Thursday, October 29, 2015

Backlog Gaming Review: Why I Loved The Last Of Us

I have been slowly but surely going through my backlog of games, so I chose The Last Of Us Remastered to play next because I have been curious about it and many of my friends have been telling me I needed to play this game. To them I say you were right. I did need to play this game because it wasn't just fun to play; it was phenomenal story telling. When a game's story has me getting choked up about something within the first few minutes, I know it's going to be a heck of a ride and be great. 

I couldn't help, but like Joel. This is a character that has been through something that is so devastating to him and yet somehow he's kept going on and had to do things that are not necessarily good, but that he felt had to be done in order to keep surviving especially since the world as everyone knows it has ended and a post-apocalyptic world is the new normal. 
Is Joel a good person? No, not really. He's not really a terrible person either. His partner Tess was interesting also and she's another character that's not really  good or evil. The Last Of Us really showcases that this world isn't really that black and white; there are varying shades of grey and not everyone is completely good or bad and that many of the people are just trying to survive any way they can. 

It wasn't long before the story progressed to meeting Ellie. I loved Ellie. She was this mouthy 14 year old kid, but you come to realize that a lot of why she's like that is because she's scared of losing those she cares about and having to parent herself. In spite of that, Ellie always managed to dig down deep and find the courage to do what needed to be done and I admired and respected that level of strength in her. The interaction between Ellie and Joel at first was rather terse, but I understood that was normal especially for Joel because he just wanted to finish the mission and not get attached. 

I really got into it because the game was that good for me. The combat controls are great; not clunky at all. Sometimes I would get nailed by an infected and have to start over from that point (I really HATE the Clickers and Bloaters, they're terrifying), but I didn't really mind because I was enjoying the story and wanted to know what happened next. There are human factions as well such as military, the Fireflies, and Hunters.  This is definitely a game for adults because of how dark the story can be at certain points and because of the harsh violence. 

Infected are scary!

The environments in the game are beautifully done. I found myself stopping and just looking at everything often. From riding a horse in the woods to an abandoned college campus with a herd of giraffes, all of it looks great and really stands out. The music in the game is perfectly done as well with some hauntingly beautiful melodies that add to the emotions of moments in the story.

Horse riding in the woods
Even an abandoned campus can be pretty
There were points in the story where I got pretty emotional because I came to care about the characters. I had to remind myself it was just a game, but it was difficult especially when it came to the characters of Henry and Sam. I actually had to walk away for a few minutes because I was so saddened by what happened to them especially with Sam because he and Ellie were close to the same age and they had bonded and became friends. 

The big thing that stood out for me is the relationship between Joel and Ellie. I loved how it slowly progressed from Joel being reluctant about getting to know Ellie to during some slower moments like navigating an area to look for supplies there would be a bit of talking between them back and forth about different things such as what a type of video game was like or that an ice cream truck was a real thing. I also found myself chuckling at some of the awful puns that Ellie would read from her book of puns. 

As I got further in the game I recognized that Joel is a very angry and desperate man, but when it came to Ellie he could have these moments of kindness and really seemed to look out for her. The story isn't in your face about it and it becomes this gradual evolution of Joel treating her like a daughter and her coming to trust him while they both support each other in a situation that is pretty dangerous and exhausting on many levels. It's poignant and the emotions from both characters is so incredible that it draws you into the story fully which shows how fantastic the voice acting was in this. 

Joel and Ellie watching some giraffes.

When I got to the ending of the game, it made me think about a lot. It made me ask questions like could I do what Joel had done? Was the leader of the Fireflies right about sacrificing a few for the many? It brought up a lot of ideas about the choices that people have to make in this world and not all of them are easy; much of it involves hard choices. I liked the ending, but it definitely wasn't a sunshine happy ending because that's not the kind of game The Last of Us is.

I played the Left Behind DLC also and I thought it was interesting to get a chance to see what Ellie was like before she met Joel. It also shows you some moments that are pivotal in the main story line that focus on Ellie which are also great.  I liked the interaction between her and Riley because it brings some lightheartedness to the game with them just being kids and having fun, forgetting about the dark things going on in their world for a moment. It also shows some great emotional moments between Ellie and Riley that don't feel forced and seem to happen quite naturally. Of course the cheerful stuff only lasts for so long and then it's back to some very sad things happening. The final conversation between Ellie and Riley just before Left Behind ends had me choking back some tears because it was this heartfelt moment between two characters that truly cared for and loved each other. 

Ellie and Riley having fun in a photo booth.

This is exactly why I loved The Last Of Us. It is hands down one of the best games I've ever played because of how intelligent the writing for this was creating a game that is perfectly story driven with some very memorable characters; characters that you find yourself caring about a great deal. The exploration of the various relationships are wonderfully executed making for a fantastic gaming and story experience. The game play is excellent and it shows that a lot of thought was put into getting things just right. The Last Of Us is a game title that I am thrilled to have in my gaming collection and it's absolutely worth playing.

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