Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked My World – #42: The Last Of Us

In PS3 on July 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Today’s post is by me, mother-lovers! Jon Gracey.

Title: The Last Of Us

Format: PS3

Released: 14th June, 2013

Last Of Us Box Art

The Last Of Us, a game exhibiting tonnes of death, is unquestionable proof that it’s a great time to be alive. Ironic? Don’t care. The end of a console generation -when the new wave of PlayStations, Xboxes and Wii-whatevers are being announced – is always a golden period for the old guard of consoles.

Think about it: developers have spent years cutting their teeth on this cycle’s hardware; all that combined knowledge, experience, and technical understanding squeezed into one last behemoth. The clamouring public can’t yet spend their money on new consoles, but they’re excited, and more importantly, desperate for a final justification for all that time and money spent.

The end of the SNES / Megadrive generation brought us wonderful, experimental titles like Yoshi’s Island and Super Mario RPG, whereas the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube (and Dreamcast’s) dying gasps gave us Resident Evil 4, Shadow Of The Colossus and Shenmue II. These events happen so infrequently in gaming history (we’re on our 7th generation since 1972’s Pong, fact fans) and they always get me ludicrously excited.

Yoshi's Island

We’ve already had Bioshock Infinite, which was groundbreaking and spectacular and confusing and brilliant. We’ve got GTA V coming up in September, which will be mankind’s highest achievement to date (mark my words). And then, on June 14th, with little hype or fanfare in the leadup (note: there may have been loads, but I avoid spoilers like the plague and it passed me by), came The Last Of Us.

Never before have I felt the emotional heft of a game like I felt it on The Last Of Us. Developers Naughty Dog – creators of the Crash Bandicoot (PlayStation) and Jak and Daxter serieseses (PS2), before moving onto blockbusting Uncharted trilogy with the PS3 – have given us an astoundingly absorbing and atmospheric game with pacing and characterisation coming out of its ass. Its ass.

Joel and Ellie Car

I offer you 0% spoilers because I’m not a cunt, but if you have a PS3, and you’re not playing The Last Of Us, or planning on playing The Last Of Us, you’re actually stupid. I mean this. It offers richness of character, gloriously realised settings, extraordinary environmental storytelling (where you find out about the world by observing it at your own pace, as opposed to being force-fed reams of exposition) and seamless gameplay. Why aren’t you playing it right now? I hate you.

The Last Of Us is one of those games, like the Uncharted series, where it feels like more than the sum of its parts, and yet it only has fucking great parts. It’s an incredibly smooth ride in terms of gameplay (it gets all its loading done before you start playing, and after that pauses very seldom), but not in terms of tone: it’s a tough game, with uncompromising situations and characters. It will stick with you, unlike Uncharted, which cast you as globe-trotting Indiana Jones rip-off Nathan Drake, showing you as a bumbling everyman in cut-scenes, before insisting you became a homicidal murder-robot when the time came to play. Seriously, that guy killed thousands of dudes. Usually foreigners. His dreams must be unimaginable.

This is troublesome for blockbuster entertainment, where the core gameplay is stealth-killing or gun-killing a bunch of guys. How are you supposed to get emotionally invested, or indeed feel sorry for a character who has slaughtered more humans than some fully-functioning dictators?

Last Of Us Violence

The Last Of Us neatly sidesteps this issue by going post-apocalyptic. It’s an overused scenario in almost all media, but it very much suits a stealth/action game, where killing is the gameplay’s bread and butter. With terrifying infected (effectively plant-zombies, and much scarier than that sounds) and desperate survivors to contend with, it’s absolutely a landscape of kill or be killed. So you will kill, or you will be killed. Horribly. It makes perfect sense, and alleviates a lot of the very long looks characters like Nathan Drake should be taking at themselves in the mirror, if they could stop snapping non-caucasian necks for one goddamn second.

I played it through with my girlfriend in the room and before a few minutes were up, we were both utterly absorbed. There were so many times when I said “I’ll just get to the end of this bit”, only to play for another hour as sections rolled into one another, plot details were revealed, characters were unveiled or revealed, and the pace steamed along.

Infected

It’s an intense game, but understands the ebb and flow or story-telling like few others. This is partly down to the incredible score, by Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain), but also the infected, which are used sparingly, giving them real impact. Characters are relatively few, and as such fulfil proper and meaningful roles. The voice acting is the tits, as is the motion capture; Troy Baker (who also plays Booker De SHITTING Witt) and Ashley Johnson are both superb. You forget they’re actors and they become real people on the screen, people who you really, genuinely give a shit about.

I hate the game for making you care, because inevitably things happen. Things I won’t talk about (see: not being a cunt), but suffice it to say, there were moments when I was genuinely shocked, moved, and benumbed, fumbling for the controller to carry on playing, when I wasn’t sure I really wanted to.

Last Of Us Torch

The Last Of Us grabs you by the naughty bits and applies pressure until you’re equal parts immersed and uncomfortable. It doesn’t pull its punches, and its characters feel a billion times more real than Nathan Drake and his chortling, swag-grabbing, murder-crazy cohorts (and that’s just the good guys). By taking an established game engine and insisting upon embarking on a new IP (intellectual property), Naughty Dog have crafted the greatest game of this generation, and given how many games on Games That Rocked are from this era, that is not something I say lightly.

You know what, I’ve said enough. If you have a PS3, go and buy it right now. Seriously. Grab onto something current, that is resolutely a huge, populist blockbuster smashing through our lives, and marvel in how many things it does sensitively, boldly, and that it does right. You won’t be sorry. And if anyone spoils even one bit of it for you, punch them in their stupid fucking pancreas.

The Last of Us

This is why we play consoles.

As we reach the end of another generation, all that is left to be said is farewell dear PS3, you have been a superb companion. We’ve got at least one last great adventure with GTA V, but even if that’s not the milestone I want it to be (Hahahahahahahahahaha), we’ve had a hell of a time since you arrived as a surprise birthday present from housemates and parents in 2007. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed when I unwrapped you (I was desperate for an Xbox 360 so I could play Halo 3 and Gears Of War 2) but hush my entitled, pretty little white mouth, you’ve been a barnstormer. If the last game I ever play on you is The Last Of Us, then you can retire one proud motherfucker.

To the PS3, and all who sail in her.

Last Of Us Forest

Jon

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