My Thoughts on The Last of Us

I think I am quite unfair sometimes dismissing a game because of its popularity.   Back in 2013, there was this huge hype about The Last of Us. At that time, I was too busy playing Dark Souls II to drop the game to see what the hype is all about. Thanks to my purchase of the PS4 back in 2015 (the main reason I bought the console was for Bloodborne), it came with a digital copy of The Last of Us.  I decided to give the game a whirl because I want to challenge my preconceived notion about the game.

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To my surprise, I must admit, I did enjoy the game to some extent.  The biggest strength about the game is the father and daughter like relationship.  I found the father and daughter bonding between Joel and Ellie more believable than the father and daughter relationship I saw in Resident Evil Revelations 2, The Evil Within 2 and even Nier Gestalt (another topic I will go into detail at a later time).  Partly it’s because Ellie was side by side with Joel most of the time so I saw the father and daughter relationship growing closer.

Even in combat, Ellie is not useless like Sheva in Resident Evil 5.  Throughout the game, teamwork is heavily emphasized in order for the two characters to survive. The most memorable part in the game to me is when there was a switch from Joel to Ellie. At that point in the game, I didn’t know if she was all alone, until later, I found out that she was nursing Joel back to his health.  I was relief. When she drove the bad guys away from harming the injured Joel–that’s when I began to sympathize with Ellie because I would do the same for my dad without a doubt. I felt Ellie’s urgency to protect Joel. When the role was switched to Joel, I felt the very same urgency to protect Ellie from David, the potential rapist. That part really did strengthened their bond and implied how much they need each other to survive, but more importantly, how much they trust each other.

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As Joel and Ellie relationship deepened in the game, I felt sympathy for them. So towards the end of the game, my reaction when I had to shoot the doctor to save Ellie was plausible even if Joel was seen as a monster. Similarly,  Ellie is not that innocent and saintlike either when she hesitantly accepted Joel’s answer about the fireflies. For one, she trusts Joel with her life and grew attached to him. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, as we saw in the earlier scene where she threw a little tantrum and ran off with the horse.  But at the same time, she felt tremendously guilty for not being able to save human lives as she mentioned her best friend was the first to go, and of course there was Tess.

The story aimed at taking the realistic approach in life, depicting real human behavior. Every day humans make sacrifices and face tough decisions. With a stern face, Joel already made the decision to carve his own fate.  Any normal human being who underwent a traumatic event will never be the same.  He never recovered from the tragedy in the beginning (losing his daughter) but at least he has someone to fight for, which is Ellie.  It makes perfect sense why the title is called The Last of Us.   The game is about two people who lost everything–and they are not willing to give up on each other even at the expense of saving humanity.  From my understanding, the writer is trying to write an epic script where all human beings can relate to.   Joel is considered a romantic, chivalric modern day man who embodied the utmost masculine energy.  Ironically, some people argued that he is a bad guy.  It appears the writer must have agreed with the ancient thinkers that humans are fickle.  Joel is neither good nor bad.  But the moral of the story is not what bothered me.  The heart warming story and gameplay weren’t properly stitched together to bring out that quality game experience.  The game feels like a book, but plays like a movie.  There’s nothing really exciting about the gameplay.

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Typically,  I am not much of a stickler for story in video games.  Most of the time, if the gameplay is fun enough I will keep playing even if story is lacking.  The gameplay in The Last of Us is very stale and tedious. There were only two instances I thought was exciting.  One part is when Joel got separated from Ellie for a brief moment, forcing him to dive into the water and navigate in the dark enclosed area to find a keycard. In the area, there were clickers.  At first, I was a little nervous as I dislike dark places, filled with lurking monsters, but as soon as I realized I have many different types of weapons, my nervousness went away as there weren’t many obstacles to overcome in order to reunite with Ellie. I blasted the enemies away with my shotgun.  Once I obtained the key, I bypassed all of them and got out quickly.  Not much of a challenge there.  The other part is when Joel was hanging upside down shooting the infected. That part reminded me of a section in Resident Evil Revelation, where Chris Redfield fell from the cliff and was pinned down to the ground, having to defend himself from the approaching wolves while waiting for Jessica to make her way down to help him. The only difference between the two games, is that Last of Us gameplay is forgiving. The game autosaves frequently.   So if you die constantly, it puts you in a decent spot in the game to try again. If you get stuck in the game, push L3 button when it appears. This will give you a hint.  The game is very generous, but that consideration actually kills any challenges that the game has to offer, and what is even worse, it makes the gameplay become dull quickly as gameplay becomes predictable.  I think I would be just content watching a movie version of the Last of Us than go through all that unnecessary trouble.

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Honestly, I don’t have much to say about the gameplay in The Last of Us.  It’s very basic and simple. There was a lot of sneaking, hiding,  and some shooting.   There were plenty of  beautiful scenic areas in the game which stirred up some personal old memories, which I rather forget. Despite my personal little discomfort, the realistic setting in the game aligned well with the mature undertone of the game.  I didn’t mind the flow of the game.  I could play the game at ease during the weekdays.  I even completed the game on normal difficulty when I thought I was playing on easy mode the whole time.  Although I am not going to lie, there were a few times I died in the game.  The controls don’t feel as fluid as other games that I’m used to, which made the gameplay experience frustrating.  I admit, I  was swearing at the last section of the game when I was unfairly ambushed with flying bullets.  I rarely get mad in games by the way. The last section made it difficult to explore without getting spotted.

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To summarize my experience, the game felt very genuine to me as it amplified the American identity–a free and rugged individual who has a choice.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for you to decide.   The more I think about it, the game is just a political statement more than anything.   I was entertained while the game last, but not entertained enough to demand for a sequel.

2 thoughts on “My Thoughts on The Last of Us

  1. I think the thing about Naughty Dog is that they are really good about getting convincing performances out of their voice actors, and when it comes to presentation, they are incredibly gifted. On the other hand, they’re so thoroughly divorced from the knowledge of what constitutes good storytelling in the medium that it’s a minor miracle they turn out as half as good as they do. Because of this, Uncharted 2 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which are my two favorite Naughty Dog games so far, feel more like happy accidents than the result of anything purposeful.

    Indeed, one consistent weakness they’ve demonstrated time and again is that they’re seemingly unable to think through their implications. This weakness flared most prominently in the endgame of The Last of Us, but the exact instant they announced a sequel, it manifested in a worse way. Part of the drama of the endgame concerns whether or not Joel or Ellie will survive. People down the line attempting to rediscover The Last of Us, with the knowledge that a sequel exists, will know their survival is a foregone conclusion considering how prominently Ellie is showcased in promotional materials, thus killing any dramatic tension the moment had.

    Furthermore, whether they know it or not, Naughty Dog really painted themselves into a corner with Joel’s character. In the sequel, one of two things will happen: he will live or he will die. If the former happens, it will be unsurprising, as it’s really the only logical thing to do with his character by this point, but the latter option would be equally unsurprising considering how fiercely protective Naughty Dog is of their lead characters – to the point where that propensity actively cheapens their storytelling at times.

    All in all, I feel a lot of people point to the storytelling when it comes to justifying their love of The Last of Us because, in all honesty, it’s pretty weak from a gameplay perspective (not too many steps above being flat-out bad). Meanwhile, the storytelling itself is very indicative of its era – dark and edgy without the nuances to make it work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, based on the Last of Us, they are good at presentation and the voice acting is great as well. I have not played Uncharted series. I will need to check them out. People have recommended the series to me in the past.

      As for the new trailer to Last of Us II, it didn’t impressed me at all. The gameplay from Last of Us really did left a bad aftertaste for me to consider it a great game. The story is indeed cliche. I wonder sometimes why people enjoy hearing the same story over and over, but it looks like it is working as it received so much praise and sold so many copies. My gripe is that the success of this game provides a blueprint for the gaming industry to follow and thus making subpar games acceptable. It is indeed disrespectful to the audience, especially towards gaming enthusiasts. My brother said to me that these developers have the talent, but wonder if they ever get tired of making the same shit? Pardon my language.

      Liked by 1 person

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