Max, Joel, John Marston, and Me

Max, Joel, John Marston, and Me
 
 

I’ve always loved a good story. Maybe a bit too much for a gamer. Soap’s story is my favourite thing about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and I’ve always loved the career modes in NBA 2K. I even like average games if the story is interesting, case in point The Order: 1886. It’s why I still like Fallout 3 more than Fallout 4 and what draws me back to Grand Theft Auto IV. It’s also what has me amped for Red Dead Redemption 2. Absurdly amped.

First, a spoiler warning. Don’t read this if you haven’t played Red Dead Redemption, Life is Strange, The Last of Us, and its DLC Left Behind. They are great games and every gamer should have played them by now. If only so you know what is possible in a video game. If you haven’t, know that reading this will give away everything. So play them now. Thank me later.

One of the reason’s I’m looking forward to Red Dead Redemption 2 is the ending of the first game. Despite being sparse, repetitive, and locked into the cliches of the revisionist western, Red Dead Redemption had my favourite ending of any video game. Seemingly, the entire point of the game is getting John Marston back to his family. You do that, do some mundane family stuff, before he is gunned down by corrupt government agents. Cut to a figure standing over a grave on the Marston ranch. Did he survive? Was it all some weird dream? No. It’s Jack, John’s son. An outlaw and gunfighter, just like his father, caught in a world of violence and revenge.

The ending of Red Dead Redemption is sad. But, it’s a video game. A video game that’s sad, and melancholic, and thoughtful, and intelligent. Red Dead Redemption isn’t about John Marston saving his family, it’s about saving himself. Finding redemption in the attempt to save his family. Making up, and paying for, all the evil he has done. In Red Dead Redemption 2 we just might get to see all that evil in John Marston’s past.

Red Dead Redemption might still be my favourite ending. But, three years after it I decided that The Last of Us was the best game I had ever played. The best game and the best story. Last year, Life is Strange was one of my top five games. It had some laughably awkward dialogue, little gameplay - other than a bit of pointing and clicking, and when I downloaded it on the PS4 it glitched so bad that half of chapter four was virtually unplayable. But, it somehow made it into my top five games of the year. I’ve changed my mind since then. It is now my favourite game of 2015.

What stands out in both games is the strength of the stories. The use of genre tropes and conventions, and the courage and imagination to turn those conventions upside down. The devastating set pieces, dramatic character development and the way both games end. They present the same final choice to their leads. Not the easy choice John Marston gets; sacrifice yourself to save your family. A choice that’s far more challenging.

The opening of The Last of Us is now something of legend. Told with economy and subtlety, we find out what kind of man Joel is in the space of one conversation with his daughter. We see his love for her, his dry humour, his strength and determination. Then, through her sleepy eyes we watch as the world begins to crumble.

The sequence ends with with the most surprising and emotionally devastating scene ever presented in a videogame. Carrying all the more weight because leading up to Sarah’s death is a familiar set piece. Uncle Tommy directs you to safety and stays behind so you can escape. You’ve avoided the zombies, figured out where you need to go, and got there in the nick of time. You did everything right, followed all the zombie apocalypse rules, and still Sarah dies.

Although it isn’t the heart-pounding beginning of The Last of Us, the opening of Life is Strange morphs into something just as surprising. You enter the life of Max, through her inner monologue and awesome Jane Doe t-shirt. The first awesome t-shirt of many. You are encouraged to examine the minutiae of the world - people, pictures on the wall, a name scratched into a desk. It’s an opening that you can take your time with. If you like Syd Matters’ To All of You, you can listen to it continuously as you wander the hallways of Blackwell Academy. Even after Chloe is shot, and the game tells you to hurry, you’re not penalised if you don’t. It doesn’t even send you back to a checkpoint. It just reminds you to rewind, and try again.

The Last of Us eventually slows down, after the gut-wrenching opening sequence. It’s twenty years after his daughter’s death, perhaps to the day, and Joel still has nightmares. He’s still consumed by it. He’s hardened, haunted, and weary. On the streets of Boston’s quarantine zone he’s the muscle behind Tess’s smuggling operation. Tess calls the plays and Joel backs them up with bullets and broken bones. A smuggler, a murderer, a survivor.

Ellie too has her baggage. We immediately see her combativeness and mistrust of strangers. But, we also find out in the DLC Left Behind about her life before she meets Joel. She’s a loner, with dead parents, dead friends, ties to the Fireflies, and a life in military school. In three or four years Ellie would be one of the gas-masked soldiers patrolling the perimeter of the quarantine zone, testing people and shooting them if they’re infected.

Continue reading on page 2.





 

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Comments Comments (20)

 
Posted by 163Battery
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 11:15 AM
2
I think Red Dead Redemption is a game I didn't really appreciate until thinking back on it months after playing it. At the time, I thought it was good but not great. But when I think back on it, I realise that it was outstanding.

I'm with you on playing an average game if it has a great story. That's why I like The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead games so much. Not much actual gameplay but great stories. I only call the games average because there is so little actual gameplay.

That is why in all the games I have played, from my earliest memories at three or four years old, playing on an Atari to thirty years later, with all the consoles and games I have played in that time up to now, that The Witcher 3 is the best game I have ever played. Ever. Everything about it was great, I really cannot fault it. I would be surprised if I ever find a better game in my life.
 
 
 
Posted by iludez
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 11:19 AM
4
Wow what a great article!

I'm currently playing RDR and i'm absolutely loving it. Such a fantastic game.

The last of us was probably one of the best story driven games ever made, it was so damn well done
 
 
 
Posted by 163Battery
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 11:56 AM
2
4 January 2017, 11:19 AM Reply to iludez
Wow what a great article!

I'm currently playing RDR and i'm absolutely loving it. Such a fantastic game.

The last of us was probably one of the best story driven games ever made, it was so damn well done
I would love to play that because I have heard so much about it. Unfortunately, with it not being on Xbox, I never have.
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 12:51 PM
3
4 January 2017, 11:56 AM Reply to 163Battery
I would love to play that because I have heard so much about it. Unfortunately, with it not being on Xbox, I never have.
I would say it's worth picking up a Playstation just so you can play it, one of the very best games ever made on every level imo. And with a sequel now confirmed to be in the works, even more incentive to grab yourself a PS4.
 
 
 
Posted by iludez
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 1:03 PM
2
4 January 2017, 12:51 PM Reply to Nick2016NZ
I would say it's worth picking up a Playstation just so you can play it, one of the very best games ever made on every level imo. And with a sequel now confirmed to be in the works, even more incentive to grab yourself a PS4.
Last of us really is such a good a good game that it would be worth getting a ps4 or even ps3. Though the ps4 version is much better
 
 
 
Posted by 163Battery
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 1:12 PM
2
4 January 2017, 01:03 PM Reply to iludez
Last of us really is such a good a good game that it would be worth getting a ps4 or even ps3. Though the ps4 version is much better
Really couldn't justify the expense for that one game. Plus I have been an Xbox man since the first one came out. Having said that, I have a mate in Tauranga who has a PS3 & PS4. He doesn't use the PS3 anymore. Might hit him up, see if I can borrow it. Will have to try to ignore how much I dislike PlayStation controllers haha.
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 1:58 PM
3
Was one of my favorite games of last gen, enjoyed the story, the gameplay, the coop, even the multiplayer. Definitely my more anticipated games this year. Be the first game in years ill preorder as soon as possible.
 
 
 
Posted by Fatmike
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 2:01 PM
2
4 January 2017, 11:15 AM Reply to 163Battery
I think Red Dead Redemption is a game I didn't really appreciate until thinking back on it months after playing it. At the time, I thought it was good but not great. But when I think back on it, I realise that it was outstanding.

I'm with you on playing an average game if it has a great story. That's why I like The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead games so much. Not much actual gameplay but great stories. I only call the games average because there is so little actual gameplay.

That is why in all the games I have played, from my earliest memories at three or four years old, playing on an Atari to thirty years later, with all the consoles and games I have played in that time up to now, that The Witcher 3 is the best game I have ever played. Ever. Everything about it was great, I really cannot fault it. I would be surprised if I ever find a better game in my life.
Witcher 3 is great. But as with RDR keeping the story going in an openworld game is a trick.
 
 
 
Posted by Fatmike
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 2:19 PM
1
4 January 2017, 11:19 AM Reply to iludez
Wow what a great article!

I'm currently playing RDR and i'm absolutely loving it. Such a fantastic game.

The last of us was probably one of the best story driven games ever made, it was so damn well done
Thanks. I wish I could go back in time and play RDR blind again. It nails such a weird quiet tone for a game.
 
 
 
Posted by 163Battery
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 2:58 PM
2
4 January 2017, 02:01 PM Reply to Fatmike
Witcher 3 is great. But as with RDR keeping the story going in an openworld game is a trick.
Good call. That is why GTA V is great. Can't see anyway they could make that happen for The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption though. Maybe a Warcraft/Elder Scrolls Online type thing for The Witcher?

Couldn't see that working for RDR without radically changing the game. John dies but you can carry on as his son when he is grown up although there is nothing to do. But considering the year John died and how his son has aged, it must be getting close to the start of WW1? Can't see the cowboy riding around on horses all the time still being the norm then. It wouldn't seem right.
 
 
 
Posted by iludez
On Wednesday 4 Jan 2017 8:57 PM
2
Another great story series is uncharted 4. Great game.
 
 
 
Posted by Paorio
On Thursday 5 Jan 2017 6:06 PM
3
I am soooooooooooo hyped for this


side note: I have no idea how I got to be 3 star silver...
 
 
 
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Posted by Pesleh
On Thursday 5 Jan 2017 6:57 PM
-9
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On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I've had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
!iw1013t:=======www.wagenet10.COM
 
This comment has been down-voted by the community.  
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Thursday 5 Jan 2017 7:42 PM
2
5 January 2017, 06:06 PM Reply to Paorio
I am soooooooooooo hyped for this


side note: I have no idea how I got to be 3 star silver...
Triple points have been awarded for the VIP bounty that started last month, almost everyone went up in rank.
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Thursday 5 Jan 2017 8:03 PM
2
5 January 2017, 06:06 PM Reply to Paorio
I am soooooooooooo hyped for this


side note: I have no idea how I got to be 3 star silver...
Yesterday or today looks like they bumped everyone up. Im up 1500 points from what I was a day or two ago.
 
 
 
Posted by 163Battery
On Friday 6 Jan 2017 7:47 AM
1
5 January 2017, 07:42 PM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Triple points have been awarded for the VIP bounty that started last month, almost everyone went up in rank.
Yeah, I was one star bronze a couple of days ago, now almost four star. Have they said who won the bonus points from the points giveaway yet?
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Friday 6 Jan 2017 8:39 AM
1
6 January 2017, 07:47 AM Reply to 163Battery
Yeah, I was one star bronze a couple of days ago, now almost four star. Have they said who won the bonus points from the points giveaway yet?
I don't think so, an article will be up announcing the winners soon like past comps I would guess.
 
 
 
Jaws8u4t
Posted by Jaws8u4t
On Friday 6 Jan 2017 6:16 PM
2
I can't wait, loved the first one.
 
 
 
Posted by Relmed
On Friday 6 Jan 2017 10:40 PM
4
That evil PC tag in this post. :( Red Dead will live on in my console gamer past.
 
 
 
Posted by thc4108
On Sunday 8 Jan 2017 12:18 AM
2
liked both Red Dead Redemption and Life is Strange .Mate has The Last of Us might have to play it one day.