I really enjoyed Insomniac’s 2018 Spider-Man game, which offered some fantastic gameplay, along with a compelling, emotional story and a brand new take on Peter Parker (Yuri Lowenthal). So, I was pretty excited to get into the next installment, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which sees players take control of Peter’s up and coming protégé, Miles (Nadji Jeter), as he has to save the city on his own when Peter goes on vacation, in what is a shorter experience than the first game but still an enjoyable one. Now, I really enjoyed Miles as a character in my favourite movie of 2018, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so I was interested to see how Insomniac would depict him there. Thankfully, Miles is just as relatable as Peter was in the previous game, offering a completely different arc from his, as Miles has to prove himself as worthy of the Spider-Man title to the rest of New York.
Not that his efforts will impress J. Jonah Jameson (Darin de Paul), whose hilarious podcasts can still be listened to throughout. As for the actual story, it is a good time, although nothing new. The main antagonist of the Tinkerer (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is interesting and has understandable motivations and a great ending to boot. However, the second antagonist, Simon Krieger (Troy Baker), is a very different story, being generic as they come.
The gameplay is just as fun as it was in the first Spider-Man game, with enjoyable combat and stealth sequences and some great boss fights. As for the web swinging mechanics, they are complemented by the improved graphics. Speaking of graphics, unfortunately, this is where I have to get into my one problem with the graphics update, which is the new face model for Peter Parker. I thought the one in the original game was perfect because of how it accurately reflected not only an older version of Peter but also one who we had never seen before. The new face model, however, claims neither title. It makes Peter look way too old and, even worse, look exactly like Tom Holland. Not that there’s anything wrong with Tom Holland. I do like his portrayal of Spider-Man, but this redesign takes the unique approach to Peter’s look in the first game and replaces it with what feels like an attempt to pander to fans of the MCU.
It’s like if they went back to the older Spider-Man films and digitally replaced Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield with Tom Holland, it just wouldn’t work because all three actors made the character their own and neither one could take over their exact interpretation. Thankfully, though, Peter’s new face isn’t shown much and, even if it was, it wouldn’t be bad enough to take away from the overall experience too much because of how enjoyable the rest of the game is. Overall, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a fun experience that gets you acquainted with another great interpretation of Miles and sets up some interesting events in the next game, if the post credits scene is anything to go by.
Naughty Dog is one of, if not my absolute, favourite video game studios.
The first game I played on the PlayStation 3 was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and I have kept up with that brilliant series as it has continued over the years.
But, I think we can all agree that Naughty Dog’s undisputed masterpiece is their 2013 game The Last of Us, created by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, which was remastered for the PlayStation 4.
The tale of Joel and Ellie travelling across a post-apocalyptic America is the height of video game storytelling, with many emotional and heart bounding scenes.
There were numerous times I cried during my first play through, even in the first 20 minutes, which is something no video game has ever done for me.
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson both give enthralling performances as the two lead characters, with the game following their growing father-daughter bond in both its positive and negative consequences for the two.
This culminates in an ending that is so morally ambiguous that it makes the simple line of “Okay” crushing.
It is not just Joel and Ellie though because almost every other character is exceptionally written.
From Joel’s partner in crime Tess (Annie Wersching), to his estranged brother Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce), to the paranoid Bill (W. Earl Brown), to brothers Henry (Brandon Scott) and Sam (Nadji Jeter), and many more, the characters of The Last of Us are some of the best in video game history, with Joel and Ellie right at the top.
The story accompanying these characters is also enthralling, which shows how amazing the writing is because the story could have easily become very cliched.
There are so many zombie games out there, many with save the world plot lines, so it would have been easy for The Last of Us’ story to fall into this cycle of mediocrity.
However, with the game focusing on the fantastic growing relationship of its two leads, and having a new type of zombie never seen before, the game jumps over the mediocrity scale by a wide margin and leaving it completely in the dust.
Having the source of the infection be the very real Cordecyeps Fungus was a stroke of genius and it makes for some incredibly scary enemies to fight.
Speaking of, the gameplay in The Last of Us is also amazing and accompanies the brutal story well with its likewise brutal conflict.
Fighting Clickers, Runners, Stalkers, and Bloaters throughout is a constant nerve wracking experience.
This culminates in a flooded basement segment some time into the game that is absolutely terrifying the first time you play it.
But it is not just the infected that you have to worry about because people are even more dangerous and, whether you go in using stealth or go guns blazing, it is almost always an intense experience trying to take them out.
Although, it is probably best not to go in all guns blazing on Grounded Mode because, if you try to do that, you will die… a lot.
Seriously, Grounded is an incredibly difficult mode to beat the game on.
I must have died around 100 times in the final, brutal combat sequence of the game.
What makes the combat of The Last of Us so satisfying though is its intensity.
You can just feel every punch that Joel dishes out.
Also, when you play as Ellie during the winter segment, which is my favourite level of the game, she is realistically much weaker than Joel, making gameplay a lot harder, as you have to think of new ways to get around or kill enemies.
Helping the intensity of the combat is the reward of it you feel from scavenging and then crafting from various materials, creating Molotov cocktails, nail bombs, smoke bombs, and med kits to help you throughout the game.
The supplies needed to make these things are also fairly spread around throughout, adjusting the quantity based on the level of difficulty you are playing at.
Upgrading your weapons is also fairly handled, based on how much you scavenge as well.
Materials to build weapons is not the only thing you can find scavenging though, because there are also various notes and pieces of information that create side stories about people trying to survive in the outbreak.
One of these stories is about Ish, who I didn’t find much about on my first play through but on subsequent ones, where I made sure to scavenge, he became a very fleshed out character, even though we don’t meet him in person.
Accompanying this fantastic level of story telling and gameplay is the incredible soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolla, who deserves just as much praise as Druckmann, Straley, and the rest of the creators for adding to the game.
All of this combines to make The Last of Us an emotionally intense experience that is, without a doubt, my favourite video game of all time.
Accompanying this masterpiece in the Remastered addition is the DLC, Left Behind, which mostly details the last happy moments shared between Ellie and her best friend Riley.
Just like the main game, Left Behind is fantastic and a worthy addition to the story.
So, as you can expect, I am incredibly excited for the sequel, which will be released tomorrow.
Unfortunately, a lot of story details were leaked about the game and I accidentally stumbled across one of these spoilers the other day.
I don’t know if what I saw is true or not but, even if it is, I won’t allow it to taint my experience of the game.
And whether I end up loving, hating, or even having mixed feelings about the sequel, The Last of Us will remain an incredible experience for me that I will constantly find myself replaying for many years to come.