'The Last of Us': The Most Average Of Us

Erik Fattrosso ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Game of the Year”, “Masterpiece”, and occasionally “Game of the Decade” are all terms that are seen in no small amount when it comes to the Playstation exclusive The Last Of Us.  Developed by Naughty Dog, famous for their work on the Jak and Daxter and Uncharted series, it was originally released for PlayStation 3 in June of 2013.  A little over a year later, it was re-released as The Last Of Us Remastered, on PlayStation 4.  While not adding much past a few aesthetic upgrades, it serves as a way for newcomers to the PlayStation brand to play a game that nobody can stop talking about.  But is it really worth of all that praise?
To make sure nobody gets the wrong impression, I liked The Last Of Us.  I’ve played through the game twice, as well as its DLC-story Left Behind.  That being said, I don’t believe the game to be anything more than average for two separate reasons. The first is the gameplay; the game lands itself in a genre that I like to call Fair-weather Stealth.  Despite being billed as a stealth game and putting an emphasis on stealth in your early enemy encounters, these strategic interactions start to become less and less frequent.  Some areas have you trying to clear out a room of enemies undetected, providing some of the game’s most intense moments. But immediately after that you may find yourself in a shootout to rival that of Uncharted.  It’s very much a stealth game when it feels like being one, but those times are few and far between.  Thanks to a less than perfect AI, difficult stealth sections can seem impossible without breaking out some firearms.
Even basic gameplay mechanics can limit your ability to play stealthily.  Clickers, one of the zombie types, can only be killed with the bow (good luck, as one shot isn’t enough), or a shiv.  The problem is that shivs are hard to come by, and break after a use or two.  Once you’re out, the only way to take them out is through more explosive methods.  This dramatic shift in gameplay styles can cause added aggravation, especially when the goal is to simply sneak out of the area rather than clear it.  The reasoning behind this is that it’s never made clear that that’s what you’re supposed to do.
The game teaches you to make it through areas by wiping out anything that stands in your way, through whatever means it decides is best at the time (You’re given very little option on how you wish to do so), but will then throw segments at you that require you to simply sneak out.  You figure this out of course, but only after a Clicker has killed poor Joel numerous times, forcing restart after restart.  Combat aside, the gameplay outside of enemy encounters just isn’t all that interesting.  It largely consists of finding ladders or some other object and moving it where it needs to go.  There’s one segment that has you hunting a deer that becomes a standout simply because it’s some much needed variation 9 hours in, not because it’s anything special.  The drive for players to make it through these duller sections of gameplay is the story, and that leads me to point number two.
Joel and Ellie are both fantastic characters. Actually, Ellie is.  Joel’s a pretty average no-nonsense protagonist.  But the relationship between them is genuinely something special.  They are both fully realized characters, and through the course of the 12 or so hour game you can really see them bond.  The best moments in the game come from their dynamic.  The story that they’re a part of, however, isn’t nearly as special.  One of the things that many critics and players praise is the story which, by videogame standards is pretty spectacular.  But that’s the thing; it’s really only special when compared to other videogame stories.  Games aren’t generally known for their engrossing stories, and aside from some RPG’s and games like Bioshock Infinite, there aren’t many that really draw interest.  In comparison, “The Last of Us” has a story that could be in a movie. It basically has.  The game story basically boils down to being a mash up of apocalypse clichés that have grown popular in a number of other mediums, including movies and television.  So yes, I can sit down and enjoy the game’s story, but all the while my mind is going to be jumping to better versions of similar stories.  Again, the characters are definitely great, but the story leaves something original to be desired.
With Sony recently confirming a movie based on the game, I can’t help but be wary.  I don’t think that a movie with this story can rise to the occasion.  The movie will only really be great if it puts a focus on the characters of Joel and Ellie, but that’s unlikely to happen in this world of extravagant action movies.  I could be wrong, I even hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I will be.  In the meantime, I’ll go back to playing the game.  The multiplayer, at least, is something worthy of the praise.

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