Trying to explain ‘The Last of Us’ to a non-gamer can be frustrating. Immediately, I found myself comparing it to a movie, just so people will hear me out, but then I realized that comparing it to a movie does it an injustice. Movies, TV, and books have long been thought of as the best ways to experience a story, but if you have you played and finished ‘The Last of Us,’ you will see why it told one of the deepest and emotional stories in any medium of entertainment.
It’s a shame that a social stigma exists for video games. Because of it, close-minded individuals will not experience games such as ‘The Last of Us.’ They may think of ‘Call of Duty’ or any other game they may have heard about on the news. Anti-violent video game advocates will immediately dismiss it, yet these people will have no problem watching an action movie where multiple people are killed. But if you are still reading this, you may not be too far gone, so hear me out: Give ‘The Last of Us’ a chance.
Before you continue, I urge you to at least experience the prologue. It’s about 5-10 minutes long. I’ll wait for you.
Did you get something in your eye? Yeah, it seems everyone did after they went through the prologue. And if you didn’t, then you are either a robot, or you are being extremely stubborn.
The beginning introduces you to one of the main characters, Joel. Through his eyes, you will experience the apocalyptic wreck that the world has become, due to a fungal disease that essentially turns people into the zombie-like “Infected”. The world is so incredibly detailed that you will get sidetracked looking at everything from an old toy store to old dorm rooms at the University of Eastern Colorado. The graphics are beautifully realistic, which helps the world become even more alive.
After introducing you to what the world has become by simply walking around in it (in awe, mind you), you are then introduced to Ellie, a teenage girl that Joel and his partner Tess must smuggle across the U.S. Eventually, Joel and Ellie become separated from Tess, and this is when the father-daughter relationship starts to bloom. You hang on to every word and every interaction between both of them, and when things go bad, and they often do, you will become anxious for them to get through it. And prepare for developer Naughty Dog to purposefully mess with your anxiety.
The voice acting is yet another reason that ‘The Last of Us’ succeeds, with Troy Baker voicing Joel and Ashley Johnson voicing Ellie. These two actors breathe life into their respective characters and have such a great chemistry together that at times you forget there is a game to be played.
‘The Last of Us’ is not a zombie game. It is not a disaster game. It is a story about humanity in the face of the end of mankind. It is a character-driven narrative that focuses on the journey and experiences that these two people, who start out as strangers, share together and how they form a bond. By playing as these characters, you become so immersed in the world and attached to Joel and Ellie that it rivals any book, movie, or show that would try to tell the same story. Naughty Dog had already shown their chops in story-telling with the ‘Uncharted’ series, a more light-hearted series with a wise-cracking protagonist (and also one of my favorite franchises ever), but ‘The Last of Us’ shows the depth at which games can be made.
You might be asking yourself why I am writing this a month after it came out. The answer sums it up nicely: my wife didn’t want me to play it unless she could watch, because she cared so much about what would happen next to Joel and Ellie.
By Josh Baumbach