The last time I wrote about The Last Of Us, I said, “I think I’m about 3/4 finished. I’ll probably get through the rest of it this weekend.” That was over a year ago.
I wasn’t planning to play it again. I mentioned that I just bought The Division 2 on the PS4 because it runs better on console than it does on my PC. I’ve been playing that now and then, trying to catch back up to where I left off in the PC free weekend.
But while I had the PS4 hooked up, I remembered that I had this 3/4-finished video series and I peeked in on The Last Of Us again. I quickly remembered how great of a game it was, and got sucked into the story. If anyone still hasn’t played the game, and is planning to play it (and you should-there are really only 1 or 2 truly great games a year, and this was one of them), there are some minor spoilers below.
It turned out that I was nowhere near 3/4 finished. I was actually more like half finished when I left off last year. But I managed to get through the remainder of the game on Normal difficulty last week. (Though I only got an achievement for “Easy,” because I actually started this game on Easy and switched to Normal later. That’s because I was trying to record the full game from the beginning, but I had already played the first part on Normal, so I started again on Easy, to get through the part I had already played faster.)
I can confirm that the story is, in fact, as amazing as everyone says it is. However, it didn’t end anything like I expected it to. I had never heard any specifics on the story, but somehow I had developed an idea in my head from six years of hearing bits and pieces here and there that Joel was going to die in the end, and he didn’t. So I spent the whole game waiting for this huge emotional scene that never happened.
What happened instead was a huge surprise, and far better.
I should stress here that the great thing about the story is not so much the plot, but the characters. They’re deep and complex and relatable and human. The voice acting is about as good as you can get in a video game. (The plot is pretty much your garden variety zombie apocalypse.)
My only narrative quibble was the point where Joel changed his mind and decided to go with Ellie out west, instead of dropping her off with Tommy and leaving. His change of heart didn’t make any sense because they never showed a reason for it. One minute, he was totally against it, the next minute, he’s all in. They never showed a “moment” when he changed his mind. Whatever motivated his character was entirely internal, hidden from view.
I have a lot more quibbles about the gameplay, though. There are a lot of really, really, really frustrating sequences to get through. It’s a game that punishes you severely for making mistakes. Sometimes I don’t mind that-for example, the Dark Souls series-but not if there’s no opportunity to learn from or recover from your mistakes. If you make a single mistake in The Last Of Us, more often than not, you die and start over at the last checkpoint, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Miss one shot by a couple of pixels? That clicker eats your face off, you die, you go back and start over. Accidentally move a little too far into a zombie’s line-of-sight? The entire horde runs right at you, you die, you go back and start over. Sometimes over and over and over again, far beyond the point where it’s fun. And what’s even worse is that the “mistakes” are largely the result of some random enemy behavior that doesn’t make much sense, which is even more infuriating. If you do manage to survive a mistake, it’s usually by blind, dumb luck, which isn’t very satisfying.
Anyway, despite those game problems, now I’m really looking forward to The Last Of Us 2. So far it’s the only game on my “must buy in 2020” list. The first game’s story ended in such a delightfully ambiguous gray area that I can’t wait to find out how these characters develop in their future.