In at least 50% of the posts I’ve made this semester, there’s been some reference to narratively focused games, specifically The Last of Us. For the moment, it stands as my favorite overall game. This for several reasons, most importantly: the compelling story. There are few games that inject so much effort and thought into their character development, and for this I will always respect and admire Naughty Dog (the developer).
One of the most striking elements of the narrative is how it deals with morality. In no way does the game attempt to glorify the actions of its protagonists. It’s extremely unclear at times whether their acts are justifiable. However, despite their uneven morality, the main characters remain highly relatable and human. Ellie and Joel are the heart of the game, and their dynamic is one of the finest character relationships I’ve ever seen in a video game. The only rival I’ve played would of course be Bioshock Infinite, which I’ve also mentioned in nearly half of my posts.
In addition to Joel and Ellie, The Last of Us has an impressive range of supporting characters: from antisocial survivalists to truly disturbing villains. In terms of non-human adversaries, the infected are incredibly well designed. Despite the fact that The Last of Us explicitly avoids the word “zombie,” it is still a fine case of a survival-horror game.
There are few monsters as intimidating as the clicker, slow and blind, but also able to kill with a single bite. Such enemy design instills a sense of true vulnerability in the player. While there is a solid range of firearms, the combat system is far more focused on stealth and resourcefulness. The low amount of ammo in the game emphasizes the use of handcrafted objects and the environment.
Beyond providing varied combat and stealth options, the environments in The Last of Us are simply beautiful. It would be a disservice to call them levels, because this suggests a linear, disconnected progression through them. Instead, these vast expanses knit together into a seamless game-world (even if the player’s progression through them is technically linear). Even after a fungal apocalypse, this world feels incredibly lived in and vibrant. This is aided in no small part by some truly phenomenal graphics.
All-in-all, Last of Us is a highly polished, deeply personal, and shockingly beautiful game. On the other hand, it’s filled with horror, sadness, death. But the game handles these elements with a steady and solemn hand. I look forward with great anticipation to the game from this console generation that will achieve such dizzyingly successful narrative and graphical heights.
So, how would you rate The Last of Us?