Draw the gun, escape the horde, stuff the bag with essentials, and show affection to the crumbling world that used to look wonderful under the blazing sun. Scatter when they come for you, try to sleep when they’re in the distance, shoot bullets at the sky to gain answers from God, travel onwards until your feet blister and your legs shudder in pain. This isn’t a fun camp where you’ll leave when the time is up. This is reality. Hope’s throat has been cut, hearts and minds have been altered, the live stream has been sucked dry and the clickers make that grotesque sound in the dead of night.
You have one guide, a man with a greying beard, a man who has lost it all. You confide in him; you seek answers from him; he seeks answers from you. You help him in battle, you’re a pint-sized warrior, holding a knife and scraping your knees on the harsh lands. You’re also young, too young to witness such depravity and bloodshed, but you must become immune to emotion, you must adapt to your surroundings quickly. This man says things he doesn’t mean, but then he becomes your ally, your sweet ally with stories to tell, and they’re not all pretty.
The fireflies, they’re after you. A cult desperate for you…
In 2013 a game dropped from the masterful hands of developer Naughty Dog, a company renowned for their Uncharted series. This release was in development for a substantial amount of time, but when it finally appeared, gamers were overawed by its complexity and cathartic storyline. The game in question was apocalyptic masterstroke The Last Of Us, a driven tour de force which catapulted gamers into a world where survival was fundamental, where affection seemed out of reach.
It wasn’t out of reach though, as two characters bonded after a few missteps. Joel and Ellie, who are thrust into a world of the infected, kill their way through the abandoned landscape, through desolation and desperation. They have no goal at first, but as you play on, you’ll see a mission forming. This mission leads them through moments of heartache and disparity, where hope seems to be cut short, where answers seem to be held at ransom.
The world is overgrown, brimming with bandits and the infected. There isn’t any structure or coherence, no ideas or clarity, only roads and scattered cars, empty pharmacies and food outlets. As you play as Joel, Ellie follows you through the wasteland, snapping at your heels and being quick-witted. That is the draw though, and that’s why these two characters belong together, through the trappings of hell on earth.
Hell on earth it truly is, and Naughty Dog did a fine job at integrating realism into their masterpiece. You’ll look at the jaw-dropping visuals and feel attached to them like you’re inside the TV set. You’ll seethe when an enemy tries to kill Joel and Ellie, and this is because The Last Of Us immerses the gamer and makes him/her feel for these two renegades. Not only does The Last Of us do this, but it also leaves invisible scars and marks on the skin.
The mechanics of the Last Of Us were unique. The smooth battle sequences were flawless and getting into sticky situations felt organic and realistic. As a whole the experience was unparalleled, putting the gamer into battles that felt fresh and unnerving. Although the battles were unbelievably compelling, it’s the story that gripped the audience wholeheartedly.
And The Last Of Us goes down as a game of magnitude because it had components so many developers fail at designing. Few games have that interweaving storyline, the compassion and true sincerity between two hardened characters, the bubbling landscape, the fearlessness. When playing through to the end, it becomes edgy, frightening, violent, and evocative.
Naughty Dog are pioneers at creating blockbuster titles because they don’t rush, they let their games bloom and flourish, and they let them grow. Yes the Uncharted series was career-defining, games that smashed stats and gained accolades, but The Last Of Us had something more, it had a seamless portrayal of love, loss, and pain.
The Last Of Us is up there with games which have defined gaming. Games which have taken the gamer to distant worlds and places, games of suspense and plot. It is a seminal release worthy of the ultimate praise.
For me, The Last Of Us is a radical, forward-thinking tour de force. Yes, there have been many games that have taken gaming to the summit of wonderment, but for me, The Last Of Us edges over. The emotion I felt playing it was incomparable. It took me into its core and ruffled my mind; it silenced me when the blood seeped from wounds, and it gripped me when the enemies tried to pummel those two beloved characters.
I will be waiting excitedly for the next installment…