The Twitch and YouTube moguls of the ‘Let’s Play’ era are not only around to supply their complementary and witty commentary to accompany real-time footage of virtually any game. The frequency of videos being produced allows gamers to never miss out on Triple-A new releases or vintage classics when their wallet says no or your chosen console’s competitor comissons exclusives. It was one such ‘Let’s Play’ (The Last of Us walkthrough by @thaRadBrad) that allowed me to experience one of the most poignant narratives in gaming history, without physically playing a single second.
Naughty Dog and Sony’s survival epic has become somewhat of a love letter to TPS and RPG gamers. The 2013 blockbuster of the gaming world was Sony’s highly anticipated addition to the zombie franchise that differed from the stagnant base building of State of Decay and the constant head-shot hunting in Dead Island. Instead, protagonist Joel and his bittersweet but nonetheless relentless nurturing for Ellie brought emotional baggage to players doorsteps, but ultimately became the key to total immersion. Despite being in the minority, having not yet personally handled one of the best-selling games of all time, there’s so much to appreciate visually, audibly and emotionally that doesn’t require your button-bashing or stealth abilities.
Being the owner of an Xbox left me far removed from understanding the technical dynamics of the game first-hand, it’s movement, sensitivity and all the technical aspects that you usually obtain during the ‘learning period’ is something to look forward to. But I still love this game. Driving down a linear path only aids the depths explored in character and narrative making it a gripping affair and playing like a movie with that extra hint of danger as you watch your streamer slay the infected with exhilarating quality. The art design is breathtaking, soft and realistic; a jungle for the eyes. The critically-acclaimed sound design enhanced the raw feeling of being an expendable human, scavenging, hiding and sacrificing in an unforgiving world while Gustavo Santaolalla’s score added a melancholic tone to the story that further expressed the heartache of surviving.
In many ways, TLOU reminded me of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, particularly season one. Notes of Lee and Clementine’s relationship are struck, as well as a beautifully haunting score and general atmosphere that linked these two greats for me on the emotive scale. Joel and Ellie’s interactions acted as these pockets of perfect character studies as their relationship developed and blossomed into something cathartic by the conclusion, watching the ‘Let’s Play’ as if it was a bingeable series on Netflix. The game plays on the consequential fatalities that frequently occur in other post-apocalyptic features, promoting a world where your actions pay off, or they pay the price. These grounding components contributed to my cinematic travels across the American wasteland, through all four seasons of the year and the full spectrum of human emotion, evoked in particular by the conclusion and most definitely that giraffe scene. Although I cannot wait to become acquainted with the gameplay, the narrative is the main feature here, where I could watch each chapter with popcorn instead of the controller.
During the last few days, rumors have been circulating that the release date for The Last of Us Part II will be February 28th, 2020. All will be revealed at Sony’s State of Play conference on Tuesday, 24th September where we will hopefully get a brand new trailer that gives us a better idea of a seemingly darker world that a grown Ellie will have to survive. Fingers crossed that by February next year, I will have obtained the holy console that will grant me the fulfillment of playing this for myself, and stop debating the genius idea to cast Dylan McDermott and Ellen Page in any developing feature film. Being able to be just as invested in the game’s progression as a spectator is testament to its riveting character studies, outstanding visuals and immersive atmosphere that is sure to continue in its sequel.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Directors: Bruce Straley, Neil Druckmann