Matt Reynolds is a man on a mission. Taking advantage of the traditional summer lull, our resident angry man has taken it upon himself to play ALL of the Xbox and Playstation exclusives to answer the question; just which format does have the best exclusives? Read on for part one…
Gears of War vs. Uncharted
Both these third person shooter franchises have become flagships for their respective machines. Both have spectacle; both have mega-budgets; both have now instantly recognisable characters loved by millions. And crucially, both are pretty overrated. The first installment of GOW was a very brief game, with barely any plot. It was however, a game changer and set the bar for the snap-to-cover third person shooter that has arguably dominated this generation. Its shooting mechanics were rock solid, its world (while a tad generic) was immersive and its chunky space marines with their reptilian enemies were cool. On the other hand, Uncharted’s first installment was incredibly weak. It had lovely visuals for its time, but the shooting was just horrible, the enemies unimaginative and in Nathan Drake it had a bumbling, annoying hero.
The good news is that both franchises improved exponentially with their subsequent sequels. GOW 2 and 3 managed to shoehorn in compelling enough plots and massive set pieces. Uncharted 2 is considered one of the best games of the generation by some – for my money though Uncharted 3 is the best by far. The paper-thin characters of both franchises were fleshed out in a perfunctory but satisfactory nature (particularly Drake who was made more likeable), runtimes were extended and in Uncharted’s case its horrendous shooting was massively improved.
How do they stack up?
GOW has the better shooting and (barely) the better plot. Uncharted has the better set pieces and spectacle; and what it lacks in combat it makes up for with fantastic, adrenaline-pumping platforming. The characters in both are pretty weak and it depends on your tastes. If you prefer gruff bromance then GOW is for you; if you’d rather a witty Boy’s Own adventure and the characters that come with the genre; go for Uncharted.
Alan Wake vs. The Last of Us
This pair represents Microsoft and Sony’s exclusive forays into the survival horror genre. Alan Wake was a long time in the making. Originally an open world horror game, developer Remedy’s ambition surpassed its ability at the time and the game was re-imagined as a linear adventure. Alan Wake has a compelling story and interesting characters. Wake himself is a bit of a dick, but his search for his wife and his sanity is bolstered by brilliant combat and an atmosphere all its own. Its Stephen King-inspired backwater New England town will feel like home to fans of the writer, and overall it’s a very fine game. The Last of Us is wildly hailed as the PS3’s magnum opus; a sublime character study in a post-apocalyptic America overrun with fungus-infected feral humans. In Joel and Ellie developer Naughty Dog created the most believable characters ever seen in a video game. The motion capture and voice acting puts Alan Wake’s jerky lip synced cutscenes to shame. The actual game mechanics are incredibly solid but unlike Alan Wake’s central conceit of fighting with light as well as bullets; The Last of Us brings absolutely nothing unique to the combat table. Its visuals, world-building and characters cannot be matched though.
How do they stack up?
Both games have brilliant characters, solid combat and fantastic worlds. As a survival horror however, Alan Wake is sorely lacking in scares and never feels that threatening. The Last of Us on the other hand, is a bitter struggle for survival against terrifying mutations and arguably even scarier humans. Its characters are sublime, and story has the more powerful payoff.
WINNER: THE LAST OF US
Forza Motorsport vs. Gran Turismo
Racing games are a big deal for platform holders, especially at the start of a console’s life cycle. Gran Turismo is an absolute juggernaut of a gaming franchise. It shifts a silly amount of copies with each new release and has a rabid fan base of hardcore petrol heads. It is well-known for having a ridiculous amount of cars (GT6 reportedly has around 1,500) and for being a slave to realism. All the anally retentive automotive minutiae comes with a trade-off though; the game feels very dry and soulless. It’s a criticism that until recently could well have been levelled at the Forza Motorsport series. It’s very hard to make a simulation game about cars anything other than flat; but Turn 10 have made important strides in the right direction. With the fourth iteration of Forza they partnered with Top Gear and featured Jeremy Clarkson’s sardonic commentary, going a long way to inject some much-needed identity. But it was with last year’s open world, festival themed Horizon that they truly found their feet. These days its hard to find many who would argue against Forza being the undisputed driving master.
How do they stack up?
Both games are slaves to realism; but Gran Turismo suffers from a serious lack of personality. With the Top Gear partnership; the Horizon spinoff franchise; plus all the bells and whistles of GT and then some; Forza Motorsport steals pole position with minimal effort.
WINNER: FORZA MOTORSPORT
WILD CARD – Heavy Rain vs. Fable
Wait a minute, you cry – how on earth can you pit these two against each other? Well, for the sake of this article I put it to you that both games have a common theme – their creative directors are both outspoken controversial figures in the gaming world that people love to hate. David Cage and Peter Molyneux are both visionaries in their respective genres; and like many visionaries they occasionally fail along the road to greatness. Love them or hate them; there really are no games like Heavy Rain or Fable on their respective platforms. Whilst one is an ‘interactive drama’ and the other is a third person ‘comedy RPG’, they stand apart from everything else and give their respective platform holders reason to be proud.
So, as it stands we have 2 draws, 1 win for Microsoft and 1 win for Sony. Keep any eye out for part two as titles such as Halo, Killzone and more do battle!
– Matt Reynolds. Tell him your favourites on Twitter @thelostmoment