Two of this year’s biggest games go head-to-head in Game vs. Game.
It would be hard to argue that The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V are not two of the best games that have come out this year. When it was release The Last of Us was regarded as one of the best games ever. Despite this, Grand Theft Auto V broke sales records that The Last of Us did not even come close to. While my disdain for the over hyping of The Last of Us was made very clear in an article I wrote early (you can see it here), now that I have beaten both games, I want to look at each game and give my final say on which I think is the better game.
The Last of Us
This game is nothing short of a masterpiece, in certain respects. I will not sit here and claim that it is the Citizen Kane of gaming as some people have. It definitely represents the culmination in the advancement in game storytelling. No other game even comes close to The Last of Us in the scope or the execution of its story, which was wonderfully crafted from beginning to end. I always felt engaged with the characters, and was thoroughly enthralled by the story. The games ending was the best I have ever had the honor of playing. When I finished the game I was emotionally exhausted thanks to its moral ambiguity, which should not be mistaken for a bad feeling.
The Last of Us is also one of the most beautiful games I have ever experienced. The level design is absolutely beautiful, and it helps immerse the player into the game. I could not help but be in awe during certain sections of the game at just how wonderfully this world was designed. The way that urban areas had been reclaimed by nature seemed realistic and looked simply stunning. Yet, we cannot judge this game based only on its story and beauty. The Last of Us, regardless of what game reviewers are telling you, has its fair share of flaws.
Gameplay is where we discover the biggest flaw in The Last of Us. I did not have fun playing a majority of the game. Most of the time I felt like I was just banging my head against the wall during gameplay sequences just praying for the next cutscene to finally happen. While I understand difficulty in a game, most of the time it felt like the difficulty was just due to mediocre game mechanics. This is an important factor to me, because I play games for the gaming, not just the story.
One of my biggest complaints is the linear nature of the game. The level designers definitely tried to make each section of the game feel open, but it was too obvious that they were trying to hide the fact that the game is extremely linear. Even with the attempt to seem open each part of the game felt like a series of endless corridors with only one right way to go, and barely any incentive to explore the fake openness of the world. Sadly, this is not unusual in games these days, but most games that suffer from this (ie the Mass Effect trilogy) at least give some sense of how large their universe is by allowing some sort of ability to explore and discover.
Grand Theft Auto V
With multiple sales records broken in the short time since its release, no one can argue the raw market power of Grand Theft Auto V. Whether it was able to break these records due to its controversial nature, or for any other reason, it simply cannot be denied that it is a gaming juggernaut. I feel that it is for good reason. That reason being that it is fun. It did for me the one thing The Last of Us never could. It made hours seem like minutes. The gameplay here, while definitely not the most advanced or flashy, was fun enough that it alone provided an enjoyable experience. As soon as I was given control of Franklin in Los Santos, I spent hours just discovering the fun things I could do in the game without even playing a single storyline mission.
When I finally got into the story of Grand Theft Auto V I was thoroughly surprised. I expected that much like previous Grand Theft Auto games, that the story would be below average, but I was stunned to find a decent narrative that, despite its flaws, actually made sense. The story does not even come close to that of The Last of Us, but it was miles better than what I expected, and it proves that Rockstar is working to improve the weakest aspect of their flagship series. One of the greatest improvements, and what actually made it feel cohesive, is that every mission is tied together somehow. Gone are the days of almost random quest givers. Instead they are replaced with characters who are somehow linked in a progression that makes sense.
While it is hard for me to find anything to complain about Grand Theft Auto V, I did put on my cynic hat and discover a few flaws. The most glaring being, despite the openness of the world, almost every location feels the same. There are three distinct are types, and all of the activity in each area feels the same. You see the same NPCs and buildings, and really nothing is different. While the map is huge, most of what it offers is just more of the same.
The size of the map opens up its own problems. I found myself calling cabs in the game more then I would have liked because of the absurd travel times. The only times I felt bored during the game was when I had to travel five to ten minutes to get to my next mission. Thankfully Rockstar had the fast travel system with cabs, but even then when you call a cab you have to what two to three minutes for it to arrive. This can really break the flow of the game, and it is unavoidable in the handful of missions where you have to drive the long distances no matter what.
Despite minor flaws in both games, they are both must play games. Both games exemplify what gaming is about, just in different aspects. Because of this, I find it hard to state that one game is better than the other. They provide unique experiences that will be enjoyed more based on your tastes. My tastes sway me towards Grand Theft Auto V, but that does not mean everyone is going to feel the same.