On a recent podcast we recorded Evan asked me which game I liked better, Bioshock Infinite or The Last of Us. I immediately thought I preferred Bioshock Infinite, but after thinking about the matter further, I realized I have no idea which one I like more. So within this editorial I am inviting you, the reader, to come on a journey with in which I will highlight some points between the two games and hopefully in the end I will have a definitive answer for Evan. Oh and reader beware SPOILERS AHEAD FOR BOTH GAMES!
Lets kick this thing off with the most common comparison between games:
One is a first person shooter based in mid to large size combat arenas, the other is a third person shooter with heavy stealth mechanics. Infinite’s combat is at its most fun when you are implementing every tool at your disposal. Throwing a murder of crows vigor to distract and harass enemies as you skyhook your way to a good vantage point to pick enemies off with a sniper feels extremely smooth and natural. The level of experimentation in how you can take out your foes keeps growing as you progress and gain more weapons and vigors. Elizabeth also adds a level of fun and variety to combat with her ability to manipulate different tears to provide ammo, weapons, and cover at the blink of an eye.
Evan has talked before about how games don’t have to be fun, and that perfectly describes my feelings on The Last of Us’ combat. Every encounter is designed to be an intense struggle for survival, relying on adaptability and smart use of limited resources. Even when you are in a good position to take on enemies, a deliberately shaky aiming system makes landing a shot difficult, but when you nail a headshot it is a fantastic feeling. The stealth mechanics let you methodically move around enemies with noise so you can pick them off to your liking if that’s the way you want to play.
The combat between both games is vastly different, but the sense of accomplishment I felt when killing the last enemy of an encounter in The Last of Us puts it over Bioshock Infinite, if only by a small margin.
Winner: The Last of Us
Infinite is a beautiful game. It’s character models are detailed in a cartoon-esque way that I loved and the animations were smooth and natural. The environments vary from the early game vivid colors to the late game drab color palette, both which look great and complement the atmosphere the game is trying to convey.
The Last of Us, on the other hand, is gritty. Very, very gritty. Beautiful greenery is contrasted by the crumbling buildings they are growing in, the characters are all dirtied in a believable way, and the environments are populated with the rusty and deteriorating aftermath of a frenzied outbreak. The main characters look fantastic. I could go on and on but the main reason I love the look of The Last of Us is because I paused the game one time with the Playstation button, which put a tinted overlay on the cutscene I was watching and as I looked at the screen I realized that it could easily be mistaken for a still from at.v. show if you didn’t know any better.
Winner: The Last of Us
Both of these games excel in writing, especially in the area of the back and forth between the two main protagonists.
Elizabeth and Booker are unlikely allies. A sheltered girl is thrust into the world around her for the first time by a man that has seen the darkest parts of the world. Throughout the journey they go on the relationship they build is one of protector and protected. The most interesting aspect of this relationship is how the roles of protector and protected are bounced between the two characters. This even comes into play within the combat where Elizabeth will support you by throwing you health and ammo when you need it desperately. Even at the ending hours of the story, both characters are fearful of each other and what they can do. All of this builds up to one of the greatest reveals I have ever experienced across any entertainment medium.
From the get go, Joel and Ellie are unwilling partners. Lets be honest here, holding a gun to someone’s head is not the best way to start your relationship. After getting off to a rocky start, Ellie and Joel are forced to work together alone towards a common goal, but for different reasons. As they travel together their relationship rocks back and forth, and when Ellie isn’t happy with Joel she lets him know with in tone of voice and mannerisms, which are conveyed into the game quite wonderfully. The winter season is where you get to the real defining point of their relationship. It is where you realize that they survive by, for, and with each other. The ending of the game displays the ultimate trust between the two, that even though Ellie knows Joel may be lying, she trusts him enough to know that his lie is to protect her from the sad truth.
I’m going to let The Last of Us go first here. The main problem I have with the story of this game is that it relies so heavily on the relationship of the two main characters. Looking back at the narrative of the story, it is all based around just getting from point A to point B, and the only time the story deviates from that is when they actually arrive at their destination. Sure, the journey has its distractions and hiccups along the way, but they are all just to further deepen the relationship between the two characters.
Infinite is a masterpiece in terms of story telling. The meta implications of the ending can apply to even The Last of Us. The twists and turns through time, space, and alternate universes make for an adventure that makes every twist and turn keep you on the edge of your seat. The moment Elizabeth takes Booker to Rapture blows away any expectations as to what that game is. The last twenty minutes of the game are mind blowing in terms of story revelations and it all comes to a point at the most interesting protagonist death I have ever experienced.
Winner: Bioshock Infinite
The Baker Factor
Troy Baker is an excellent voice actor, my favorite voice actor in fact. He does a phenomenal job in both of these games, but I have to give it to The Last of Us for his southern twang he lends to Joel and his facial capture work which displays his emotions perfectly.
Winner: Persona 4 Golden for the role of Kanji
So I guess that is it. I have made my decision…. for now. I love both games, they are two of the best games I have played in a very long time, but The Last of Us just barely beats out Bioshock Infinite. There is one thing that I will always have with Bioshock Infinite that The Last of Us can never touch, though, and that is this.