The Last of Us is one of the most influential and highly revered games of the past decade and after the success of the Uncharted series solidified Naughty Dog’s reputation for making compelling and beautiful narrative-driven games.
I picked up The Last of Us for the first time in 2016 after every gamer I knew was telling me I should be playing it. I didn’t see what the fuss was about, I didn’t even finish ‘Summer’ (the first section of the game) I couldn’t get to grips with the gameplay, I found that the narrative, whilst intriguing, just wasn’t going anywhere and the frustrating gameplay did not compel me to continue. So I put the game down.
Three years later, I decided to give The Last of Us a second chance, I felt like I would be coming at it with a different perspective, I have a different outlook on games as a whole after beginning to write about them and I am a different person than I was three years ago. Plus with all of the hype surrounding the sequel, I felt that it was time.
I can’t begin to express how happy I am for revisiting this game, it is really the incredible experience everyone was telling me it was, however, there were still some little problems I had with the game the on my initial playthrough. There are moments where the controls felt so clunky and clumsy, but I can overlook this to an extent as it is nearly seven years old now.
These moments of frustration were few and far between. This time around I understood the importance of stealth and that the game is based around survival. The gameplay can seem tedious at times, however, there are actually some really interesting moments where combat can turn into a problem-solving exercise. Do I go in all guns blazing, or be stealthy? Shall I use my resources to craft medkits or Molotov cocktails? Which bomb and/or weapon will be the best choice to use in this situation?
Down to the limited resources and the lengthy time it takes to change weapon choice, or the time it takes to heal, the game provides you with ways to make the combat more engaging by making you think. This is what I didn’t really get to grips with the first time around I hadn’t played many stealth heavy survival games. I was continually running into masses of infected and dying over, and over; and whilst these aspects of the game can be frustrating, they are all mechanics that really enhance the story immersing you fully in this treacherous world.
Now the standout aspect of The Last of Us is the narrative, whilst being cinematic in places, the narrative builds through the gameplay. The player controls Sarah, Joel and Ellie throughout the course of the game, the switch between characters immerses you in different ways. For instance, when you switch to Ellie you really feel that you’re playing as a teenage girl as opposed to Joel who can brawl with just about anything, and end up relying more on stealth.
The screenplay is excellent, drip-feeding you information as the game progresses, leaving so many things unanswered so you fill in the blanks yourself. Even though you don’t know Ellie and Joel’s full backgrounds connection felt between the player and the two characters is so strong. When you are playing as Joel, you feel that urge to protect Ellie, and when you are Ellie, you really feel that sense of loneliness and fear, but at the same time elation when you are able to take on the bad guys yourself, almost feeling proud of her, even though you are the one controlling her actions.
The game is emotional, but the story and the events build up in such a way that the end although it isn’t massively climactic, made me weep. There are a couple of moments that absolutely break me when I think about them, and they aren’t big events at all. One is Joel simply saying two words. It is the build-up of his arc, his and Ellie’s relationship, that make these two words the most gut-wrenching of the entire game.
I find it funny, looking back at myself a couple of years ago insisting that The Last of Us ‘overrated’ even though I hadn’t completed the game. It just goes to show that some things are worth pushing through, or even returning to a few years later with fresh eyes. I am so grateful that I managed to get over my initial issues and play this game to the end, because I would consider this one of the best games I have played, certainly from a narrative point of view. I’ve never had a game stick with me this much, and it’s rare that anything makes me cry just thinking about it, but The Last of Us is still hitting me in those feels and will do for quite some time