The Last of Us is a masterpiece. I don’t throw around statements such as these lightly. Masterpieces don’t come around often, and when they do, you feel extremely lucky to be a gamer. Naughty Dog has created an excellent game, but they also created something much more than that. The Last of Us in an experience, telling us a story of desperation, struggle and survival in a world that has fallen from the grace we take for granted on a daily basis.
Our story follows Joel, a man who lost all he cares for, and now seems to have lost hope for the world. Joel has seen the world crumble around him, and he has been forced to evolve alongside it, altering his personality as the fight for survival grew even more dire. We also follow the story of Ellie, a 14 year old girl who has grown up in this new world. She has seen some of the worst things the world has offered, some things we will hopefully never see in our entire lives. Ellie has never seen the world as you or I have; she only knows the misery of this post epidemic world, losing all the innocence a 14 year old may have.
Following these two characters, I was taken on an amazing journey, dealing with the desperate searches for supplies, the fear of surviving the next onslaught, and the struggle to deal with the brutal world around me. This idea of brutality is seen from the very start of The Last of Us, as walking through one of the last remaining government quarantine zones we are threatened to be gun-downed by those in charge. Brutality is also showcased through the game’s combat system, killing a fellow human being unsettling. Though these enemies may be trying to kill you, seeing Joel slam a fellow human’s skull against a cupboard never felt like an easy task.
Brutality is necessary to truly depict the fall of society. Survivors are looking out for themselves, and will mercilessly gun down others for a mere scrap of food. The desperation for supplies was a feeling I constantly dealt with, searching each and every room in The Last of Us becoming second-nature. I have searched game worlds for collectibles before, but in The Last of Us it felt different. I wasn’t searching these rooms for a simple Trophy or an upgrade, I was searching these rooms to survive. Finding one bottle of alcohol to craft a health pack may very well save my life down the line. Not only that, but I wanted to search out any trace of humanity that may still exist as well.
Humanity can be found in the form of journals, on scrap pieces of paper, or simple notes. These allowed me to look through a window into the past, taking a journey back in time when the infection was only just beginning. These pieces of history were able to tell their own story, explaining what happened inside this room, telling the journey of a fellow survivor, or simply detailing someone’s final moments. These items made the world feel alive, it gave people you may never see a chance to tell their story. You’re not forced to read these items, nor are you forced to search them out, but collecting these pieces of information made my experience more memorable.
The Last of Us was able to truly immerse me inside its world. It left me feeling miserable, desperate, and even uneasy. I have never felt so many unique emotions from one gaming experience; one minute I feel my heart sink as I read an emotional tale from the past, then the next I will be able to smile as our survivors share memories with one another. Naughty Dog has created an experience that feels exhausting, in all the right ways. I never felt happy when playing The Last of Us; I never felt safe, and I never felt secure. Yet somehow, this was an amazing feeling.
When I survived encounters, I truly felt like I survived. There were no feelings of accomplishment, victory, or satisfaction. If anything, it made me feel even more vulnerable, as I realised I had used much of my supplies and ammunition just to make it around one more corner. Every single shot I took counted. Wasting ammunition against my enemies had proved to be fatal. As I had struggled to reload or switch between weapons, the enemy wouldn’t hesitate to kill me in cold blood. When I finally saw the last enemy fall to the ground, I didn’t feel like the victor – I felt like the survivor.
The Last of Us definitely made me feel a wide range of emotions, but the true selling point of this emotional rollercoaster is presented through the game’s narrative. We are guided through a story that has a definitive beginning, middle, and end. In this nature, it feels just like an experience you would receive from many other forms of entertainment, which may leave players feeling it lacked the freedom of choice. However, I feel this is the beauty of The Last of Us - it has a story to tell, and it has destinations for each one of our characters, but it is up to the player himself to determine their own feelings from the narrative we are given.
After speaking with many people, many have interoperated the game’s conclusion in different ways. In this sense, it has provided a conclusion that allows players to gain their own feelings from the game’s narrative. Instead of players having to experience completely different endings to justify their varied opinions, we are given a narrative that allows players to come away with their own emotional journey. This is the beauty of what Naughty Dog has created – each player will have their own feelings when the credits roll, which I believe is an excellent accomplishment.
The Last of Us is able to stand next to the all-time greats of gaming. A title that can truly connect gamers through their love of the medium. Video games have the ability to provide an emotional tale, one that can is completely unique to each individual. It’s games like this that make me step back, and truly appreciate being a gamer. It provides a feeling of excitement when I think of the possibilities for the future of the industry.