future? I mean my mind was running wild with theories and possibilities, that I had to take a step back and ask myself if I had ever played a game that evoked so much wonder and excitement upon completion. The answer was no.
I continued to ask myself if there had been a game that really, at the end, I felt emotionally drained, mentally enlightened and physically excited all at the prospect of watching an ending sequence. I couldn’t think of one. That is not to say that other games such as Journey or The Walking Dead didn’t do anything for me. Those games are great in their own right, and practically perfect in nearly every aspect. But the feelings I had when I finished BioShock couldn’t really compare. I found myself calling friends at 5 am, asking them about their theories and their feelings about beating it until the newly risen sun began peeking through my blinds, an excitement I haven’t felt for some time now. But with these feelings came a bit of discouragement. How long would I have to wait to have another unique experience like that of BioShock Infinite? Would it be a few more years before I received a similar gaming experience? I mean for all intents and purposes, the game, in my mind, was perfect and still is.
Enter The Last of Us.
Since witnessing the first trailer, or even seeing the first couple of screenshots, I knew I was buying The Last of Us; day one, at midnight, couldn’t wait. Reviews from all over the gaming community were coming in seemingly on an hourly basis, each one with more conviction than the last of just how amazing this game could be. Obviously, I tried to take these reviews with a grain of salt, but each one just convinced me more that this game had to be played, by everyone who has ever called themselves a gamer. So buy it I did.
Let me preface this by saying that BioShock Infinite is a perfect game in my opinion, a game that would rank as 5 out of 5, or 10 out of 10, A+ or whatever ranking system you chose to grade it upon. It is simply amazing, and if you have yet to play it, sorry for the spoilers, but play it. Now, having said that, The Last of Us is better.
Within the first 15 minutes, you can already tell that The Last of Us is going to grab you by the feels and never let you go. Ever. The way that The Last of Us is crafted is simply remarkable. They can very easily attach you to a character, such as Sarah, and within a few scenes, you are so emotionally tied to her that you cannot help but weep at her death. As you progress through the story, you can actually feel the human condition radiating from your screen. It appears as if every single movement, every single sentence and every single tone have been expertly crafted to ensure that you become part of the journey, that you become attached to connection between Ellie and Joel. The emotionally roller-coaster of watching as Joel and Ellie’s relationship morphs from bitter acquaintances, to lifelong companions, is something all gamers should witness.
My favorite part about The Last of Us was just how humanistic it could be. The game does an amazing job of cataloging the human condition. After you have finished the game, you begin asking yourself very important questions, questions that realistically define who you are as a person. Other games such as Heavy Rain, or The Walking Dead have had similar situations, but none as intense as The Last of Us. You can actually sit down, and think, “If I were put into that situation, what would I have done?” Sure, most of us, when on the outside looking in, would have just let Ellie finish her sacrifice, possibly helping to find a cure that could potentially save humanity. But could you actually let her go?
There has been lots of debate over whether or not Joel is actually a “bad guy” or a “good guy”. The answer, in my opinion, is neither. Joel is just a guy, but due to circumstances beyond his control, he has played witness to some truly horrific things: the death of his daughter, the imminent demise of humanity, the loss of his companion and the unfortunate rift between him and his brother, Tommy. These are things that most of us could never even come close to imagining the depths at which a man’s mind can go after such trauma. So, if you were to somehow regain something that was lost, perhaps a daughter, a missed opportunity to save her, would you realistically just let that go? This is a new age; an age where video games can do the very same things that books can do, that movies can do. They can really evoke passion, discussion and a mindful lucidity that they were never originally created to do. The Lat of Us is a testament, a beacon of relevance that the gaming industry is something that can be, and should be, embraced by all.
In closing, I would like to say that both of these games already define the imminent demise of the current generation, hopefully not lost on the hustle of the next. They are easily Game of the Year contenders, and quite possibly some of the greatest gaming experiences to date. Both of these games would garner a perfect score in most people’s eyes. Some might even say that you might have to drop the score of one to truly appreciate the perfection of the other. For me it is rather simple: BioShock Infinite is perfect, but The Last of Us is better.