A journey deep into the heart of humanity
The Last of Us paints a grim, gritty and hauntingly honest depiction of the depths of human depravity- how low would you go just to survive? The Last of Us explores the very fabric of the human psyche 20 years after an extinction level outbreak. What if the fall of civil order shattered the very moral compass that defined our society and even our very definition of humanity? The very definition of Law and Order goes out the window; everyone must steal, kill and whatever it takes to survive. It’s human evolution at its finest; it’s the mental metamorphism from a complex societal philosophy to our basest instincts; “Survival of the Fittest”. Throughout the game, you’d be forced to do some horrible things to your fellow human beings to survive but the world is cold, merciless, and its inhabitant’s downright evil.
Dread and violence is a common theme throughout the game from both its story and game-play, everything from the writing to the very environment you’re in tells a story, a story of death and destruction, the combat is hard hitting and vicious. Death and violence has always been a common theme in video games however, it’s gritty, dirty and it made me sick to my stomach. Even though the game follows the standard tropes of a Post-Zombie Apocalypse, the zombie virus in The Last Of Us is a whole different beast altogether. First of all, the virus is fungal; just like any good zombie game, victims would turn after being scratched and bitten by an infected, but here’s the kicker, the virus can also be transmitted through the air – the simple act of breathing in nearby spores is enough to turn you into an infected. Taking cues from recent releases such as Metro Last Light, the origins of the outbreak was never explained however it’s not what happened that concerns us it’s what happen in the days after. In both games, the military took over and established martial law while does who refused to live under the dictatorial rule of the military were forced to rough it out in the monster infested world – scavenging whatever’s available and fighting over scraps. The infection is still present and with no cure in sight.
The Last Of Us tells the compelling tale of Joel – a grizzled middle-aged smuggler and Ellie a naive 14 year old girl; as they journey across a post-apocalyptic America. Early in the game, Joel’s partnership with a survivor named Tess set forth a series of events that bought Ellie under the care of Joel, and together they must travel across America – avoiding the Infected and scavengers alike, to meet up with the Fireflies, a militia group trying to restore order.
While developers Naughty Dog created one of this generation’s most celebrated series – Uncharted with its ever lovable disaster magnet lead character Nathan Drake whom over the course of 3 games left thousands of bodies in his wake and lest we not forget about the epic Hollywood-esque set pieces. However Nathan Drake was somewhat of a superhero; beaten and battered, he’d always come back for more, there was always a lack of dread and danger because deep down, you know that Nathan Drake could not die. The Last Of Us threw everything out the window, they took every single feature that defined the Uncharted series and flipped it on its heads. They added much more weight and significance to everything you do, and unlike Uncharted you would no longer be massacring hundreds upon hundreds of nameless foes, each kill would be hard fought. The “Special Infected” monsters such as the Clickers (who are easily identified by their constant clicking hence the name Clickers) could kill you with just a single touch, and soaking gunfire ala COD style is suicidal as firearms could easily take out 1/3 of your heath in just a single shot. While we’re on the topic of health, unlike the Uncharted series, health does not regenerate in The Last Of Us so in order to restore health, you must either craft or scavenge for medical packs strew around the environment, and also healing times are slowly applied in real-time so you can still get gnawed by nearby enemies.
The various encounters in the game feels distinctive and well-crafted to avoid the repetitive cookie cutter shooting galleries that plague most AAA games. Each encounter boils down to a single crucial decision, fight or flight. It’s always possible to clear the section of enemies either with great aim or superior planning however it’s also a great way to quickly burn through precious ammo and health regenerating items – enemies usually do not drop “loot” so there isn’t much advantage to be gained from it. The Last Of Us forces players to fight their knee-jerk instincts honed by years of gaming; it forces players to think about the consequences of their actions,, it forces players to make quick judgment calls under duress without a clear risk or reward when you initially take them. Checking every single empty room and looking around every corner could provide the much needed materials such as crafting pieces, ammo and Med packs however developers Naughty Dog also ensure that reckless exploration could result in a quick deaths. It’s up to the player to decide if it’s worth the risk.
The Last of Us can only be completed with careful and methodical planning, it even extends to the crafting system. Players are able to craft a small amount of items that would unlock over the course of the game but crafting materials are usually so scarce that players are forced to make a decision because crafting one item would inevitably mean you are unable to build another – “Do I craft a Molotov cocktail to get an edge in combat or invest in a smoke bomb just in case I get caught”. It is worth killing a single infected with a molotov cocktail or do you save it for the next encounter? Death is always around the corner, when hordes of infected starts bearing down on you, there are rarely time for you to sit and craft your molotov cocktail.
It’s hard to avoid comparisons between the Booker/Elizabeth relationship with that of Joel/Ellie, The games itself are totally different from one another but they share do share some similarities. Most notably the bonds that Joel and Booker form with their leading ladies, their union was the work of fate and even though they are adamant at first, their bounded by their experiences throughout their journey. They both share an almost paternal bond with their guardian, however which way you look at it – Joel is Ellie’s surrogate father. Ellie’s no damsel in distress as she’s not only helpful in combat, her verbal exchanges with Joel helps flesh out both the world and Ellie as a believable human character with very human weaknesses.
After looking at the credits screen at the end of the game, I put down my controller and sat there staring at the scrolling list of names, totally in awe of what I’d just experienced. The Last of Us is nothing like what we’ve ever played it’s a grim tale of death and violence, it held a mirror up to humanity and showed us its ugly side. The game is almost an analogy of Pandora’s Box, after making us experience the pain and violence of humanity, the ending showed us that Hope still exists in the world. Despite the grim world, there is still Hope
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
by Chen KangYi
© POPCulture Online 2013, All Rights Reserved