14:22, 7 Oct 2016
Not a gamer? Neither am I. But I made an exception last year, at the request of my then-housemate, to play The Last of Us (remastered) on the PlayStation 4. I had no expectations going in, figured it just be like any other computer game, games I played back in my youth, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. The Last of Us is something else entirely.
As I said, I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. I no longer have access to a console after moving out earlier this year, but I often find myself thinking about this game, like, whenever I watch the Walking Dead or when I consider buying a console, and that got me thinking: this game had a HUGE effect on me. And that is kind of bizarre for me.
I played a couple of other games during this period — Alien: Isolation, Tomb Raider, etc., — but none gripped me like The Last of Us. None seemed to have the polish, the story or the plotting to keep me engaged. In fact, the last game I played that I liked as much as this one was Goldeneye on the N64, which should tell you plenty about my “gaming credentials”.
But this isn’t a review and I am not saying The Last of Us is the best goddamn computer game in the world. Nor am I attempting to encroach on the toes of established, thoroughly more qualified game journalists. It’s a slow news day and I’ve been wanting to write something about this game for ages, so I figured I’d give it a whirl and highlight some key points about The Last of Us, which, for me, make it a really special game that everybody — non-gamers included — should experience.
The World They Created is Stunning
Back in the day, I used to play games like DOOM and Quake, so I kind of missed the whole third-person gameplay style. I didn’t think I’d like it, thought it’d be too awkward and not as much fun. But after a few moments getting to grips with the controls all my fears slipped away.
A lot of this is to do with just how intuitive the controls and in-game physics are but mostly it was down to just how jaw-droppingly-amazing this game looks. The scenery and attention to detail that has gone into creating the world in which The Last of Us takes place in is breathtaking.
Wherever you look there is detail, a beautiful vista and complex buildings and architecture. Naughty Dog received a lot of praise for its design work in this regard, but awards are just things. To actually experience what they created is another thing entirely. You can almost smell the air and feel the breeze. It really does take you someplace else.
Also, it always reminded me of The Stand. The way the cities look, the tunnels with abandoned cars, the derelict buildings. Everything just screamed The Stand to me, and that is high praise indeed. I wonder if the designers’ took an inspiration from Stephen King’s classic novel?
The Gameplay is Challenging, But Not Impossible
The game is challenging, even on easier settings. You have to figure out puzzles, build things, hide from zombies and angry rednecks, and generally be a stealthy badass. It takes a while — if you’re a noob like I was — to get the hang of sneaking around and building weapons, but the net effect is one that is infinitely more rewarding than simply blasting your way through bad guys.
In The Last of Us, you have to plot your routes through levels, plan attacks, constantly ensure you have enough shivs, shanks and bullets, and never, ever make a sound. As a complete noob, this concept was completely alien to me. But I got the hang of it and then I started to relish the increasingly difficult challenges the game presents.
There’s a section of the game, towards the end, that takes place inside a tunnel, in the dark with lots of nasties, which took me AGES to figure out and successfully get through without dying. The tension during these parts of the game is, at times, unbearable… but the satisfaction of making it through to the other side makes it all worth it in the end.
I think this was my favorite aspect of The Last of Us. It’s intelligent, it demands a lot from you, mentally and emotionally, but the reward and feeling of triumph you get once you’ve successfully completed a tricky section is so addictive you just keep pressing on for more of the same.
The gameplay itself is very subjective, in that, no two players will take the same approach in how they tackle a situation. The world is expansive, as a player you have many options and methods of distraction at your disposal, meaning you can be balls-out aggressive or calculating and ninja-like, which makes for an interesting gaming experience as there are always multiple ways and methods for finding your way through a stage.
You also play as multiple characters as well, so you have to take that into consideration throughout the game. Joel is powerful, while Ellie is a young girl and lacks the physical strength required to take down assailants, meaning you have to carefully plan out how you’re going to do things when playing either character.
It’s More Like A Film or TV Drama, Than Computer Game
The gameplay is one thing, and it is damn impressive. But the overall story at play as you progress through the game is the real star of this title. The characterisation, the story arcs, the ups and downs and, oh god… the many, many deaths, make for one hell of an emotional ride.
The development of Joel and Ellie as characters is unlike anything I have ever experienced in a game. The quality of the acting, plotting and dialogue is just flawless. It’s like watching a brilliant film that you’re actively involved in, or a really great, but kind of scary lucid dream. The story aspect of the game, as well as how much you genuinely care about Joel and Ellie, is what really makes The Last of Us such an amazing, thought-provoking experience. Everything is just flawless in this regard.
It Might Make You Cry…
So much so that, if you’re a soppy git like me, there are numerous parts of the game that might even bring a tear to your eye…
The Character Acting Is The Best I’ve Ever Seen (In A Game)
After completing The Last of Us, I got a little obsessed. I wanted to know what exactly goes into making a game as complex and detailed as this, so I watched the making of The Last of Us, which you can check out below:
Any decent film, book or TV Drama is held together by a strong, relatable protagonist. They are the mediums in which you experience this “other” world through. They have a story arc that, before the game/book/film is completed must commence in order to develop an emotional link with you, the reader/watcher/player, then develop, as environments and circumstances change, and then, finally, once the bad guys have been dealt with, their story is resolved in a satisfying manner.
The Last of Us, like all the best books and films, has not one, like most games, but two exceptionally strong protagonists that are fleshed-out in such detail that you immediately feel linked and bonded to them. You’re rooting for them as soon as you meet them and as the game develops you become increasingly tied-up in their lives, dilemmas and personalities which is what makes certain parts of the game itself so goddamn emotional!
The story is a rollercoaster of ups, downs, tragedy, comedic moments and desperation. But it is the human element at its core which binds everything together so cohesively and makes The Last of Us much more than just a computer game. Like The Stand and The Road or The Walking Dead it is a triumph of storytelling, driven by brilliantly executed characters, that engages all of your senses in equal measure.
If You Like The Walking Dead & The Stand
If you’re a fan of either, play this game. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be stuck in a zombie apocalypse, or what it would look like and how people might react, play this game. If you want to be moved, thrilled and entertained for weeks on end, play this game.
And because you’re exactly there, right in the thick of it, plotting and striving to stay alive, the experience is all the more immersive. The Last of Us reminded me of The Stand so much that after completing the game I re-read the book and, bizarrely, the effect of the game, how it looks, the places you go, the aesthetics of the reality, actually made the reading experience better, as I felt more connected to the world, as if I’d actually been somewhere similar, which, after a many hours of gameplay, you kind of have!
It’s Now Been Remastered, So It Looks & Plays Even Better
The original version of the game came out on the PlayStation 3 back in 2013 and sold very well indeed, some 1.3 million copies during its first week on sale.
Naughty Dog then choose to release a remastered version of the game in 2014 for the PlayStation 4, with “improved graphics and rendering upgrades,” notes Wikipedia, “including increased draw distance, an upgraded combat mechanic, and higher frame rate. Other enhancements include advanced audio options, an audio commentary, and a Photo Mode. It includes the previously released downloadable content, including Left Behind and some multiplayer maps. The development team aimed at creating a ‘true’ remaster, maintaining the ‘same core experience’ and not changing any large story or gameplay elements.”
Meaning, if you missed it first time, like me, it really doesn’t matter because the The Last of Us Remastered is a vastly superior experience on Sony’s next-generation hardware.
The musical score of The Last of Us, like everything else in the game, is stunning. Beautifully composed, sombre and haunting in equal parts, the score perfectly fits the world you inhabit whilst playing. From the haunting menu music through to intense, fighting scenes everything sounds organic and fits perfectly with the style, mood and arc of the story.
It Stays With You For Weeks Or Months After You’ve Completed It
Not all works of fiction, be they books, films, TV shows or games, are created equally. Some are average, others good. But every now and then you come across something that is exceptional in almost every regard. The Last of Us occupies the latter.
The gameplay is great, entertaining and well thought out. But it is so much more than a “game” — likely why they’re making it into a movie. After I completed the game, I felt as if I had truly experienced something special. I didn’t feel guilty about pouring hours into this game, because the story and the emotional connection with the characters was akin to any good novel, TV show or film.
It has a brilliantly crafted story with a great set-up, beginning and resolution. There’s plenty of action along the way, but overall it is the human element and the utterly brilliant character-acting and dialogue by The Last of Us’ ensemble cast that makes this game so special. I’m sure there are other games out there that people feel the same about, but for me, as a “non-gamer”, The Last of Us was the title that showed me that, contrary to what many people believe, computer games CAN be works of art that easily match their film and literature counterparts.
You can pick up The Last of Us Remastered via Amazon for just £22 right now. If you have a PS4 and haven’t played it, make this your next purchase. You will not regret it!
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