The Last of Us was released in 2013, yet i didn’t get to play it till three years later. But when I did, it quickly became one of my top three games of all time. Its whole world and the characters within have somehow become a part of me. Joel and Ellie have become two of the most important characters in my life.
After one of the most emotional game intros I’ve ever experienced, we are placed with our hero, Joel, twenty years into a Post-apocalyptic world. Early on in the game you are entrusted to look after 14-year-old girl, Ellie. This is where it all begins - one of the most important relationships in gaming history starts right here. You are tasked with getting her safely to a group called ‘The Fireflies’, the reasons for which I wont reveal here, and of course it’s not simply a case of walking from A to B.
Once Ellie is with you, she will follow you wherever you go and you must protect her at all costs. But don’t get mistaken that protecting her means she is helpless; quite the opposite is true in fact. As the game progresses you will find that Ellie is just as tough as Joel, if not more so. They both come to rely on each other for survival.
You will end up travelling across America in your mission, encountering some interesting and downright terrifying people. The locations too are beautiful to explore, with the suburbs; the University of Eastern Colorado; a snowy lakeside resort; and more. All of which have been subject to the unstoppable spread of both mother nature and the deadly virus. The combination of overgrown flora and fauna, along with the ever-mutating infected, make for some simultaneously beautiful and grotesque imagery.
The infected that you encounter on your journey can be really tough at times, with all-out gun fights being the worse option to take. The infected people are found at different stages in their individual mutations, with each stage having its own strengths and weaknesses. The most iconic of these stages is probably what are known as ‘Clickers’. These mutated festering people have one of the most iconic sounds I’ve heard - their namesake ‘Clicking’. They use this as a form of echo location due to their being blind as a bat.
There’s nothing quite so brutal as the moment a clicker grabs a hold a bites down hard.
The emotional thread that runs through this game is much stronger than any of the make shift melee weapons that Joel can fashion. The core of The Last of Us is the father/daughter relationship between Joel and Ellie that gets stronger and stronger as time goes on. Although he is initially cold towards her, treating her simply as his current mission, you will see how their bond becomes tighter with each step they take. One of the real great parts of this character development too, is the subtle exchanges of conversation that happen in-game, when you are playing.
It is hard to talk about the characters in this game without drawing comparisons to The Walking Dead. What both The Walking Dead and The Last of Us do so well, is deal with the conflicts between humans themselves. Even though humans as a species have a common enemy in the viral outbreak, there are still separate factions that arise that will kill one another for control and supplies instead of working together.
As strong and positive as the relationship between Joel and Ellie is, there is darkness out there that would see them torn apart. This darkness could not have been portrayed any better than by David. The build up through the Winter chapter to its violent conclusion is one of my favourite scenes in gaming. And that’s all I’ll mention of it.
I’d never before finished a game and immediately, after the credits, hit ‘New Game’, but with this one I did. I just couldn’t wait to get back into this world once again. Once I knew the story and where conflicts would occur, I found I could take in more of the environment. I would start looking carefully at every little detail in the world around me, ever-impressed with the level of care.
When you replay through at the same difficulty you keep all weapon and character enhancements you gained first time through. This made me feel like a bad ass and I actually went looking for fights.
It’s rare that a game, or even a film, that gets such high praise and surrounding hype actually lives up to it, but The Last of Us does. It’ll have you laughing at the funny interactions between the characters; it’ll have you terrified and scared for your life. It may even have you questioning the things that you really hold dear in this world of distractions and excess.
The Last of Us not only lives up to its reputation, it dwarfs it.