I Just Finished The Last Of Us For The First Time
I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to say. The Last of Us does that to you. It reduces you to humanoid-form, devoid of any other thought than “what is happening next in this game?” Whatever is going on in your life is forgotten: this – for those 15 or so hours – is all you care about.
There’s a reason why this game is so well received. There’s a reason why it holds 95 on Metacritic and - as the box-art for the Remastered PS4 edition reminds you – received over 200 Game Of The Year Awards. But, for me at least, it wasn’t always that way.
As I peeled off the plastic coating over the box, everything I’d ever heard about the game rushed through my mind in a wave of critique. Whether it be good or bad, it’s almost impossible to avoid opinions on one of the biggest games in recent memory.
I opened the case, and saw the Blu-ray disc with “The Last of Us” printed on the front. Now I was thinking about what would be in store for me over the next few hours: how the game would play, tell its story, present its characters.
I popped the disc out of the case and inserted it into the PS4. Now I was wondering how the Remastered edition would compare to the screenshots and small amounts of gameplay I’d seen from the original.
Fast-forward about five minutes and it was starting. The beginning – which I won’t spoil – is one of the many events in the game that is simply incredible to be a part of. I was loving what I saw, how it played, how the characters reacted to what was going on around them.
This continues and we’re properly introduced to Tess and Joel. What’s awesome here (and this isn’t really a spoiler) is how much of a badass Tess is. She clearly knows better than Joel and is a more proficient fighter than him. What’s more, she’s completely in control of whatever situation is thrown her way. I love that, but what I love most is how normal she is (at least, what normal has to be in the world of The Last of Us). Naught Dog don’t feel the need to make her look like a supermodel in order for male-gamers to be on her side: she looks like a normal woman who is simply trying to survive and here lies the genius.
The contrast between the ludicrous situation and the normality of how the characters behave in it creates an incredibly believable world that begs to be explored further. The inspired idea of having the game skip forward 20 years and have Ellie, one of the main characters in the game, only experience a post-apocalyptic world means that, to the people in it, what they have is normal. In turn this makes it seem possible and – most importantly – real.
Earlier I mentioned that I didn’t always love the experience. After Ellie is introduced to Joel, Tess and you – the player – the game can truly begin. And this is where the problems began for me. I’ve never been very good at games, but especially games where the predominant weapon is a gun (or some variation on that idea). I loved games like Tomb Raider because you had the option of using a gun, but – for me – the easiest (and definitely most fun) way of killing the enemy was with the bow. This helped me realise how to play the game to the best of my ability, but still get through everything that Crystal Dynamics threw my way.
What I didn’t realise immediately with The Last of Us, was that combat was a lot easier than I was making it.
I was trying to run in with all guns blazing, when what I really should have been doing was playing to my strengths: using stealth to systematically pick off each enemy without them, or the others finding out. It took me no less than five attempts at the game for this to click, and me to understand how the whole thing fitted together in a way that isn’t just simple to play, but incredibly fun as well.
Up until then I was sure that The Last of Us wasn’t for me. I was sure that, despite almost everyone else in the industry saying it was great, I didn’t like it. Not that this is a bad thing, all it would mean was that I had a different opinion and would have to argue it and try to prove why I didn’t like it. Perhaps, subconsciously, I realised that I couldn’t ever form that argument because the problem wasn’t the game; it was me.
Too often I think we as critics of games mark it down simply because we aren’t very good at it. This is something I’m certainly guilty of, but I do try not to do. If you read any of my reviews I – like most others – try to see it not only from my own opinion, but also from that of another person, perhaps more proficient in the genre, or to whom the game is supposed to appeal. But, that is a different article.
I won’t go into why I loved The Last of Us so much here (that will be in my review, which will hopefully go up next week), but I will leave you with a closing question. This game is my favourite of all time; what’s yours?