The Digital Fix Gaming’s Generation Awards: Best Performance, Score, and VisualsPlatforms: All
As technology advances, the sophistication of performances within games has taken on a quantum leap this generation delivering some of the most nuanced and complex characters we have ever seen.
It is a testament to how incredible this generation had been that the likes of Troy Baker (The Last of Us: Part II), Ashley Birch (Horizon: Zero Dawn) and Bryan Dechart (Detroit: Become Human) all missed out on 3rd place by just 1.2%.
Christopher Judge, Kratos (God of War)
Few performances this generation have got quite so much out of so little. The famously taciturn Kratos needed an injection of gravitas for this new take on the God of War series, someone who could extract all the emotional nuance from a minimal script, and Judge did that with aplomb. Who else could turn “boy” into something so immediately iconic but so emotionally layered?
Ashley Johnson, Ellie (The Last of Us: Part II)
Going from supporting role to lead is a huge undertaking for any actor, never mind for a series as essential to gaming as The Last of Us, but Ashley Johnson took on the challenge and blew the highest expectations away. This was a level of emotional storytelling rarely seen in the medium, being tasked with taking gamers into the heart of darkness, but Johnson carried us there and back again without faltering. The sheer emotional energy required to pull this off must be immense but Johnson made it look easy and made it feel authentic.
Roger Clark, Arthur Morgan (Red Dead Redemption 2)
With all the great advances in video game acting, it still feels rare to find a performance that you would call “Oscar worthy” but Roger Clark’s work as Arthur Morgan somehow manages to go beyond that. “Oscar worthy” feels too slight a reward for Clark, many of the greats of Academy Awards past could not do what was accomplished here.
Clark had to invest hundreds of hours of his time into shaping a performance that extended beyond cut scenes, this was a performance that completely lived within the flow of the game itself, from the way Arthur carried himself when standing still to the broad range of emotions expressed while addressing NPCs or witnessing randomly occurring events, Clark gave us a character that felt so real and so lived-in that he left a mark on every gamer who met him.
No other character this generation contained such multitudes as Arthur Morgan, the sensitive yet tough, the simple but wise, the sinner and the saint. It is a testament to the incredible writing of Red Dead Redemption 2 but primarily the one-in-a-lifetime work of Roger Clark to make all of Arthur’s quirks, strengths and foibles come together to create such a believable and unforgiving character. To know Arthur Morgan is to love Arthur Morgan, and that is all thanks to the peerless work of Roger Clark.
Scores are one of the greatest tools in enveloping the player into the world a game is transporting them to. This generation has maybe seen the biggest push in creating cinematic gameplay, so it is no wonder that more emphasis has been put on creating more complex soundscapes within these games. It’s almost impossible to list all of the incredible pieces of music that have come out of this generation, but the public has spoken and the following games came out on top.
Death Stranding, Ludvig Forssell
In third place, with its enchanting score, Death Stranding. This score, which is reminiscent of Blade Runner at times, is both beautiful and haunting. It paints a desolate picture of the world and often feels oppressive, really capturing the otherworldly and often depressing nature of the game.
The Last of Us: Part II, Gustavo Santaolalla & Mac Quayle
Now for something completely different, our second-place winner, The Last of Us: Part II, which like Death Stranding, paints a picture of a rather desolate world, but employs an entirely different style.
Academy Award-Winning Composer, Gustavo Santaolalla returns, this time alongside Mac Quayle. One thing that still holds strong in the second game, is the haunting Spanish-guitar that manages to exude such raw emotion time and time again, capturing the tone of the game wonderfully. ‘Longing’ is a particular piece that is scattered throughout the game and is transports you back to that world each time you hear it.
God of War, Bear McCreary
Finally, the winner of Best Gaming Score of the generation is God of War. It is worlds apart from the two runners up and it is probably the grandest and dramatic scores we have heard this generation, which is to be expected from this epic game about battles between Gods.
But between these roaring epic moments are tender and heartfelt pieces of music that cut right to the soul, bringing you to the verge of tears. In particular, ‘Memories of Mother’ with it’s enchanting and gut-wrenching vocals can comfortably sit as one of the best pieces in the entire score as it sets the incredibly emotional tone for the entire game. But each piece does a wonderful job of bringing you into the Nordic world of the Gods, feeling so otherworldly and always so epic.
- Andrew Shaw
Joint: God of War & Red Dead Redemption 2
Two stunning games that revel in the sharp contrast between natural beauty and human atrocity, God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 both built stunningly detailed environments to explore and paint red with blood. Few games have ever captured the serene quality of a hike through the outdoors quite as effectively as these games, nor the thrill of action.
The action for both titles is sublime, particularly God of War's incredibly executed one-take visual style, seamlessly blending action and cut scenes in what feels like one continuous take. Meanwhile, Red Dead Redemption 2 contains some of the best facial animations seen in a game this generation, bringing the incredible tragedy of its epic tale to heartrending life.
Every game generation makes steady steps towards achieving its maximum potential, even the most impressive start will be overshadowed by the games that emerge as part of that generation's swan song. The Last of Us: Part II is the 8th generation reaching its maximum potential, and perhaps then some. This game is incredible in its detail; the luscious greenery, the foreboding use of light, and the staggering nuance of the facial performances. No game this generation shoved aside the uncanny valley and made you believe quite as effectively as The Last of Us: Part II.
Everything about this game is bold and confrontational, and the visuals sum this up perfectly. It pulls you into this harsh and unforgiving world by making it undeniably believable, it makes every raw emotion conveyed by a character feel viscerally real, it makes the violence so detailed that every act lingers with you long after. This game grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go.