Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why the Wii U is Struggling

I'm not gonna give you sales percentages, figures, or any of that, but I will say this. The Wii U is not doing well. To put things in perspective, it should be noted that in the last few months the Wii has been outselling the Wii U. That's not remotely good. So what's the problem with the Wii U? Why is it doing so poorly? To answer that question we first have to look at how Nintendo handled their new console launch.

It's a Wii U ... no, wait ... that's the controller.
Is this a Wii controller? I'm so confused.

Now, I'm not an idiot. I knew what the Wii U was immediately when I saw it. This is a new console that utilizes a second screen controller. To the hardcore gamer this is obvious information. The problem with that is that they marketed the new console in a way that would be most easily understood by the people who were the least interested in buying it in the first place. The gaming landscape has changed, so let's be honest with ourselves. Hardcore gamers are not in Nintendo's camp anymore. The casual market is the market that Nintendo has committed themselves to. The Wii set a precedent that Nintendo was the family friendly console, the console that focused on gimmicks and family friendly entertainment. 

A vast majority of people had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the Wii U was. People thought it was a Wii peripheral, some thought it was a handheld, and some even thought it might have been a Wii slim. The marketing was unclear and now they're paying the price, but is that they only thing they messed up on? No, Sir. 

This is a next generation system. The Wii U is not.

In the last generation, Nintendo made a console that was vastly inferior to it's competitors in terms of versatility, processing power, and graphical capability, but it made up for it by being the cheapest console on the market, having a simple but unique twist on motion controls, and being 100% backwards compatible. The Wii U did none of this. The Wii U is fairly expensive, the control design is essentially just a tablet with an analog/button layout, and it's backwards compatible for Wii games only. That's not so bad. I can play Super Smash Brothers Brawl and ... um ... Oh.

On top of the fact that the new console offers none of the benefits of it's predecessor, it was also kind enough to maintain all of the same detriments. It's a vastly inferior console to it's competitors. The PS4 and Xbox One have 8 gigabytes of RAM in total to utilize and optimize the UI and performance. These systems are capable of doing things not even possible on this generation of hardware and games like Watch Dogs and Destiny are fine examples. The Wii U has two gigs of RAM total to utilize the UI and performance. 

To put this in perspective, understand that the Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3 all had the same amount of RAM available: 512 MB. The reason the Nintendo Wii was much less powerful that it's competitors was because of how that memory was allocated. In the next generation, not only is the Wii U left in the dust when it comes to power and memory, it's RAM is 43% slower than the Xbox 360's. 
This is the Xbox One. It's as powerful as 8 Wii U consoles

The problem with the Wii U is this: It's already the weak link. 

We live in a society in which technology advances drastically every single day. When your technology is out of date in today's world, you've already fallen too far behind. The Wii U has one gigabyte of RAM to utilize for games. That's almost two Xbox 360s. Power is important. We don't need to change the way we play games. We don't need fancy tablets to take the place of our controllers. We want hardware that's strong enough to facilitate the ambitions of the developers. The Wii U doesn't have that. 

The PS4 and Xbox One allow for independent game development, persistent online worlds, and enhancements to the way we operate our systems and play our games. The key word there is "enhancements." What Nintendo has been trying to do is change the way we play games, not make our games play better. That's the fundamental issue with the Nintendo brand as of late. "We've got a tablet for a controller. You like normal controllers? Well, we sell that separately, but most of our games are specific to the touch screen controller, so I guess you'll have to deal with it."

Xbox 360 (LEFT) Xbox One (RIGHT)

Microsoft did the exact opposite. They took the controller that worked and enhanced it. They fine tuned the way the triggers and bumpers worked, they integrated the battery pack, they tightened the dead zones on the sticks, and they redesigned the D-PAD. They took what was already good and made it better. You want to use motion/voice controls with Kinect? No? Well, you don't have to, but if ever you want to try it out, it's always available to you.

Nintendo loves to abandon ideas and I con't understand why? There's nothing wrong with innovation, in fact it's the life blood of the industry. It keeps things fresh and it keeps things moving, but we've already reached our destination. If you keep moving, you're just missing your stop. It's not our controllers that need innovating, it's our architectures. We need to be able to make games deeper, bigger, better. 

I hope the Wii U doesn't end up like the Dreamcast, but it's certainly not looking good. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BioShock Infinite: Downloadable Content Done RIGHT

I talked a lot about why I loved BioShock Infinite when I compared it with The Last of Us, but I wanted to delve more into the developers of the game and how they treat the franchise and it's fans, and why it makes the game that much better.

What mystery lies beyond these words?

When BioShock Infinite shipped, buyers had the option (and still do) to buy a Season Pass which would give you all future DLC for the game. When I got about 10 minutes into the game, I knew I was going to buy this sucker. My favorite game in recent memory expanded? How could I say no? 

Here's what makes Irrational Games awesome. Today, July 30th 2013, they announced all future DLC for BioShock Infinite, with one simple DLC releasing TODAY and the other more complicated ones being released at a later date. No "day-one-DLC" crap, no DLC after a week of release bullshit, these are expansions that have been crafted after the game's release. This is what DLC should be. It's unfortunate, but we've grown accustomed to buying games in fragments. We buy 50% of the game at launch and we eventually buy the rest as downloadable content. What Irrational Games is doing here is giving us more of the game, while so many other studios are comfortable giving us the rest of the game.

So, what exactly are the DLCs?

It's the Horde mode I've wanted for ages.

The first DLC is Clash in the Clouds, and it's essentially Horde mode. Waves of enemies are unleashed upon the player and you have to survive as long as you possibly can under the ever increasing weight of your challenge. This expansion is available today for download at the low price of $5.00.

There were many people who felt that the combat in BioShock Infinite was weak and inferior to the original, but I really didn't feel that way. In fact, outside of story and plot, I felt the combat in BioShock Infinite was one of it's greatest assets. It's nuanced, complicated, and intricate and it allowed to for some really interesting combinations. The game, albeit, is not easy to play for casual players, but for the core gamer, the combat is just awesome. This DLC is exactly what I've been looking for. I've played through BioShock Infinite nine times, and if there's anything I can tell you, it's that the last six times I played through it wasn't for the story. The story is fantastic and it's one of my favorite video game narratives of all time, but the reason you play a game again is because it's fun to play. So being able to play nothing but combat, no story, no nothing, that's really cool to me.

BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea returns players to Rapture. 
I will sell my organs for this.

BioShock Infinite's next expansion, Burial at Sea, will be a story driven installment that puts Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth in Rapture before the fall. This expansion however will take place over two episodes. Episode One focusing on Booker and Episode Two allowing players to play as Elizabeth. The game will be more focused on survival horror and more on story than anything else. This is another example of Ken Levine's ability to know exactly what his fans want. There are those who cared only for the story in BioShock Infinite and there are those who loved the gameplay. Now, there are options for each of these groups to enjoy what they love without having to buy the stuff they don't want. Players who don't want the Horde mode and simply want the story expansions, and vice versa can buy each separately. This is the way it's done. 

But what's more important about these DLCs, is that they're done right. These aren't tacked on expansions or stuff that was cut from the original game that we're now paying to access. This is new content. Content we specifically asked for. Content we wanted that the developers at Irrational are now working to give us. Hats off to you, Ken Levine. I'd love to shake your hand.

This is Ken Levine. He is awesome.
He is also a genius. 
That is all.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Revisiting Games: Is it Best to Leave Nostalgia Alone?

Recently, I've been revisiting a vast majority of my old games. I'm talking the original PlayStation and GameBoy. I've read many accounts of people revisiting their old games and realizing that games they once loved were actually flawed in major ways, especially since a majority of old games existed before game design was an established 'design' method. Developers back then didn't have a handbook of rules like they do now. It was open season for ideas, and that's partially why we remember them so fondly. They didn't fit with the mold that we've become accustomed to in recent years.

While reading these accounts of disappointment in classic favorites I decided to figure out wether it was best to look back at my childhood favorites without my rose tinted glasses. These are my thoughts on a few select games that I visited that I feel still hold up. Three champions.



Yes, I popped in good old Pokémon Yellow. Now, I'm not blind, the game still has problems, pretty major ones too. EXP management is a bit of a nuisance, the dialogue is atrociously bad, and the battle system doesn't quite understand what 'turn based' actually means. That being said, the game has still aged rather well. It's very playable, which is more than I can say for a vast majority of the PS1 and N64 library. The battles are fun and satisfying, and the atrocious dialogue provides some nice humor for an older audience.
This will never not be funny.

The game is old, so it doesn't benefit from big budgets and tons of flash, but it's a charming game, and I wasn't disappointed when I revisited it. In fact, I think I appreciate it even more now.


The graphics are terrible, the loading screens are all over the place, the camera is frustrating, and the combat is awkward. I love it. I remember a simpler time, when games were worlds to explore and stories to experience. One of the benefits of revisiting games like these in the modern era is being able to look up everything you missed when you played it as a child. Games used to be riddled with secrets, and this game is from that time. I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA that there was a 'what if' mode that would alter the game for a second play through. In todays climate, the developers want you to know everything about their games and they'll market the crap out of them to show you. Spider-Man for PS1 hasn't aged well, but again, I wasn't disappointed, in fact I was blown away by just how many things I missed when I played it all those years ago.


The graphics are terrible ... that's literally all that's changed for me. If this game was remastered Halo Anniversary style, this game would hold up as a monumentally amazing cart racer. The controls are tight, which is quite the feat for a game as old as this one. The music is fun, the tracks are fun, the controls are great and nuanced. Of all the games that I revisited, this one is definitely the best and it's the only one that holds a candle up to even the most recent games in it's genre out of the three champions.  

This game has aged very badly, but for whatever 
reason, I loved playing it, and I'll probably play it again
very soon.

I played a ton of games. I played Strider, Spyro, Halo CE, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Grinch, Ape Escape, etc. I love them all, and now that I've revisited them with no rose tinted glasses, what do I think of them? Are they as pristine as I remember them? No. Of course not. The person I am now is a vastly more intelligent person that the person I was when I played these games the first time. I understand design, I understand video games as a medium. I know that there's nothing beyond the border of the game because they are no longer worlds, they are entertainment. Does that disappoint me like it does so many others?

I don't understand why it would? Yeah, some games are better in your mind, but I liked visiting the classics. Some games are worse than I remember them, like Medievil and Spyro, and some games are better than I remember them, like Spider-Man and Ape Escape, and some are just as pristine as I remember them, like Crash Team Racing. It's interesting to see what games actually stand the test of time, not disappointing. The games we loved as children, we'll always love. They were the first and they'll hold special places in our memory. Hell, I revisited Medievil and Spyro and even though I remembered them being better games, I still love them. Because I had fun with them as a kid, and no amount of age or criticism is going to prevent myself from enjoying them in the past. That ship's sailed. 

It's important to be critical, but it's also important to appreciate as well. As bad as a game might seem ten years from now, all that matters is that it's fun now. So do yourself a favor. Revisit your classics. You might be surprised at how accurate or inaccurate your memory is. 

SkyRoads. This takes me back.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Final Fantasy vs Halo: The Most Milked Franchises on Planet Earth?

Go ahead. Show this picture to someone who knows nothing about 
FInal Fantasy and ask them what gender this is.

There are plenty of milked franchises in the gaming industry. Call of Duty and Mario come to mind almost immediately, but I have a particular vendetta against Final Fantasy. Something about the cliched attitude about the story-lines, the gender neutral character designs, the stereotypical character archetypes, the lack of gameplay versatility; I can go on for years.

But as I was making my argument about how over saturated and milked the FInal Fantasy franchise is, I've been met time and time again with the counterpoint: Well, you're a Halo fan. I've already written an article about why I love Halo, and I'll get back to it at the end of this article. The immediate argument being made against me here is that Halo is as milked or even more so than Final Fantasy.

Okay, here we go.

Let's divide the games up by year and then attribute them to developers.

Halo: Combat Evolved - 2001
Halo 2 - 2004
Halo 3 - 2007
Halo Wars - 2008
Halo 3: ODST - 2009
Halo Reach - 2010
Halo Anniversary - 2011
Halo 4 - 2012
Halo: Spartan Assault - 2013

Bungie, the studio that created Halo only released 4 Halo games in 9 years. Halo Wars (Ensemble Studios) was released in 2008 and Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary (Remake by 343) was released in 2011. Halo 4 (343) was released in 2012. So overall in the last 12 years there have been a total of 9 Halo games all spread among different developers including remakes (Anniversary) and expansions (ODST.) Also Spartan Assault, a game for tablet computers.

Now let's take a look at Final Fantasy divided by year and developers.

After the research I've done, this looks like an exercise in restraint.

Final Fantasy - 1987
Final Fantasy II - 1988
Final Fantasy III - 1990
FInal Fantasy IV - 1991
Final Fantasy V - 1992
Final Fantasy VI - 1994
FInal Fantasy VII - 1997
Final Fantasy Tactics - 1997
- Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon - 1997
- Chocobo's Dungeon 2 - 1999
- Chocobo Racing - 1999
Final Fantasy VIII - 1999
Final Fantasy IX - 2000
Final Fantasy X - 2001
Final Fantasy XI Online - 2002
- Chocobo Land: A Game of Dice - 2002
Final Fantasy X-2 -2003
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - 2003
- Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII - 2004
Final Fantasy XII - 2006
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales - 2006
- Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII - 2006
Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings - 2007
- Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - 2007
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift - 2007
- Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon - 2007
Final Fantasy IV The After Years - 2008
- Dissidia FInal Fantasy - 2008
Cid and Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon: The Labyrinth of Forgotten Time - 2008
- Chocobo and the Magic Picture Book - 2008
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light - 2009
-Final Fantasy XIII - 2009
FInal Fantasy XIV - 2010
-Chocobo Panic - 2010
Chocobo Crystal Tower - 2010
- Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy - 2011
Final Fantasy: Type O - 2011
-Final Fantasy XIII-2 - 2011
Chocobo's Chocotto Farm - 2012
-Final Fantasy Tactics S - 2013
Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn - 2013
- Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - 2013

Keep in mind, I left out PLENTY of FF games like the Crystal Chronicle series
because I was starting to feel mean.

There have been 42 Final Fantasy games MINIMUM in the last 26 years. While I was listing them I was literally in disbelief. I already had the idea that they had released a ton of games, but I was in the ball park of 15 or 18. I was under the impression that I would have some serious trouble making a case for Halo because I thought that maybe I was wrong and that FInal Fantasy just seems like it's a frequent series, but WOW. What really takes the cake here is that each and every one of these games were developed in house by Square Enix. So, not only has the same developer been making the same game for 26 years, they've done so at an alarming rate.

In the last 12 years Square Enix has created 30 games. In the same amount of time, there have only been 9 Halo games, and those are separated between developers. From an original dev standpoint, that's  one Halo game for every 11 Final Fantasies. Even Call of Duty releases annually, but even they switch projects with different developers.

I'm honestly surprised ... I'm not sure what to say. I didn't even count all of them, just because I was starting to feel bad about it. Is Final Fantasy the most milked Franchise in the game industry? Mario might have him beat, but in comparison to Halo? Please. It's not even remotely close.

No, no. We're a game developer, not a marketing department. 

"Well, you're a Halo fan. I've already written an article about why I love Halo, and I'll get back to it at the end of this article."

The reason I can stick with Halo for as long as I have is because the story actually continues. It's a story in a universe I love with character's I know and with each game, the characters grow as do the events and relationships in the universe. Imagine if the Star Wars sequels had nothing to do with eachother aside from the fact that they took place in space. From what I've heard from avid Final Fantasy fans, the games don't actually mend together. Apparently it's a different game every time and only certain elements from previous games continue to the next. The stories are self contained within each game, which is why there are sequels to numbered titles like 13-2. Well, that's great. If they're new stories every damn time, then why keep the Final Fantasy label. You could have made 42 new IPs instead of 42 not-sequels? What bothers me here is that it's lazy. They can't possibly still want to make Final Fantasy anymore, it's just a game that is guaranteed to sell.

Halo has elements of Marathon in it, but the two are separate universes and have nothing to do with each other. I'm sure even Destiny will have some Halo style elements, but it's the risk of taking what you've learned and moving on to new things that makes a good developer great.

And this game still has yet to be continued. WHY?

It should be noted, I don't have a problem with Final Fantasy. I'd prefer if they slowed down a bit with production, but if the fans want it, have at it. I just want people to realize the difference between a franchise being milked and a franchise being sustained. Also, Square Enix is also a publisher where Bungie is not. Regardless, no one can deny, Final Fantasy should slow down a bit.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Motion Controls: Do We Really Need Them?

The Nintendo Wii was the first home console ever released to have a primary focus on motion control gaming and it also turned out to be a HUGE success for Nintendo, making a ton of money. As of March 31st 2013, the Nintendo Wii has sold over 869.06 million units. For anyone wondering, that's an absurdly high amount of sales. Little did Nintendo know, they had initiated a trend in the gaming industry that would plague us for years to come.

This box, as awesome as it was, is technically responsible for Kinectimals.

Sony was already toying with the idea of motion control with the PS2 Eye Toy and the PlayStation 3 sixaxis controller, but neither really took off. They were cool ideas for idie developers to tinker with, but ultimately they just never worked to enhance the way we play games, they simply offered us a novelty. You simply won't get the same enjoyment out of Kingdom Hearts if the game required you to jump around and wave a stick through the air to play the game.

The reason controllers work as well as they do is because they allow for kinesthetic projection. The controller doesn't act as a way for us to control the characters on screen, the controls allow us to become the characters on screen. It's kinda like a car. They're designed so that humans can easily use them and because of that design we are able to become the vehicle in our minds. The ability to use tools as an extension of ourselves is part of what makes us human. When we're driving our cars we don't think, "I'm going to turn the steering wheel which will allow the car to turn in that direction," we think, "I'm going that way." The same is true for controller inputs. We don't think, "I'm going to press A and make my avatar jump," we think, "I'm going to jump." Without that inherently human connection between the mind and the tool, we ultimately end up with a control input that's awkward and inhuman. 

As impressive as Kinect 2.0 is, it's still the uncanny valley of controllers.

What's awkward about motion controls with Wii or PS Move and even voice controls with the Kinect is that we no longer have that conscious disconnect between input and experience. If we give a voice command, we are consciously wondering wether or not the input will pick it up correctly and the game becomes more about using the controller than about playing the game. Even with our current innovations with controllers, we still fall back to the controller. The controller works and we shouldn't be looking to replace it. We should be looking to enhance what we already have and what already works perfectly.

Kinect 2.0 aside, I think Microsoft has the right idea with their controller.
They fixed all the problems and enhanced the mechanics behind what already worked.

Am I saying that motion control will never be a viable way to play games? Well, perhaps not. The technology still has a long way to go, but we'll never advance that technology unless we invest in trying what we can. Though the Kinect and PS move may not be reliable now, I wouldn't be surprised to see technology improve enough in the future that they become good alternatives. The thing is, buttons have been around forever, so they're pretty reliable. Motion controls however, have not. Perhaps one day motion controls will be as reliable as buttons and if computer processing capabilities increase in the way they are expected to, it might even happen soon but until then, the controller will remain my input of choice. 

You just can't beat this.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bungie and The Halo Series: Why it's Important to Me

Anyone passionate about games knows that games are powerful things. The can shape us into the people we become, they can educate us, they can stimulate our minds, and they can change our lives. Everyone has that one game; the game that they will always remember. I'd like to share mine with you.

When I was young, I had the privilege of owning numerous game consoles along with a generous amount of games. I frequently played Super Mario Brothers 3 on the NES and Strider on the PlayStation. Games like those are the ones that I'll never forget, but it wasn't until I got my first Xbox console in 2002 that I would be introduced to something that would, one day, become part of my life.

I played Halo: Combat Evolved casually at a friends house every time I went to visit him. I was young back then and I wasn't really into the whole FPS genre. I was more into games like War of the Monsters and Ape Escape at that age. Nevertheless, there was something about Halo: CE that kept calling me back and I wouldn't know why until 10 years later.

Halo: Combat Evolved

As much as I enjoyed Halo: CE as a kid, I never actually played through the story or beat the game until well after Halo 3 released. The first Halo game I ever owned was Halo 2, and damn was it magical. Something about the inspiring music, the unique art design, the weapons, the characters, the story: It was overwhelming. To this day, I can't think of a game that drew me in more. BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us were immersive, but Halo 2 did everything right. The music was perfect, the gameplay was unique, the controls were tight. Everything worked in unison to deliver an amazing experience. Halo 2 was the first game I ever intellectually analyzed and, because of that curiosity, I learned many things that would go on to shape the person I would become.

It was the first experience in any media, be it music, TV, or cinema, that made me question things. Back when Halo 2 was new, I was in catholic school and my mind had been running with questions and doubt about the validity of the Catholic faith and genuine scientific curiosity. In Halo 2, an alien character named Thel 'Vadam (called "The Arbiter" in the games) was an assassin for the religious leaders of The Covenant, a union of religious alien races hell bent on bringing about an age of salvation.


In the game, The Arbiter begins by doing the blind will of the Prophets, even going so far as to assassinate the leader of a Heretic rebellion. Later in the game, The Arbiter learns that the Prophets are deluded and what they believe will bring them salvation will actually bring utter destruction. As a child with many questions regarding faith, this was a seminal moment for me. I drew parallels. It showed me that people can be so certain of things they know nothing about. Assumptions must never be made. This moment legitimately changed me.


Arbiter: Thel 'Vadam 

Ever since that moment, I felt a deep connection with the universe. The characters, the setting, everything, and on top of all that, the game was simply fun. I remember it was the first time I flew an air vehicle in a game that felt like an actual plane. That alone was huge because it was something I hadn't seen before. Before that, every vehicle in every game required a whole other loading screen or a dedicated level, but here? I could switch whenever I wanted. I could fly around for hours in Coagulation doing NOTHING and still I was having an amazing time. Then, in 2007, everything changed.

Halo 2 Multiplayer was almost a religious experience.

My parents finally caved in and got me an Xbox 360, and not only that, but they allowed me to have Xbox Live for the first time. I had never played an online video game before this day. I didn't even understand the concept. I could play with people who weren't even in the same house? That's ridiculous, that can't work. Little did my stupid little brain realize just what an amazing thing that would be. I booted up Halo 2 to a universe I had never seen before. I was playing with people from other towns, other cities, other countries. It blew my mind and I have yet to experience the same kind of disbelief in anything. I had become part of a community, bigger than any I had ever known. I was making friends, joining clans, going on adventures in custom games, leaving the bounds of the multiplayer space and exploring the vast outskirts of levels I had previously known inside and out. 

This was incredible. 

My High School life took place in Halo 3

When Halo 3 was a few weeks away, I was ecstatic. It was all I could think about for weeks until it's release. In 2007 I was starting high school and it was a stressful time for me. My nerdiness didn't go over well with many of the students but I had already made some friends through mutual love for Halo 2. When Halo 3 released, that was it. My friends and I played for ages. I made a vast majority of my friends through this game and this universe. We grew up in the walls of this game and it was amazing. Late nights going through story missions, after school sessions of big team slayer. It was pure bliss. I remember creating ridiculous games for my friends to play using the custom game settings and The Forge map editor. Everything was fun; playing, creating, sharing.

Well into Halo 3's life cycle, Bungie put out an expansion called Halo 3: ODST which came coupled with a cooperative Firefight mode. Even this expansion pack was a par Halo experience. The same friends I made through Halo 2 were there to help me fight through waves of enemies in ODST and we had fun doing it. I have so many memories of Halo 3 multiplayer and ODST co-op that refuse to leave me. They were just such great stories, but now's not the time for that.

Halo: Reach (The Culmination of it All)

When Halo Reach came out, I went to college and though I did play the game A TON, along with my friends, we just didn't have the same free time we once had. Halo Reach was definitely the best in the series in terms of the tech and the polish behind it, but it came after the golden years of childhood and growing up.

This game introduced me to a developer that cared about their work and desired to create a community that flourished outside the game, wether online or off. Bungie studios impacted my life in such profound ways, it's difficult for me to imagine the person I would be had I never found Halo. Bungie showed me what I wanted to do in life: make games. Hopefully, one day I'll be sitting at my own desk in Bungie's walls working on their next big thing. So that I can take part in impacting someone else as much as Jason and the team have impacted me. Thank you, Bungie.

I look forward to Destiny

BioShock Infinite VS The Last of Us

2013 is shaping up to be quite the year for gamers. It's the first time a PlayStation and Xbox console will compete head to head and it's the first next generation hardware launch in seven years. Except for the Wii U ... Poor Nintendo.

Not only do we have new systems to look forward to but we've already had some fantastic releases, the most notable being The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite. With both games being incredibly unique and the best examples of escort missions done right, it's not surprising that the two are being compared, despite the fact that the escort mission is where the similarities end. 

Today I thought I'd compare the two head to head in five categories: Gameplay, Visuals, Artificial Intelligence, Characters and Story. Okay let's go.

Historically amazing games


The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite do a great job of taking familiar territory and putting a unique spin on it. The Last of Us is a third person survival horror game with an emphasis on crafting your own tools, tension, and sneaking around. It plays very similarly to the Uncharted series in it's basic locomotion and cinematic moments, but it also plays relatively similar to the more recent Splinter Cell titles. The atmosphere throughout the game is consistently tense and the gameplay and animation reflect that very well. 

BioShock Infinite is a first person shooter and it plays more or less exactly like it's predecessor. You shoot guns, melee, and use vigors (which now take the place of plasmids from the first game), and use different combinations to take down multiple enemy types throughout the game. It's more or less what you'd expect from a BioShock game, but the additions to the formula really make the gameplay stand out. In addition to the traditional "guns in one hand, magic in the other" idea, they throw in the skyhook and skylines which allow for high speed level traversal and interesting verticality for motion and combat purposes. They also throw in tears which allow the player to change the landscape to suit specific playstyles. The ability to morph the landscape and play in the skies really gives the edge to BioShock Infinite. While The Last of Us has solid gameplay, it's nothing we haven't been introduced to before and that's why BioShock Infinite get's the point for gameplay.

It's like a roller coaster, but with explosions, lightning, wormholes, and guns


The art design in both of these games is phenomenal and both should be recognized. BioShock Infinite has incredible architecture and a slew of interesting palettes to keep the games atmosphere from getting too stale or boring. That being said, the graphical fidelity of The Last of Us is unmatched in any console game I've ever seen. Everything looks believable, from the animations to the emotion in characters faces. It's leaps and bounds ahead of any console game I've seen so far, and that includes BioShock Infinite. Although BioShock Infinite has an incredibly unique look to it and is probably more artistically original, it can't be argued. The Last of Us get's the point in visuals. 

Nature overcoming humanity is astoundingly beautiful

A.I __________________________________________________________

Most of you might think I'm talking about the enemy A.I, but no. I am not. The enemy A.I in these games cannot be compared as far as I'm concerned because both enemy A.Is exist to serve a specific purpose. In BioShock Infinite they serve to engage while in The Last of Us, the serve to be avoided. 

No, I'm talking about your friendly A.I namely Elizabeth in BioShock and Ellie in The Last of Us: AKA: the primary reasons these games are being compared in the first place. In both games your task is to protect your friendly A.I and they both do a fantastic job, but let me explain the problems behind them. 

In The Last of Us, Ellie acts as someone that must be protected but will assist you when you need help. Unfortunately, in my experience anyway, Ellie took me out of the story during gameplay. She would often walk directly in front of enemies during stealth missions and would often hide in plain sight yet remain invisible. It's a shame too because given how realistic the rest of the game feels, a detail as small as that can do a lot to take you out of the game if done poorly. She would often warn me of incoming danger after said danger had already come upon me and I would often find myself stuck in places because Ellie refused to move. 

In BioShock Infinite, Elizabeth serves to keep you alive and to allow you to open the tears I mentioned earlier. Elizabeth can not take damage, nor can she attract the attention of any enemies. She is specifically programed to move out of your view while in combat and she will point out things to you that you might have missed. I felt that Elizabeth's A.I was done better not only in practice, but because of how well they toyed with the idea of an escort mission. The game tricks you into thinking you're protecting Elizabeth, but in reality you are Elizabeth's escort mission. It's interesting and it's done well, while in The Last of Us, Ellie serves more to the story than the gameplay. BioShock Infinite get's the point for Artificial Intelligence. 

The alternate reality exploration is awesome too


Elizabeth, Zachary Comstock, Booker DeWitt, Jerimiah Fink, the Lutece's, and Daisy Fitzroy are all incredibly interesting characters with interesting pasts and unique personalities, but The Last of Us does a better job at creating incredibly realistic characters. This is obviously due to the advantage of having a fictional story grounded in reality, while BioShock Infinite has a rather fantasy oriented story in a more imaginative world. The themes explored in BioShock Infinite are inherently grounded in reality, but so are the ones in The Last of Us. Joel, Tess, and Ellie aren't characters. These are people. While overall, I enjoyed the characters in BioShock Infinite to a greater degree, there's no denying that The Last of Us has the edge due to it's darker tone and more grounded setting.

She's an awesome character, even though she's basically Ellen Page


The story goes to both. I literally cannot put one story over another with these games. The Last of Us is a personal story that puts us in the most realistic zombie apocalypse we've ever seen and asks us as people what we will do to survive. It's tense and a fantastic experience that nobody should miss. This is one of the most emotionally rich zombie games in a long time and it does something remarkable for a genre that's gone stale. 

BioShock Infinite is a grand story that digs deep in the bowels of the human condition. It's a story about revolution, racism, perspective, religious extremism, politics, quantum mechanics, epiphany, perception, rebirth and the fragility of reality. This game explores so many things in such an amazing and fantastical setting that nobody should go without experiencing it. It's got a twist you'll never see coming and it's ending will stick with you long after you've beaten it. It's a giant mystery and it's one of the most refreshingly fun and incredibly well-written shooters I've ever played. 

Few games have atmospheres this palpable 

The bottom line is, both of these games are worthy of your attention. Wether you prefer the tension and the grit of The Last of Us or the profound nature and fantastical setting of BioShock Infinite, one thing is certain. Right now, we are having a conversation about two video games that have tackled more in depth ideas than any video game ever has, and the fact that we're having that conversation is a testament to how much our industry has grown and we should all be very proud that our industry gave us incredible experiences like these.