“The Last of Us Part II” dominated The Game Awards on Thursday night, garnering a record-breaking seven wins including Game of the Year. It was a huge night for Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment, which produced one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of 2020.
“The Last of Us Part II” is the sequel to the heralded original praised for its emotional depth. The first “Last of Us” followed a smuggler named Joel and his ward Ellie across a post-apocalyptic America. The sequel raises the bar as it essentially becomes the counterpoint to the violent end of the original. It follows Ellie on her journey of revenge.
“The Last of Us Part II” wasn’t perfect, but it brought up fascinating points about the nature of bloodshed and sacrifice. The Naughty Dog game won for Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, Best Audio Design, Best Performance (Laura Bailey who portrayed Abby), Innovation in Accessibility and Best Action/Adventure.
The other big winners were “Among Us” and the “Final Fantasy VII Remake.” “Among Us” is the indie darling that captured fans’ imagination during the pandemic. It became a viral hit — no pun intended — as players sought ways to be social while being separated. “Among Us” by InnerSloth won Best Mobile game and Best Multiplayer game.
The “Final Fantasy VII Remake” was another title that was years in the making but lived up to the hype by taking the narrative that players were familiar with and twisting in a way that made it fresh and new. It won for Best Score and Music and Best Role Playing game.
The other notable winners included “Ghost of Tsushima,” which won for Best Art Direction. It was one of the best looking games to launch this year and players showed off the adventure’s beauty by using the robust Photo Mode. “Ghost” is the game that has moved Sucker Punch from a midtier developer to one of the best in Sony’s stable of studios. “Tell Me Why” by Dontnod Entertainment won for Games for Impact, most notably because it includeda transgender character. Like a lot of Dontnod’s projects, “Tell My Why” is an unconventional adventure game with compelling characters, an angsty plot and bit of the supernatural. The two characters are twin siblings who share visions and memories, with each incident painted differently according to their perspectives.
Interestingly enough “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2” won Best Sports/Racing game. It’s a category that’s usually dominated either by the “Madden NFL” or “NBA 2K” series. The one game that should benefit from earning a trophy is “Hades.” The Best Indie winner may not be a mainstream success but it has been a hit among hard-core players. It’s worth checking out.
If you’re wondering about “Cyberpunk 2077,” CD Projekt Red’s title didn’t make the submission deadline, so perhaps next year, it could be nominated for Game of the Year and Best Ongoing title. That game reportedly needs optimization and bug fixes.
The other half of The Game Awards is the announcements of new project. The ceremony has always been part award show and part infomercial as gamers tune in to see upcoming titles. It’s not exactly E3 level news coming out, but it is notable.
The two biggest reveals were “Back 4 Blood” and “Perfect Dark.” The first is by Turtle Rock Studios, the team responsible for “Left 4 Dead.” From the looks of it, this multiplayer co-op zombie game wants to pick up the torch but the big question facing Turtle Rock is this: Will players still gravitate to this style of game and how will it hold up to other co-op multiplayer titles that have rushed to fill the void in the genre. The studio will have to bring some level of map design, polish, innovation or all three to make this a worthwhile foray for players.
It’s been years since a “Perfect Dark” was released and Rare’s creation is in new hands. The Initiative, a new studio headed by Darrell Gallagher out of Santa Monica, is at the reins of what appears to be a reboot. Gallagher has a good pedigree being the head of studio at Crystal Dynamics when the “Tomb Raider” reboot came out. He also recently held important posts at Activision and Square Enix.
Electronic Arts had two major announcements with its big RPG franchises. EA revealed more information about the upcoming “Dragon Age” sequel and a follow-up to the original “Mass Effect” trilogy. The trailers didn’t offer much in terms of gameplay or story. They were both fancy teasers telling gamers that, yes, both projects are in the works and the CGI will be pretty.
One of the most intriguing reveals was “The Callisto Protocol” by Striking Distance Studios, a developer based in San Ramon. Headed by “Dead Space” co-creator Glen Schofield, the studio chief looks as though he’s returning to his roots. It looks like it will fill a void that has been missing in video games since “Dead Space” ended. It’s scheduled for release in 2022.
Last but not least, “F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch” looks like a compelling take on the Metroidvania formula with stunning visuals and fast-paced combat. The gameplay looks fantastic and the world appears interesting, but it will be the level design that will determine the success of this title.