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The Last of Us Review: Stealthy Cinematic Survival Horror

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I came into this game expecting an Uncharted game with (more) zombies, but what I ended up getting was a cinematic survival horror masterpiece. There isn't much here that hasn't been done before. For most of the game, I thought it was a fairly predictable and well-telegraphed plot. We've all seen apocalyptic fiction before, and this game builds off of those in various ways you'd expect. However, its plot isn't worth talking about because the plot that's there is extremely simple and consequential. It exists only as an excuse for the characters. This is a game that offers us interesting characters with a bleak and unforgiving setting, and the gameplay backs this up. The Last of Us offers a unique blend of the stealth, action, and survival horror genres that come together to make more than the sum of its parts.

Have you played The Last of Us?
 
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The poll was created at 07:58 on June 19, 2013, and so far 1098 people voted.


The Gameplay

"You make every shot count."
―Joel

It’s hard to pigeonhole The Last of Us into just one genre, because it is what it needs to be, when it needs to be. It incorporates stealth, survival horror, and cinematic action to fit each situation perfectly.

The pacing is perfect and the gameplay is wonderfully varied. It's one thing I think Uncharted 2 did incredibly well, moreso than its successor in fact. For example, its biggest set-piece, the train ride and subsequent getaway into the snowy mountains, is followed up by a quiet walkthrough of a small Nepalese village. This helped slow down the tension, allowing for the player to relax and reflect.

Joel and ellie taking cover from a survivor

Here, the player can interact with villagers and take in the beautiful scenery without worrying about getting their head blown off. After this, the game has the player reacclimatised with platforming and puzzle-solving rather than more hectic gunplay. It was a game of highs and lows, and those lows serve to make the highs all the more exciting.

The Last of Us has many moments like these. After a tense stealth segment, you can expect a calm albeit suspenseful moment of respite as you explore the environment and scrounge for supplies. A lot of the time, the player is forced to do tedious or mundane tasks such as moving a palette, ladder, or plank. I understand why these short segments are here, but the amount of times they are repeated, and how little variation there is between them can make them feel a little out-of-place and "gamey". By the third or fourth time I was finding a conveniently placed palette for Ellie, I was already shaking my head.

Infected Runners

It’s not as heavy on the set-pieces as Uncharted 3, but there are plenty of interesting set-ups. This is a game that always had me on my toes and thinking on my feet. There are chases, close escapes, last stands, shootouts, and so on. There’s a great scene in which you have to go from cover to cover avoiding sniper fire, before you get to cathartically stab the sniper in his perch. Naturally, you get the obligatory sniper section, and it is awesome. I especially love how the infected slowly increase and number, giving you this sense of being overwhelmed as you try to hold them off.

Like I said, the gameplay is well-varied. There are moments of horrifying dread, and there are moments of quiet exploration. There are times to kill, and times to talk. It’s a journey of highs and lows, but it never lets up in terms of quality.

Survival

Surviving is tough in this world. Unlike games like Tomb Raider or Far Cry 3, where you are an unstoppable badass with plenty of ammo on hand, you are always low on ammo, and you're always looking for supplies.

Unlike more recent Resident Evil titles, not every enemy drops ammunition. This is a little silly when you think about, but this extra suspension of disbelief serves the difficulty of the gameplay, which reinforces the atmosphere. The world, and thus Joel’s story, would be trivialised if ammunition was everywhere and you could just run around blasting dudes all day. This is a game that sacrifices conveniences and even fun for the sake of telling the story they wanted to tell. This is a harsh, brutal world. You have to fight for every scrap just to survive, and there are many gameplay elements that reinforce this.

Joel and Ellie

RPG Lite comes into play with Supplements, which are hidden around the environment. These can be used to increase the player’s skills, all of which are very useful. The player can also obtain weapon parts, which can be used at the scarcely-found benches the player can use to upgrade their weapons. Shivs work the same way power nodes did in Dead Space 2. Having at least one shiv on hand is recommended, as it can open extra rooms full of loot. On the other hand, they can be used to quickly and silently take out Clickers.

Since health kits and Molotov cocktails take the same supplies to make, players are forced to carefully consider how they use their supplies, and make some series decisions regarding defence and offence. The crafting system works in such a way that the player never feels like they don't need to scrounge for materials. Since your carrying capacity is so limited, you're unable to hoard items. All of these things come together to create an actual survival game, which is rare these days, despite the amount of AAA titles that claim to be.

Horror

This game scared me a lot more than I expected it to. Unfortunately, this game doesn't have some of the survival horror trappings like crank puzzles and tank controls, but it does do a superb job at setting up an effective atmosphere.

There are brilliant moments of genuine dread in this game. Allowing us to tackle our problems using stealth adds to the tension. The sublevels of the the Hotel Grand were especially effective at instilling a sense of dread in me. For the first half of this segment, you don't see any enemies, which lulls you into a false sense of security. Before long, you are being bombarded by the Infected.

Hotel Creepy Bathtub

The part in the dorms with the clickers and bloater was extremely intense. The game literally drops you into a scenario that forces you to creep around the deadliest enemies in the game. In a stroke of brilliance, you have to sneak past a Bloater (a powerful infected that can also kill you at close range) and when you reach the door, you have to force it open, attracting the nearby enemies. Needless to say, it’s a very tense situation, and one you’ll survive very narrowly.

Stealth

The stealth mechanics here are far more fleshed out than Uncharted 2, where they were a throwaway optional feature. Here, they are the bread and butter of the game, and a majority of the game tasks you with sneaking. Of course, you don't necessarily have to, but you won't last long if you don't.

Infected in the Dark

This is a game that made me feel like an animal-a predator. By the end of the game, I was stalking in the shadows, picking enemies off one-by-one, and using the corpses of their friends as bait for my next kill. That might sound brutal, but that’s what it takes to survive. This of course all ties back into the survival mechanics. I didn't sneak just because I enjoy sneaking missions. I sneaked because I had to conserve ammo, and because I couldn't survive a straight-up fight. There is no honour here.

The Story

"After everything we've been through, after everything we've done, it can’t be for nothing."
―Ellie

The main draw here is the single-player campaign. The narrative is well-written and character driven, something I've come to expect from Naughty Dog. The story focuses on Joel and Ellie, two survivors of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis outbreak from twenty years ago. The focus is on these people, and how far the human race has fallen. Truthfully, there aren't a whole lot of original concepts here, but it's execution is far greater than most other post-apocalyptic fiction.

Thelastofusinfectedshot

There a lot of human stories scattered around the single player campaign, each driving home this sense of hopelessness and sorrow. I've seen many tragic and frankly, fucked up, stories in my gaming career, but the story of Ish and his survivors actually affected me, which is a hard thing to do with most seasoned gamers. The fact that Joel responds to some of these, and often asks what we too are wondering, makes these feel less like static decorations and more like genuine accounts-a look into the denizens of this world.

The story is broken up into four story arcs, one for each season. The entire journey might seem clichéd, and I wouldn't blame you for thinking that at first glance. A man is charged with protecting a young girl, who is somehow immune, and could be the key to curing the infestation and bringing humanity back from the brink. Sound familiar? It probably does, but that setup is just the excuse for the character development, which is ultimately the saving grace of the narrative. The characters here are what set The Last of Us apart from the rest, and elevates it above "just another zombie game".

Prologue

"Drugs. I sell hardcore drugs."
―Sarah

The first thing that took my off-guard was the surprise loading screen. That minor gripe aside, I really like the main theme, and how it would be used to great effect later. After that however, we get a loving scene of Joel and his daughter Sarah before the outbreak. It's good that we get a chance to see a glimpse of Joel when he's young and what his life was like before the world went to hell, so we can compare and contrast later. Right out the gate, I was impressed by Naughty Dog's script-writing; it strikes that perfect balance between realistic and witty.

The opening part of the game starts us out as Sarah, surprisingly. The first thing I noticed was how her movements went from sluggish to terrified so naturally. Playing as a defenceless little girl bearing witness to all this chaos really set in a sense of terror over me. 

Joel and Sarah

The prologue managed to scare me by setting up an effective mood. You see police responding to the distress, people packing their bags, and Joel’s friend talking about mangled corpses before being cut off. Everyone is panicking, and all of the character’s actions and responses feel genuine. Seeing the person set on fire and people running from zombies is actually way more effective here even though I've seen it hundreds of times before, simply due to the presentation.

I saw Sarah’s death coming, she wasn't in any of the footage I’d seen or the demos I played at E3, so I expected her to be killed off. What I didn't see coming was how it would ultimately be a human soldier that killed her. This gave me an idea of events to come.

Summer

"We're shitty people Joel, it's been that way for a long time."
―Tess

Summer starts out twenty years after the prologue, with Joel living in the Boston quarantine zone, ruled by marshal law. This is very much still the tutorial section of the game, but it also serves as great world-building as characters discuss daily life in the fungal zombie apocalypse. The only real gripe I have with this section is that, since it's essentially a drawn-out tutorial, replaying it can feel like a bit of a chore, what with all the uneventful forced walking segments.

It's here that the game establishes Joel and Tess as antiheroes. They're criminals, doing whatever it takes to survive. Joel isn't a hero. With the other criminals Joel kills, it could be rationalised that those are bad people, and they are armed, so maybe it's okay. By the time we get to Robert however, there's no denying it: Joel isn't a good person. "Good" doesn't exist in this world any more. Even if we are told Robert's a scumbag, seeing Joel break his arm before Tess executes him is pretty harsh.

After they find out their guns were sold to the Fireflies, Joel and Tess have to comply with Marlene, the Queen Firefly, to smuggle someone out of the city and get them to the Massachusetts State House. This part of the game deals mostly with the infected, showing us just how hostile world really is, and why marshal law might be seen as a necessary evil.

Tlourooftoptess

At the Capitol Building, we find out that all the Fireflies are dead and Tess is infected. Really, a bad day all around. It's here that the journey begins proper, with Tess telling Joel to meet up with his brother Tommy out west in Wyoming. Naughty Dog's talent for excellent character chemistry comes to play when Tess reveals her bite, and decides to stay behind, lest she become "one of those things". It's implied that they may have had something together, but it either didn't work out, or more likely, Joel simply didn't reciprocate her feelings. If I had to speculate, it's likely that Joel has put up an emotional barricade, not wanting to open himself to the pain of loss again, even if he does love Tess. Either way, he clearly does care for her, and when Ellie wants to talk to him about it, he brushes her off. In fact, there are many moments in the campaign where Ellie wants to "talk about it", and Joel wants none of it. Joel's refusal to let people into his life is a huge part of his character arc, and comes into play when making his final decision in the finale.

After this, we get a get a few more stealth segments with armed baddies, and before long, Joel and Ellie are out of the city. From there, they make their way to Lincoln, just one county over. One small thing that bothered me about this part of the game was how the town is erroneously placed in "Amherst County", even though no such county exists within the Commonwealth; Lincoln is in Middlesex county. That's just me nitpicking, though.

By now, the game has let off and given the player much more freedom. With Tess out of the way, the game shifts its focus to Ellie as well as Joel, and how they'll develop. Still, we are introduced to Bill, an old friend of Joel's, who apparently is in debt to him for reasons unknown. Through our interactions with him, it's clear that the apocalypse has hardened him, and though he shows signs of compassion and emotion, he, like Joel, brushes it off as a sign of weakness. In the end, he refuses to have any sort of sentimental goodbye, parting ways with "Get the fuck out of my town."

Lincoln sign2

After a good bit of comic relief, we see the disparity between Ellie's naïveté and Joel's street smarts in beautiful Pittsburgh. A seemingly-wounded man approaches them, begging for help. Ellie's first reaction at this point is to help him. Of course, Joel knows better, opting to drive right through him. After they're all dead, we get a little bit of dialogue revealing that Joel used to be a Hunter like the ones they've killed, saying he's "been on both sides". This one line of dialogue further fleshes Joel out as a morally grey survivor instead of a hero.

Inside the hotel, Joel is attacked by a bandit who tries to drown him. This plays out in an unwinnable interactive cutscene. Ellie saves the day however, not with a brick, but with a 9mm. After killing her first Man, Joel scolds her for not doing what she's told. To him, it's the principle that counts. That, and he doesn't want to thank her. That would require some amount of emotional attachment. Outside of the hotel, they find a rifle, and we see the first sign of Joel growing attached to Ellie. Here he entrusts her to cover his back with a hunting rifle because, even though he may not want to say it, he is thankful for her help. After clearing out the Hunters, Joel gives her a pistol, not only for protection, but also as a symbol of trust and respect. One thing I noticed was that, after Ellie gets her gun, Joel will shout “cover me” or “watch my back” when he starts crafting, showing how she’s grown and how Joel trusts her.

Ellie Rifle

The rest of Pittsburgh involves sneaking past Hunters and one armoured tank. During this daring escape we meet two more characters: Henry and Sam. Sam is a bit standoffish, which I suppose is understandable, but he's not winning any points just for being a kid, especially when compared to Ellie. Henry on the other hand, is very likeable. He takes a lot of shit from Joel, but he always brushes it off. Although they end up getting killed off by the end of the arc, which isn't too far off, we see enough interesting scenarios with them to at least empathise with Henry. The "Summer" arc ends in a cutscene after Joel and the gang escape from The Pitt, only to find out that, like Tess, Sam was bitten in a previous encounter. Once again, another one of Ellie's friends falls victim to the infection, which will come into play later. Henry, unable to cope, commits suicide, which is a strong note on which to end this story arc.

Fall

The skip from Summer to Fall felt a little jarring for me. There were a couple other instances in which a few moments on the road were skipped, but it still felt somewhat seamless. Boston and Lincoln aren't that far apart, though Pittsburgh is a couple of states away. Having us jump from the East Coast all the way to Wyoming feels like a huge chunk of the adventure was lost. I understand the need to make the game an appropriate length (though an actual cross-country adventure does sound amazing), but a workaround would have been placing his brother in the state of Texas instead. This could have also been used to further explore Joel’s back-story, and revisit his hometown. Instead of Salt Lake City, the "Spring" arc could have taken place somewhere else. On the other hand, the Wyoming part looks absolutely stunning, and the "Winter" arc would have probably had less snow, making for a less varied environment. At the very least, I appreciate that they jumped from “Fall” to “Summer” on a climactic and emotionally resonating moment.

Pittsburgh

The first thing I really appreciated was how, even though it is a zombie apocalypse, people are still able to change clothes every now and again. They didn't have to change up the character's clothes every season, but I'm glad they did. It adds a great deal of variety to the game.

As I said, "Fall" opens up in Wyoming, not too far from Tommy's town. This first part is fairly light on the action, to let us ease into the next encounter after all the drama from the last climax. We eventually find Tommy at a not-so-abandoned quarantine zone built around an old hydroelectric dam. It's there that Joel is reunited with his younger brother, who also sheds some light on Joel's shady past. This being a video game however, the cutscene is interrupted by another wave of enemy soldiers. With them dealt with, things ramp up again when Ellie takes off on horseback.

Tloujoelandellie

After some woodland trekking (with the excellent main theme playing in the background) Joel finds Ellie in a surprisingly well-kept house. Their argument is not only touching, it serves as the turning point for their relationship. Naughty Dog has always done superb work with character development and chemistry, but they really nailed it here. You see many sides of Joel, but there all sides of the same person. You really get a feel for his internal struggles to cope with the world in which he lives as he tries to reconcile the tragedies of his past and hope for the future.

From here on out, Joel and Ellie's relationship only gets stronger as they go on. Instead of passing her on to Tommy, Joel takes Ellie to University of Eastern Colorado, where they expect to find the Fireflies, hopefully not in a pool of their own blood this time. The entire university chapter has a very ominous overtone to it, slowly easing the player into the realisation that the Fireflies are either gone, dead, or worse.

Joel and Ellie Horseback

As it turns out, they're alive and well in Salt Lake City, all except for Steve Blum. Suddenly, another group of Hunters breaks into the university, forcing Joel and Ellie to make a daring escape. In a struggle however, Joel ends up falling off a ledge and gets impaled on a metal rod, severely wounding him.

Joel’s impalement also marks an important turn in Ellie’s development. She is forced to step up and protect herself as well as Joel. This moment is fairly simple in terms of gameplay, which is actually a bit of relief from the constant worries of ammo conversation and survival horror. This is however, a very moving moment, as our protagonist struggles to escape. You could say this is Joel’s microwave corridor.

At the beginning of this scene, two enemies charge Joel and Ellie, and the former brushes the latter aside to take out the enemies in last stand mode. Then, they take on a shotgunner together as a team. By the end of this scene, Joel has passed out, and Ellie is forced to take out two enemies by herself. This one scene very neatly encapsulates her coming of age as a character.

Winter

The “Winter” arc plays its cards right by starting us out as Ellie shortly after teasing Joel’s death. This creates a lot of suspense, as it implies he has been killed off and subsequently replaced by Ellie. To slow down the pace a bit, we’re given a short hunting mission, which leads into the encounter with David. Dave comes off as a friendly and likeable fellow, which is great. Joel is interesting albeit somewhat standoffish, Ellie is young, and most of the other characters are either dead or degenerate. It’s good then, that we get a character around whom the player can feel completely comfortable, at least for a little while.

As soon as Ellie mentions antibiotics, it becomes clear that Joel is still alive, though not necessarily kicking. At this point, David and Ellie have an awkward conversation, as we see she has learnt not to trust others, a far cry from the Ellie who wanted to stop and help the wounded Hunter in the middle of the road a couple of seasons ago. Soon enough, things are ramped up when Clickers move in, and we get to really see Ellie in action.

Ellie Bow Winter

This scene plays out in the classic Night of the Living Dead style zombie home defence standoff or, to relate it in game terms, the Leon and Luis’s last stand from Resident Evil 4. This is arguably cooler though, since you’re playing as a little girl instead of a secret agent. This chapter is extremely tense, as it gives you nothing but a bow, a bolt-action rifle, and a switchblade knife. It balances Ellie’s badassery with her fragility. She can use her weapons effectively, as we've already seen, but her melee attacks are weak. In order to kill enemies, you have to be very careful about when you attack, and work in tandem with David.

After clearing out the infected, we get a surprise twist: David is a Hunter. Still, they’re not going to do a 180 with his character. He lets her go, but they eventually return for Joel. The tables have now turned, and Ellie is the one protecting Joel.

From here on out, the game forces you to keep playing, as it splits between Joel and Ellie. This dual-layered approach goes the distance to show how much each character has grown to like each other, and displays the lengths to which they’d go to ensure each other’s safety. Ellie puts herself in harm’s way, leading the bandits away from the house. After Agro Callus is heroically sacrificed, Ellie has to find her way back to Joel. She is understandably less competent than Joel in terms of combat, so naturally stealth is a huge factor, and as a fan of the genre, the stealth element is really strong here, with some interesting environments in which to hunt, including one where the enemy is sneaking up on you. Before she can make her escape however, she ends up getting captured, which is where we discover David’s true nature. Spoiler alert: he’s a total bastard.

Ellie in a jacket

On the flip side, we see Joel struggling to get up as he fends off a wave of attackers. After a short bit of gunplay, we get a cutscene showing us a much more ruthless side of Joel. It’s hard to call Joel a “hero”, which is what the game’s going for. He’s a survivor, and labels such as “hero” and “villain” are antiquated in this world, which our protagonist exemplifies.

The perspective shifts back to Ellie, who narrowly escapes captivity. Stripped of their gear, the player is forced to use stealth to full effect, as it is impossible to survive otherwise. Whereas the first scene played to a sense of helplessness by putting you into the role of a little girl, here you are unarmed (until you find a revolver at least) and low on supplies. This chapter disempowers the player whilst simultaneously bestowing responsibility to them. In Uncharted 2 the escape scenes in which Drake was unarmed were action-packed, carefree sequences. Here, the tension is at its highest. I especially appreciated the constant ringing of the bell, which really racked my nerves.

As soon as I set foot into the steakhouse, I knew I was preparing for a cat-and-mouse climactic finish with David. The plates placed on the ground were dead giveaway. It’s nice that the game manages to incorporate its stealth mechanics into a boss encounter, instead of just having a straight-up fight with a beefed-up baddy. Sneaking around one enemy in such a big open area might not seem like such a big deal, but it’s surprisingly easy to get cornered here, and his machete is a one-hit kill. After nailing him twice, he gets really butthurt and the true game of cat-and-mouse begins. He’ll start sneaking as well, forcing you to both be hunter and hunted. Whereas other stealth games such as Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex: Human Revolution suspend their stealth mechanics in favour of more action-oriented encounters, the boss battle at the burning buffet stands out as one of the better moments in a stealth game.

University of Eastern Colorado

After this boss battle, the player regains control of Joel, who is rushing to find Ellie. After a bit of sneaking around, Joel find’s Ellie’s gear in a meat locker. Unfortunately, the player doesn't really feel the same fear as the character here, since we already know Ellie’s okay. With that bit of dramatic irony aside, their paths converge at the steakhouse, where the player controls Ellie for a short interactive cutscene. By this point, David has degenerated into an insane psychopath, which is very off-putting considering how friendly he was at the beginning. I suppose this was the point, as there is implied to be a darker subtext here.

Luckily, he has extremely poor eyesight, as he couldn't even make out a glowing machete on the floor in front of him. In a somewhat tense albeit predictably telegraphed interactive cutscene, David is brutally killed off, thus concluding the "Winter" arc.

Spring

The "Spring" arc starts out with Ellie staring at an engraving of a deer, which symbolises... her killing of a deer... or something. Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, after cutting through an abandoned bus station, we get to one of the more surprising and sweeter moments in the game: giraffes. I for one didn't expect to have giraffes in this game, but these are easily the most beautiful rendered giraffes in the history of gaming. I do appreciate that we see a poster for them on the way in, so it’s a little less out of nowhere. The track, "Vanishing Grace", matches the scene perfectly, providing a moment of serenity and levity.

Things get dark again when our dynamic duo enters a car tunnel. After sneaking around so many human beings, it’s nice to have to get around some zombies for a change. After this the tension ramps down with a bit more light puzzle-solving and underwater exploration, followed by an extremely Uncharted-esque set-piece.

After reaching the light at the end of the tunnel, Joel and Ellie are rescued by Marlene and her men. Here it’s revealed that the only way to reverse-engineer the virus kills the host. Owing to his impetuous nature, Joel lashes out, cruelly torturing the guard escorting him before quickly executing said soldier. It’s surprising that, after all they've been through, Joel isn't willing to go through with it if it means losing Ellie. As irrational as that might seem, it’s easy to understand his motivation, as he’s become attached to Ellie more than their mission, and he doesn't want to lose another little girl.

Joel Wounded

From here, it ramps up the action with assault rifles and heavily-armoured soldiers, though stealth is still an option. Along the way, the player can listen to and read Marlene’s thoughts, fleshing her further as an antagonist and giving some insight into her motivations.

After a couple more difficult shooting/sneaking segments, Joel finds Ellie in the Surgery wing, where the player can kill the doctors performing on her. With Joel carrying Ellie in his arms trying to escape the hospital, one can draw a parallel from the beginning of the game. The music here is fantastic, and does a fantastic job of pulling on the player’s heartstrings.

Needless to say, the ending came as a bit of a surprise to me. I expected Joel to make a heroic sacrifice so that mankind could be cured. I was expecting Joel to die, but he never did. The ending we got was somewhat atypical, but satisfying nonetheless. At the beginning of the story, Ellie was just cargo. By the end, he's willing to forsake the future of the human race just to save her. It could be conceived as selfish that he didn't trust her to the Fireflies, but we spend the entire game trying to get a sense of who Joel is and how he and Ellie form a father-daughter relationship. This may not be what you and I would have done, but this isn't about you and I. It’s about Joel, and his journey as a character. Based on his characterisation, I completely understand why he made the choice he did, killed the people he killed. It just fits within his established character. You could say saving Ellie was a moment of weakness for Joel, and that character flaw is exactly what makes him so interesting a character.

The Last of Us Black and White

As soon as he picks Ellie up in his arms the same way he did Sarah, it becomes clear that Joel has finally let his guard down. From the beginning, Joel was pushing her away, because he didn't want to feel the pain of losing someone he loved ever again. Over the course of the narrative however, he lets that guard down, and accepts Ellie as his surrogate daughter. When he’s told that acquiring the vaccine will cost Ellie’s life, he cannot accept it. At that point, his relationship with her is more important than the job, because she’s no longer just cargo to him. So you may think the ending is kind of an unexpected disappointment, but I believe that final decision is what solidifies him as one of my favourite characters in this medium. I understand all of his actions within the context of his characterisation. It’s no coincidence that the first and last time you play as Joel, he’s holding a little girl in his arms.

In the end, Joel doesn't end up being a hero. He’s a human being, and I wish there were more characters like him. The ending may be a tough pill to swallow, but upon retrospection, I'm kind of glad it ended the way it did.

Did you like the ending?
 
549
 
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The poll was created at 03:04 on June 20, 2013, and so far 562 people voted.

The Conclusion

This game is a masterpiece. It excels on nearly every level, and sets the bar high for future titles. For a game to get so much right seems almost surreal. The gameplay is polished and engaging, and reinforces the atmosphere of the game world, and the game’s story is a well-written character-driven experience that gives us reason to keep pushing forward. It’s rare that we get a game in which gameplay and story work so well together. It brings together several genres, and uses them well to convey its setting. It’s not a set of mechanics wrapped around a tangentially-related story, and it’s not a story with random mechanics tacked-on, either. It’s an experience with highs and lows, that isn't afraid to make the player feel something, even if it isn't necessarily fun.

That said, the narrative clearly takes priority here, and when this happen, it can have a clear adverse effect on the gameplay mechanics and immersion. It should be said that all of this game's flaws stand out more because of how well-constructed the entire experience is. A single blow against the immersion, such as extremely loud stealth kills, shoddy AI, and clipping, can hurt the experience. In fact, I think that clipping or less sums up how I feel about this game. Clipping occurs in lots of games, and it hurts to see my immersion wrecked by it. Comparitively speaking, this game has far less of it than other games. However, that also means that, when it does happen, it's twice as disappointing. I suppose it's hard to see a game do so well, and yet fall so often, even if it's in a bunch of little ways. Though these problems can detract from the experience more than in other titles, the overall experience is still artfully crafted, and easily the most enjoyable I've had in a long time.

The Last of Us Wallpaper

This game is a serious contender for game of the year, and is easily one of the greatest experiences I've had as a gamer thus far. The Last of Us is a near-perfect game. It has gameplay mechanics that can be enjoyable wholly on their own, but can also reinforce the narrative. Likewise, the narrative is strong on its own, and could be enjoyed to some degree in any other medium, but it works best here, where gameplay backs it up so well. When these two work together so well, you get a game far greater than the sum of its parts, which I think is what truly defines a great work of art.

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