People Always Talk About the Apocalypse Like It’s the End of the World.
I had a vague interest in today’s game for a while. It looked interesting enough, but did not strike me as the greatest thing since sliced bread. In its defense, I fucking love sliced bread. Just think of how useful that stuff is! Anyway, when the game came out, I was mildly interested, but more because I lacked anything much better to play at the time. But then the world got involved. The game received such massive praise around the time of its release that I knew what the world really needed: my opinion of it. I finished this game a while ago, but was busy with my sister’s wedding and unable to finally let you all know how you should be feeling about this game. Well the time has come for me to review The Last of Us, written by Neil Druckmann, developed by Naughty Dog, published by Sony Computer Entertainment, and starring the voices of Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Merle Dandridge, Annie Wersching, Robin Atkin Downes, Hana Hayes, W. Earl Brown, Brandon Scott, Nadji Jeter, Jeffrey Pierce, Ashley Scott, and Nolan North.
We play primarily as Joel (Troy Baker), a single father living in Texas with his 12-year-old daughter Sarah (Hana Hayes). Things are fairly normal for them until an outbreak of a mutated cordyceps infection breaks out around the United States, turning people all over the country into violent creatures bent on spreading their infection through bites and spores. Let’s just call them “zombies” for short. In the rush to escape the infection, Sarah is shot by a soldier trying to contain the infection and she dies in Joel’s arms. 20 years later, small pockets of humanity survive in contained quarantine zones. Joel makes a living as a smuggler with his friend Tess (Annie Wersching). A cache of weapons is stolen from them by an arms dealer named Robert (Robin Atkin Downes) and, in the process of hunting him down, they meet a leader of the Fireflies rebels named Marlene (Merle Dandridge), who promises them double their weapons for smuggling a teenage girl named Ellie (Ashley Johnson) outside the quarantine zone. Joel reluctantly agrees at the behest of Tess. They later find out that what makes Ellie so important is that she was once bitten by the cordyceps, but was found to be immune to the infection, making her the last hope that humanity has for destroying the infection once and for all.
My feelings about this game were pretty conflicted, and for pretty much the same reason that I have disliked quality games in the past. My expectations were set too high. I feel like, had I gone into this game completely ignorant to it, I would have loved it much more than I did. As it was, I thought the game was really good, but it did not quite manage to live up to the hype. The story was definitely the game’s primary selling point. It was definitely solid. Though I still have not gotten around to watching it, it felt to me like what I expect watching an episode of The Walking Dead would be like, especially around the times when Henry and Sam were around. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of dealing with surviving the threat at hand, and a lot of surviving the different sections of fallen humanity, such as soldiers, rebels, cannibals, bandits, etc. The emotional part of the story starts off right away. I was not expecting Sarah to die. I thought this was the girl I had seen in the commercials or gameplay footage. I was confused because I thought I heard her called Ellie, but they could’ve rewritten the name for all I know. I didn’t get very attached to the daughter at first because, though they seemed to have a sweet relationship, she did throw “even though you’re never around” into a birthday letter to my character. That’s not cool. He probably feels horrible about it but doesn’t have a choice because he was a single dad that has to provide for his daughter. I never threw that shit in my mom’s face because she was at work a lot. Hell, I relished it because it meant more time to sit at home playing video games instead of doing my homework. That woman cramped my style. I don’t really consider it a spoiler to say that stuff about Sarah because it happens in the first few minutes of the game, but plenty of other people die in emotional ways. I felt myself predicting a lot of them because these characters that the game acts like might be here forever were never seen in any of the trailers, but it was still done well and pulled a lot of emotion from the audience. There were a lot of emotional moments between Joel and Ellie too, especially since Ellie seemed so desperate to be able to connect with Joel but he was intentionally closing that door because he didn’t want to get too attached. The conversation between the two of them where Joel said, “You’re right: you are NOT my daughter,” was brutal. It hurt MY feelings even though he wasn’t talking to me because I REALLY wanted these two to get into that father/daughter relationship that Joel so desperately wanted to squash. Maybe my biological clock is ticking… Also, at the very end of the game, how did Joel not clock the dude that hit him with the rifle butt because he was trying to save Ellie’s life? I understand they turned out to be “friendlies,” but clock me AFTER I’ve saved the girl’s life, douchebag!
The visuals of the game are well realized, but not always pleasant to look at. I guess you should expect that from dystopian settings. But it did have a good amount of beautiful visuals as well. Most of the rural areas are pretty grey and ugly (as they were intended to be), but the stuff in the wilderness was generally very pretty. And since they went all the way across the United States and travelled through an entire year, the developers got to stretch their legs and show what they could do with all the changing seasons and environments. Rural, sewers, streets, wilderness, forests, icy landscapes, they span a plethora of environments that are all well realized. I guess the only problem I had with the look was the “secret tunnel” that we enter at one point. You could see the edges of it behind the entertainment system shelf that was supposed to be concealing it. I guess the education system suffers in the apocalypse.
I had very few problems with the controls, but they didn’t really take any chances here. It was like Uncharted with less climbing and more stealth. It’s safe, but it’s functional. Stealth in this game (as stealth in most games as far as I’m concerned) can get a little frustrating for the less patient audiences (such as myself) but it’s not too painful, and it’s pretty necessary since the game decided that a few of the enemies you face can instantly kill you if they get too close. That’s a little irritating as well, especially since it can sometimes be hard to tell which ones are the instant killing ones and which are the regular ones. The thing I felt was most irritating was that this game was still trying to push Sixaxis on us. It’s dead, Sony! Let it go! It does not immerse me more in the game to have to shake my controller as if it was my flashlight and we all know that gets your batteries working right. Another problem I had was with ammo availability. I’ve felt this about other games in the past, but if I kill someone that was just shooting at me, I want their ammo. I know they have it; they were just throwing it at me. Give it to me!
This does not seem like it’s a great game for trophies. I’ve not come anywhere near getting them all yet, but just reading through them makes them seem daunting. I’ve beaten the game, and I was trying to collect stuff and finish trophies, but I’m still at a meager 5%. A lot of them are for collecting and beating the game 8 different ways (the difficulties do stack though) and crafting different items, but that is an awful amount to have beaten the game with. I doubt I’ll ever get anywhere near finishing them. I did like collecting the comic books because it made Ellie happy, but I didn’t find a single comic book while exploring the dorms in the Colorado college level. Are you shitting me? No one in a Colorado college reads comics? Those kids don’t know how to party!
My enjoyment of The Last of Us was hindered by the overhyping it received, but not so much that I couldn’t still say it was a really good game. The story was well written and actually able to illicit emotional responses from me, and the graphics were pretty outstanding when they got out of the bland cities. I could have perhaps asked for a little more innovation out of the controls since they seemed to mainly stick with what was safe, and the trophies are way too much work for me, but I would say that this is a quality game. I don’t know if I’d be prepared to say it was worth the full $60 for it, but if it drops even $10 on sale, I’d say that would be enough reason for you to pick it up for yourself. The Last of Us gets “No matter what you have to find something to fight for” out of “It doesn’t matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.”
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