Joel: “And just so we’re clear about back there… It was either him or me.”
Ellie: “You’re welcome.”
The Last of Us
In June of 2013, Naughty Dog released the Last of Us. At the time I didn't have a PS3, but the buzz around this game was penetrating my skull to the extent that I traded in an old 360 and a HUGE amount of games just so i could get the system (I ended up exploiting extra trade in promotions so much that i got the system for free, but that's a story for another time). A month or so later, TK (my awesome GF) and I went halfsies on the game and low and behold, there it was added to my collection, ready to play. So I finally finished it this morning at 3:30am, and here's what I think.
I don't see movies in the theatre. Why? Because of the Fellowship of the Ring mainly. To me, they were perfect. Everything I could have imagined it being, it was. They captured my imagination and they raised the bar through the roof. Sadly, I haven't seen a movie since those movies that have even come close. Have I seen movies that society on a whole have revered as awesome feats of modern cinema? Of course I have. But because of those damn hobbits, I can't enjoy them as much as I should. V For Vendetta came very close, but I still clung to "my precious" trilogy. I think this has adversely effected my Video Game enjoyment as well. Games like Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, Dead Space 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mass Effect, SPEC OPS: the Line, Heavy Rain and Bioshock have colored my expectations of what a video game should be. They were perfect games in the level of immersion, storytelling, and the ultimate feeling that I had when I had finished them. And with all the praise the Last of Us was getting, I was afraid I'd let the same thing happen that I had done with countless films I'd seen. But I tried my best to enjoy the game without comparing it to anything I had ever played before. I didn't have to try too hard.
The first 20 minutes of the game pulled me in like no other game I had ever played. I was invested. Emotionally, it was a demolition charge to the chest. Not a gut punch. Not choked up. It was ROUGH. I will spoil nothing about it, but let's just say that the game should have a warning on the front of the box that clearly reads, "WARNING: If you have a history of depression, actually, no, fuck it, if you've ever been remotely saddened by something, you may want to sit this dance out, cause Summer & Fall will make a piece of you die inside." This was how emotionally heavy the first 2 acts are. It's tense, gripping, scary, and most of all, downright sad. Matter of fact, I had to stop playing for a couple of days after Summer. That was super heavy.
The main story takes place about 20 years in the future. A Cordyceps-Like Fungus found it's way up the food chain from ants to humans. Humanity is sequestered into various quarantine zones run by the military. It's there where we follow catch up with the gentleman from the afformentioned spirit crushing first 20 minutes of the game. I'm going to simplify this for brevity and spoiler avoidance, so we'll just say Joel is essentially a smuggler. A very tough, morally ambiguous, nothing left to lose, kill or be killed smuggler. Through a series of unfortunate events, he is charged with the job of escorting a young girl with a dark secret and HUGE anger issues, Ellie, across the American landscape spanning from Texas to Utah. On the way, they encounter Cordyceps infected horrors, Scavengers, Hunters, Allies, tragedy, triumphs, and the loss and, surprisingly, GAIN of their own humanity as they make their way across cities that nature has taken back from it's caretakers.
The writing is impeccable. The dialogue between Joel & Ellie (played masterfully by Troy Baker & Ashley Johnson) is amazing and some of the most natural and honest voice acting I have ever heard in a video game or 90% of the movies I've ever seen. Every character in this game was well written and brilliantly acted. And the graphics? Probably the best I've seen on a current gen system. It truly showcased the true power of what the PS3 could possibly do. This is a gamer's game. Hands down one of the best games I've ever played.
Is it for everybody? Not at all. It's brutal and terrifying throughout with occasional light only being seen through the eyes of a girl who had never known a world beyond the quarantine zones of a dying species. It's dark, sad, and definitely not for the faint of heart. A lot of people had a problem with the ending and I'll be completely honest, so did I. I've been thinking on it the whole damn day. And you know what? I guess that's the sign of a great game. It's a game you just don't put on a shelf or trade in when you're done. It's a game that became a part of your best memories of gaming.
Naughty Dog's the Last of Us gets
5 homemade scissor bomb kills out of 5.
Labels: Game of the Year, Playstation 3, Review, the Fellowship of the Ring, the Last of Us