The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One come out in November, and to say I’m excited about the impending console generation would be an understatement. But optimistic visions of the future don’t account for the brilliant library of games that audiences have been treated to in 2013. We can’t forget about the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 quite yet.
Obviously, new releases will still be multi-platform for the foreseeable future while developers work out technical kinks and establish familiarity with the new consoles, but we’re getting into swan song territory. This year marks the time when game designers make their last, sweeping artistic statements with current technology, while the video game community sits back and enjoys.
The prime examples come in the form of BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us, two big-name releases that received plenty of acclaim. I discussed the merits of BioShock Infinite in an earlier edition of the Aggie Arcade, including the product’s value as an educational experience with its emphasis on American history and complex ethical dilemmas. Such themes are not often explored in video games, but the team at Irrational Games took that kind of risk with the original BioShock in 2007 and pushed the envelope even further with Infinite.
The Last of Us addresses a far more traditional set-up with its post-apocalyptic/infected storyline, but the characters and relationships forged in the game highlight its status as a landmark release for the current generation of video games. Just in those first 20 minutes or so, the player is hit with an emotionally exhausting moment that cements the game’s bleak and dour tone.
Perhaps it’s a knee-jerk reaction considering both games came out just months ago, and I am sometimes prone to hyperbole, but BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us stand out as some of my all-time favorite games and also represent the best the current generation of consoles has to offer. It shows us that the end of a generation can be a great thing — sure, innovation has fallen by the wayside in recent years with new technology looming on the horizon, but there are still fantastic ideas out there that emerge near the end of a console’s lifespan.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned Grand Theft Auto V, a game I have not yet played as of this writing (though it did come out in September). As a fan of the series, I’d be shocked if I don’t absolutely love that game, and I imagine plenty of gamers are in the same boat as me. Once again, we have a final current-gen product from a landmark developer — Rockstar Games — and it also satisfies a far different niche than BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us. Rockstar’s goal is to create a living, breathing world with plenty of memorable characters and witty writing. If the early previews are any indication, the company has done just that.
The unifying theme of all these great games is that they represent a final statement on what has been a fantastic generation of video games. As developers become more familiar with the hardware, the games get better, so this year we see what the medium can truly offer players. So before you boot up those new consoles in November, take some time to appreciate how great the past eight years have been and how that’s led us to games like BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us.
ANTHONY LABELLA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.