I keep meaning to write about the games I play but never have the time or end up forgetting. I still don’t have the time but wanted to say something about The Last Of Us.
The most annoying thing about The Last Of Us is that it is one of the most accomplished games ever made and yet it’s so terrible in places. I still think there’s a huge issue around games and their logic which only makes sense to people who play games. TLOU is full of video games tropes and cliches and for a change it’s the strong characters and story that lift it up. However there are several places where the writing makes no sense, such as the end of the dam sequence – it eventually drives the story forward but neither Ellie or Joel act like I expect their characters to behave. Fortunately these setbacks are usually redeemed by something much better, such as the wonderful moment in the bus station after the illogic of the characters reacting to play time rather than the story time (we’ve just experienced the previous section but was it not days, weeks or months ago for the characters?). Throughout the game I felt these ups and downs and for me it ended on a downer. It wasn’t the actual ending which many other people seemed to have issues with, this mostly worked for me although if I had a choice I think I’d have taken the alternative (although oddly I went the other way in Life Is Strange which is essentially the same decision). My disappointment was the hospital level and I later realised it was a bigger issue with the entire portrayal of the Fireflies. I was never sure who the Fireflies were or what they stood for, were they good or bad or was that the whole point? In that hospital level TLOU became a different game and I whilst I enjoyed the mechanics and literal execution it felt like a betrayal of the story. It’s a larger problems with games in general, having a character led story constantly interrupted by a spot of mass murder with no emotional impact at all. It turns out I was fine slaughtering infected, crazy people and even the military but it didn’t feel right to casually kill people like us, people like Joel and Ellie. In the Winter section of the game it sounds like this may get addressed but that interesting concept is quickly squandered by making everybody crazy and setting up some more video game sequences.
After finishing the main game I played the DLC, Left Behind, and thought this got everything right (although one moment questionably felt like it might have been put there just to shock). It also climaxes with lots of killing but somehow this feels different, is it because they started the fighting and are presented as savages or is it just because Ellie is trying to help Joel and there’s no other option. It’s still a video game moment but it’s the emotional side of all the flashbacks that I remember more. In these flashbacks it’s more about the story telling although the game mechanics are still used in an effective way.
Where does that leave us? It’s still a great game, easily up there with the likes of Resident Evil 4 as my all time favourites but is it too much to ask that killing humans should always be the last resort and not the default option. I’m planning on playing Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture and Firewatch next, hopefully these will offer a more enlightened portrayal of humanity.