William ‘B.J’ Blaskowicz has changed so much and yet so little. Once barely more than a tiny pixelated face at the centre of Wolfenstein 3D’s HUD, he’s now a hulking high-def mass of polygons. Back in 1992 he was the embodiment of the shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude – or perhaps more accurately, shoot-first-and-never-ask-any-questions-at-all. Yet fast forward to 2014 and we’re treated to his pseudo-philosophical babblings about the nature of existence. These days good old ‘Blasko’ seems to be taking himself a lot more seriously. Of course the one constant, the tie that binds the two soldiers past and present together, is their love of shooting Nazis in the face.
Year of Release: 2003
Format: Playstation 2
Developer: IO Interactive
Price: £1 (Holloway car boot sale)
It’s always the way when starting an old game for the first time. The crisp, high definition world you’ve been comfortably living in melts away into a blurry, inhospitable realm. It feels like someone’s sploshed a murky bucket of paint over a painstakingly detailed drawing. Just looking at the screen is the most obvious but startling reminder of how far videogames have come. Yet while a graphical comparison between then and now is arguably the most pleasing measure of progress, it’s not always the most telling. For the record Freedom Fighters’ New York setting does look like an early Liberty City with several million buckets of brown paint sploshed over it. But it was when I started actually moving around the environment that it became apparent just how much I must take today’s improvements for granted; how ingrained in my mind modern mechanics are.
“Come on… When have we ever gotten into trouble?”
We already know the ending to Ellie and her best friend’s story. That’s what makes Riley’s mischievous words at the close of the Left Behind DLC’s opening cinematic all the more poignant. It will inevitably come to a heartbreaking conclusion.
Many might question whether this is a story that actually needs to be told. From the gut wrenching introduction through to its ambiguous finale, The Last of Us almost never misstepped or faltered. Nothing, it’s argued, need be added or removed from the experience. One of the game’s greatest strengths was that it treated its audience like adults. It trusted that its players were intelligent enough to fill in any blanks themselves, encouraging them to make their own connections without the need for clunky exposition. As Ellie tells Joel in those closing moments about how she and her best friend were bitten – and how only she survived – we picture the event in our minds. We imagine just how terrible it must have been for her but we never actually see it happen. Despite this being such a defining part of Ellie’s backstory, we didn’t need to.