Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if there’s any hope for mankind. Often times things happening in the real world can make me depressed and wonder how humanity has even made it this far. The Last of Us embraces the harsh and brutal reality of survival. Where the “fittest” see children as nothing more than a weakness, playthings, or food.
In The Last of Us, the only people that I can trust are the ones I grew up around. Every single stranger no matter how old they are, what race, or what gender, is a threat. They will put a bullet in my head or a knife in my back just for the tiniest chance I have something they can use. If nothing else, I’ll fill a tummy for the night.
Is this really what the world has come to? It makes me question why anybody would want to live in a world where the only way to survive is by killing other human beings.
The Last of Us Story – I Promise It Gets Better
I wake up in the middle of the night. The T.V. is still on revealing the news reporting chaos and that people have been infected by a virus. I hear an explosion just after it happens on the T.V. and look out a nearby window to see a fire in the distance. Police cars zoom by my house and sirens are blaring from every direction. Unsure of what’s happening I move through the house searching for my father. He rushes into the house from the outside rambling about me being safe and to be careful as he rummages through a desks drawers for a gun and starts to load it.
Pretty cool, right? The experience as I played this confused little girl was amazing. The motions aren’t much different than the average cinematic driven game but taking control of a younger person to experience the beginning of the end of the world was nice. Unfortunately it didn’t last long but that didn’t stop the entire introduction to the game from being impressive.
The intro was only about ten to fifteen minutes long (guessing). What followed after the introduction and the games title screen was seven to eight hours of killing zombies and survivors while travelling through the city with basically no story or character development. I will get into what I think the reason for that was later when I talk about where exactly the game turned into one of the best gaming experiences ever.
I got to know about the protagonist quickly in the beginning as he spends time with his daughter before the zombification of the planet. He’s a hard-working and very loving father. He and his daughter have a great relationship. He’s also kind of an a-hole who makes the call to pass up strangers on the road during the outbreak even though they have plenty of room in their truck, something his daughter points out.
After the introduction of the game the story skips forward twenty years and Joel has become a ruthless killer for survivals sake. It happens in an instant. We never see this change (he talks about it during the game). It is easy to assume that the loss of loved ones and the effect of this new world is the reason for his current behavior and attitude. He is a completely broken man and now he is unwillingly called upon to smuggle a little girl into another area of the city.
It’s All About Ellie
Ellie has never been out in the real world. Born into the virus infected world, she has been living inside of the walls of one of the few safer havens. She’s smart, funny, independent, and fearless but not out of ignorance. I wondered where she got some of her personality. I never met her parents and I never got to really know her guardians on a personal level (other than Joel of course). She’s this confident little girl that doesn’t take any crap.
Ellie’s smarts tend to make her order Joel around and he obeys because he knows she’s right. Sometimes she seems too smart for someone that’s never been in the outside world before but it was okay because I couldn’t help but love her wit and intellect anyways. She has the best lines throughout the entire game always bringing a smile to my lips and a laugh to the air. She often calls Joel out when he’s being a dick.
Ellie spends the first several hours of the game trying to break Joel down and get him to respond to her with one-liners throughout the mostly boring first half of the journey. I thought it was unnecessary to drag out the first half of the game just to get me to experience that cold distance between the two characters as Joel refuses to even pretend he cares for Ellie as he escorts her to their goal. It did feel rewarding when they finally made a connection. Once the bond between the two began the story only continued to get better and better and I couldn’t turn the game off until I completed it.
Where Excellence Began
When Joel and Ellie meet up with Henry and his younger brother Sam (strangers) everything became an actual experience and not just the same old going through the motions. The story blossomed immediately. Joel finally shows that he does care for Ellie. And I had two new characters to care about that weren’t just someone we were using to progress through the game. I think the beginning half of the game may have been done on purpose to let us experience the growing relationship between Joel and Ellie, but it didn’t exactly “grow”. It just reached a point where Joel finally shows he cared. He could have done that a few hours sooner.
There’s a moment around this point that is the most special moment I’ve ever experienced in a video game where Ellie briefly opens up on an even deeper personal level while lashing out at Joel. It wasn’t just the dialogue that got me. It was her eyes for a split-second that brought tears to mine and it still does just writing about it. It shows the difference between those of us who harden ourselves and those who don’t break. She is inspiring.
I watched Ellie and Sam bond with each other while I got to know Henry as well. My favorite thing about the emotional parts in the game is there is no time to let them sink in but they still have a lasting effect. It’s like the game knew I started to get emotional and called out, “Next”.
A smooth flow of excellent story then continued almost straight to the end. Rather than just fighting off psycho survivors that only wanted to kill me for my ammo, clothes, and food, I was reminded of where peoples true loyalty lies. Trust disappears when survival is all that matters. Not all loyalties falter though and Ellie blew my mind. For the rest of the game I got personal insight into my enemies and met more characters that actually mattered. Before meeting Henry and Sam in the game, it was basically just killing enemies over and over.
The rest of the experience leading up to the end of the game was truly incredible but I hated the actual ending. The last hour or so of the game kind of got back into that same old going through the motions thing which was a little disappointing due to the awesome experience that led up to it. The final levels were great with beautiful scenery and layouts, and the final “boss fight” was like no other.
I thought the ending was selfish, silly, and didn’t really make any sense to me. I’m sure it did to Joel. But that’s the thing about The Last of Us; it put me in the shoes of someone in a world with no hope of a better future for mankind, and only hope for my own survival. As I said at the start of this article, I don’t know why anybody would want to live like that. Overall, The Last of Us became a truly exceptional experience and one of the best games I’ve ever played, making its flaws easy to put aside.
Thank you for joining me in my experience! I have a separate article up about my impressions of the gameplay itself. I recommend doing a search for “the last of us fanart” to find some pretty incredible stuff. I could spend hours picking out my favorites.
The Last of Us developed by Naughty Dog.
Incredible wallpaper on the main page as a slider image done by Jover-Design.