The Game Awards always inspire me to think about the possibilities of games. The show looks back over the past year, which now seems like a century ago, to review all the games that deserve awards. And look ahead with world premieres that promise us good things to come. Games that appear in the rearview mirror or on the road tell us where the games industry is heading.
The Last of Us Part II swept many of the honors last night, surprising no one. I love that game, and I love that critics and fans alike felt the same way. Naughty Dog’s seven awards proved that the studios that make the highest stakes and the most ambitious games can be rewarded with the highest honors and riches. The game was so polished that I didn’t see any flaws when I played it multiple times. The story is memorable and the execution of the graphics and action is very good. Eddie Vedder’s musical performance of Pearl Jam, singing “Future Song,” which Joel performs on his symbolic guitar, brought me many emotions about how the game connects the characters through music.
The game made me stop and think about the violence, revenge, and assumptions I make about good people and bad people. It takes the art form to another level, with drama, acting and writing that surpasses almost any art form in any medium. This is the kind of game that raises the opinion that the games in the world deserve the attention of adults and the best of us. And while the worst of us, the internet trolls who hated its diversity and transgender messages, tried to bring it down with hate tribalism, The Last of Us Part II prevailed. It is encouraging to see this victory reinforced when Microsoft and Dontnod’s Tell Me Why won the Impact award. That game has a transgender main character and focuses on a mental illness theme. Tell Me Why’s victory showed that players are embracing diversity.
Based on data from social media monitoring firm Spiketrap, The Last of Us Part II’s toughest competition was Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a simple title that takes us back to the roots of gaming in toys. Animal Crossing is cute, addictive, and repetitive. It doesn’t have a story arc, but it was a great comfort to so many people during the pandemic. And it was far more social than its creators intended, leading the likes of Gary Whitta to create popular in-game talk shows. But their defeat on Thursday night doesn’t mean we’re leaving the toy world behind. The gaming industry is huge and contains crowds.
I like to think of “what if” scenarios. In 2018, the focused title of God of War beat out the epic Red Dead Redemption 2. This year, I wonder what would have happened if Cyberpunk 2077 had come out earlier, as planned in the spring or September, instead of on 10 December. It really was too late to enter The Game Awards, and I have barely made a dent in it. But I’m pretty sure The Last of Us Part II would have beaten this game in direct competition. Cyberpunk 2077 is loaded with bugs that CD Projekt Red was unable to resolve despite three delays during the pandemic. While both games were hard to come by for a landing, it’s clear that Naughty Dog maintained enough control over the project, with a strict focus on a single gaming platform, the PlayStation 4, while CD Projekt Red was ultimately shot down for the challenge. of making the game for PC and multiple console platforms. That’s a lesson for companies that fly too close to the sun with their dreams of creating ambitious games across all platforms.
I loved how small games like Hades from Supergiant Games won the awards for best independent and action game. And it was fun watching a little indie game, Among Us, win three awards and beat the most powerful game of all, Call of Duty: Warzone, in the multiplayer category. That was a David vs. Goliath fight, and the little one won. I would have liked to see Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout win an award, but Animal Crossing beat it in the family category. Still, indie games scored enough wins to show that originality and creativity are thriving in 2020.
The bridge between the past and the future was the Medal of Honor for Respawn: Above and Beyond, which debuted Thursday night at the show. The VR title is one that could take VR further into the mainstream, and I’m looking forward to playing it. It could be the last great game that acknowledges the sacrifices of the last living WWII veterans, and it will be the way for many young people to learn about history.
Looking ahead to the next year and beyond, I was impressed by ten of the games I watched. I liked them all for different reasons. Back 4 Blood from Turtle Rock Studios will serve Left 4 Dead fans, who have been left behind for a long time. But that four-player cooperative zombie-killing game stood out for its fast action and high-fidelity graphics that were worthy of new game consoles. It’s amazing what you can do by taking the game itself and making it shine with next-gen graphics that intensify the action.
Crimson Desert from South Korea’s Pearl Abyss also seems like a visual feast. As a result of the success of Black Desert, it is yet another example of a large Asian company, this one with 800 employees, ascending to the global stage to create games that appeal to everyone. Or at least everyone who likes realistic graphics.
We didn’t get to see much gameplay in the movie trailers for some of the triple-A games. But I was excited to see Microsoft’s The Initiative introduce Perfect Dark, a beloved franchise that we hadn’t seen as an original title since 2005 with Xbox 360. It was about time Microsoft did it again. Electronic Arts unleashed the same emotions with their Dragon Age 4 and Mass Effect trailer debuts. Those games might be a long way from being finished, but I almost imagined the cheers we would have heard if we had an in-person event instead of the virtual online show when the trailers appeared on screen. While EA’s BioWare division has undergone changes, it’s nice to know that it can show progress in the franchises that so many people care about. Even if they don’t come out next year, those titles will help keep us confident that triple-A has a bright future.
I wasn’t expecting much from Ark 2, but that dinosaur fighting game made a clever film debut, with actor Vin Diesel playing the leader of a tribe fighting his way out of a trap where you couldn’t tell whether the sword-fighting creatures or the dinosaurs were the worst enemies. The new Call of Duty: Warzone map, arriving on December 16 with a new Battle Royale map, got me excited about how Call of Duty will be a year-round franchise with the ability to reach a much larger number of players. than ever before. Even if you scoffed at the awards, Call of Duty will win at the bank.
I liked the look of some of the smaller games, like Oddworld: Soulstorm, which brings the train home and finally has a release window in spring 2021. And I liked Annapurna and Fullbright’s Open Roads, which seems like a good story. representing a road trip between mother and daughter. That’s a new twist on the buddy tale.
If you ask me what intrigues me the most, it’s The Callisto Protocol, by Glen Schofield’s Striking Distance Studios. That game will arrive in 2022, and that’s an ambitious schedule for a new triple-A studio. Schofield, the co-creator of Dead Space, had to start his studio under difficult conditions when the shutdown went into effect. But with money from PUBG Corp. (Krafton), maker of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Striking Distance Studios has been able to build up to 150 employees in no time. If they can release the game in time, it would be a very short schedule for a survival horror game that makes us feel like we are playing in a modern Dead Space.
And I also laughed at EA’s original title It Takes Two, sourced from Hazelight and Josef Fares’ Electronic Arts. This two-player cooperative game is set in a cute, fairytale-style universe, where a couple is trapped and forced to work together to escape the world. Fares, who said “F *** the Oscars” in 2017, was funny in his mocap suit. And it gave me something to smile about for the future.
If I look at the entirety of The Game Awards, I’m glad it gave us an evening to reflect on the diversity of titles from the past year and look to the future. Video games are still in great shape, and we can look forward to a lot of fun as we fight our way out of this bloody pandemic.
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