Grand Theft Auto V was undeniably impressive, but does it obliterate its competition for GOTY?
I know you guys are probably tired of reading all our Grand Theft Auto V posts on Gamemoir by now. After dedicating so much hours playing and writing, I promise this will be my last one on the topic for the quite some time.
GTA V exceeded my expectations. I was skeptical about having three protagonists and the whole switching mechanic mainly because it looked too good on paper. However, they executed the concept brilliantly and even better than I imagined.
It was ultimately the small things in GTA V that won me over.The level of realism added on in the gameplay was impressive. No loading screens when you enter buildings or start a mission. You approach the mission marker and the ‘cutscene’ happens without any hint of transition. It’s almost always a new scene each time you switch to a different protagonist. Most of the time they even change their appearance without your consent.
It was ultimately the small things in GTA V that won me over. I noticed that vehicles would perform poorly if I wrecked it to a certain degree. At one point, it won’t even start after I totaled the vehicle during a police chase. You could no longer go charging in like Rambo in a fire fight. One head shot can kill you even if your health is nearly full.
Don’t get me started on the diversions. I think I’ve spent a lot of time just by playing golf, tennis, and manipulating the stock market. I can just imagine how much more time my friends and I are going to invest in the game once GTA Online comes out. There are times when I find myself browsing the internet in-game to read the entertaining websites or stalking LifeInvader profiles to know the characters a bit more.
I have nothing but praise for the game and only minor gripes about it. Is it perfect? I honestly don’t think any game is if we look at it objectively. There is always room to improve. A game can definitely be a ’10’ for someone on a purely subjective level though. Months before this game came out, I had a feeling that this was going to be my definite choice for ‘Game of the Year.’ I had my reservations, but that’s pretty normal when everything seems just too good to be true.
The weird thing was I didn’t have the ‘this is the one’ feeling when I was playing GTA V. Before you rip to pieces like that poor woman from GameSpot, I’m not saying that it is a terrible game. Far from it. It was not because of an insufferable glitch or a missing feature. It exceeded my expectations and it definitely did 99% things right in the realm of sandbox action-adventure games. They added and improved many elements to the game. They were building on something that already existed and made it nearly perfect. However, I just felt like it wasn’t a ‘game changer’ so to speak.
To be fair, we all have our own criteria for choosing a GOTY so please don’t take what I am saying as the general standard.I personally choose a title that makes players re-think what it means to play a video game. A game that challenges the conventions of what a video game is and what it is supposed to deliver to its audience.
Let me put it this way: GTA V is like a familiar dish. Let’s say ‘seared lamb chops’ just so you can picture it. You’ve tasted different iterations of it, but this dish improves and adds on the missing ingredients lacking from the ones you’ve previously tasted. By far, this was the best rendition of lamb you’ve ever tasted. For me, GOTY worthy games are exotic dishes that play with your taste buds by making you experience an entirely distinct yet enjoyable flavor. It actually makes you think about what makes a dish delicious (I’ve honestly had an experience like that).
I personally choose a [GOTY] title that makes players re-think what it means to play a video game.For others, BioShock: Infinite and The Last of Us are the exotic dishes this year has to offer. My choice would have to be The Last of Us though. I initially doubted my pick because it’s a zombie game. It’s not an entirely new concept like Portal for example, but it clicked within me so I decided to figure out why that was the case.
I realized that It was not improving on the shoot em’ up or hack and slash titles we’ve seen before. It was close to Tell Tale’s The Walking Dead in terms of the strength of its narrative. Yet, it was ultimately a different way to experience the zombie genre. I don’t think there’s a need for me to give you guys a blow by blow review of this game.
We’ve had post-apocalyptic zombie games before, but The Last of Us crafts a world that speaks for itself. Sometimes we would never be explicitly told what happened in a particular area, but the subtle elements in the design help players piece the story together. The way blood is splattered, the distress in a note’s handwriting, or simply by observing where the objects are. I think it’s brilliant because it is as if Naughty Dog can anticipate our progression of thinking by letting us figure out in on our own using their trail of bread crumbs.
It was also a simple yet well-executed story that did not rely solely on contrived twists or eye candy visuals to capture our attention. Some people would favor Bioshock: Infinite for its intricate narrative in addition to its unique lore and world. I’m not going to dismiss that because those are totally valid claims that make it a strong contender. I just personally applaud how Naughty Dog was able to make something simple so compelling that it leaves a profound impact on its players.
The Last of Us’ ending in particular was an aspect that solidified the feeling of ‘this is the one’ for me. It was something that I did not see coming, but that’s not why it impressed me. I’ll try my best not to spoil it to the best of my ability. The ending evoked a different feeling within me that was distinct from the past games I’ve played. We normally have a feeling of ‘winning’ in almost every game whether it is in the form of simply reaching a high score in Galaga or beating the final boss in Metal Gear Solid.
I was saving all my ammo and gear for a boss fight with the infected or the humans, but there was none waiting for me in the end. The ending just happened and I didn’t know if I won so to speak. It’s not that I did things that messed up the story. Actually, it was pretty linear and I did everything I was supposed to do. Sure, there are definitely games with bittersweet endings but there’s always a sense of accomplishment that accompanied it upon completion.
The game was not about saving the world from doom or rescuing a damsel in distress. Naughty Dog wanted to tell a story that gamers can experience. That was it. It didn’t have the Hollywood ending just for the sake of letting players feel that they beat the game. After finishing it, it actually made me think about what defines a video game.
Google defines a ‘game’ as a form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck. If I’m not mistaken, games always have a clear winner in the end. The Last of Us implicitly raises the question whether or not a video game can be more of an experience than a competition either with the A.I or with other players.The Last of Us implicitly raises the question whether or not a video game can be more of an experience than a competition either with the A.I or with other players. It still has combat and everything, but that’s not the main focus of it all.
Check out the indie game Gone Home by The Fullbright Company. Now, that’s one excellent example of a video game that advocates itself as a fully immersive experience without any combat or conventional puzzles.
I remember people were complaining about how Mass Effect 3 did not have an explicit boss fight. I think that was only a ripple of their outrage over the ending than the lack of one. However, it makes us ask the question: “if we strip all these elements that normally define a game? Would it still qualify as one?”
Hmm, I think I got a little way ahead of myself with this. Perhaps, I’ll do another post on what defines a video game later on.
The race isn’t over yet though. There are still a ton of games coming out this year to look forward to. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs look extremely promising. I’m sure that they will be excellent games that will flourish in their respective genres, but I don’t predict any ‘game changers’ though.
I’m personally intrigued about Beyond: Two Souls. David Cage may be dubbed as ‘pretentious’ by players, but I admire the man for attempting to change the way we think about gaming even if it takes him a few tries to achieve his vision. Quantic Dream’s game is no doubt wildly ambitious and I am nothing but excited to see if Cage and his team will truly astonish us.
In the end, Grand Theft Auto V is a GTA game at its very best. It deserves all the overwhelmingly positive reviews and revenue it gets. However, it is not an entry that I would consider as GOTY. If this was the first of its kind, then I might be singing a different tune.
UPDATE: I noticed that people were saying that The Last of Us should win, but Grand Theft Auto V will win because it is multi-platform. It sucks that a game might be overlooked just because they were only released in one platform. However, I do think the former will dominate when critics from IGN, GameSpot, and others take their picks.
This is just my opinion at least. Thoughts?