But it would be shortsighted not to mention the controversy surrounding the whole series. Apparently, GTA is responsible for killings, shootings and all the evil in the world. These claims continue to do the rounds, even though numerous studies have exposed successive versions of ‘effects theory’ as complete hogwash.
GTA is also known for its relentless satire on everything. Left or right, no one is safe from its sharp ridicule; always biting, and very much hilarious.
Best Art: Dishonored
Just one look at the screenshots for Dishonored will show you exactly what I mean. It is set in the city of Dunwall, a gloriously plague-ridden, steampunk/Orwellian dystopia, in which the kindhearted but ineffective ruler has been assassinated – and you have been framed for the murder. There are dingy sewers, groaning civilians coughing in your face, and assassins with their gas masks on. The characters are often given a cartoonish touch, but not to the game’s detriment. For example, there are the Tallboys – guards riding massively tall machines who shoot at anything that moves in the forbidden zones. The whole city relies on highly flammable whale oil, which will explode if you drop a canister of it so, um, butterfingers beware!
Best Plot: The Last Of Us
This game focuses on Joel and Ellie, two survivors of a vicious sickness that turned many others into snarling fungi intent on eating you. Joel is a grizzled survivor, prone to cynicism. Enter Ellie, the young girl who is a harbinger of hope. Joel is commissioned to deliver her to a distant city on the other side of zombie-riddled America; he is basically a post-apocalyptic postman who doesn’t work for the government. Initially frosty towards each other, eventually the two of them come to love each other. As a vision of America after apocalypse, The Last of Us resembles The Road, translated from book (and film) into a videogame. It is a stellar example of how games can be art, just the same as books, films and, er, art. It also shows that videogames can be mature, despite the best efforts of Duke Nukem Forever with all its urine jokes.
Most Player Freedom: Dishonored
Yes, I know I’ve already honoured Dishonored, but it’s just so good, you see. And on player freedom, it damn well delivers - and then some. It gives you a huge level, a target, and a bunch of superpowers. And there are so many different solutions. There are several times when you will spend a sizeable amount of time creeping around like a ninja, and then think ‘Damn, I could have just possessed a rat and sneaked through a gutter’ or ‘I could have just frozen time, teleported up to that ledge, then summoned rats to devour my unfortunate victim’.
And there is that absolutely ingenious, though somewhat sadistic, method of killing a foe. When they are about to put a large hole in your brain with an equally fearsome pistol, simply freeze time, possess the enemy, walk him into the path of his own bullet and, le voilà!, you have carried out the exemplary assassination of the century. For the pacifists out there, there are also non-violent ways to proceed. You could, for example, broadcast the Lord Regent’s tapes, which contain lurid details of his numerous crimes – and wait for justice to catch up with him. Or you could just slit his throat.
Maximum Player Creativity: Little Big Planet 2
Little Big Planet’s claim to fame is that it gives you a blank space to create your own levels. You could make it a simple platformer, or a racing-car game, or do some serious programming within your bots and make complicated sequences, worthy of a game itself. And you can access this whole world’s creations as well. Have a hankering for a racing game involving sharks, and can’t find a level to suit your needs? Then make it yourself. Want to recreate your favourite films, bit by bit? You can do that. Want to create an incredibly complex, robot-army racing-shark fire thing? That, too. It’s all there! Little Big Planet 2 is an incredibly important game in other ways too, since it opened the door to a new level of accessibility in creating games.
These are my top five games of the nearly departed Generation 3. Last week, I got my hands on a PS4 controller for the first time – but only the demonstration model in the shop. I am given to understand that mine is ‘on order’. Now that I can no longer accept the existence of Father Christmas, I have to believe in PS4 instead.
Freddie Sehgal Cuthbert is spiked‘s games reviewer.