MOTHERF*CKING SPOILERS GUYS, SPOILERS. Well…kinda.
…seriously. If you haven’t played The Last of Us or haven’t finished it, wait here, go play it, and then come back.
We good? Great. (It should be noted that this is not a review of the game, just my opinions from watching)
I’ve never been great at any type of game that required me to be good at aiming. So, my original intent was not to actually play this game. However, my husband picked this up soon after we re-acquired a PS3, and I became almost immediately engrossed as the first images of the game came on the screen. The start screen captivated me with its subtle details and realism, I was impressed by this alone and decided that I’d at least settle down on the La-Z-Boy to watch the beginning.
Before we go much farther, I want to put this out there. I am not the kind of female that cries at every little thing. I’m pretty stubborn about things like that in fact, and it takes a LOT to make tears well up from within my being. The Last of Us made me cry. Not once. Not twice. Three times.
A game made you cry? YES.
I’ve been captivated by visuals. By story-line. By one character or another. By theme. All of these things have drawn me into other games before, but never has a game EVER dragged me along by my hearstrings the way that Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us did. Holy shit.
The first 20 minutes of the game give you everything you will be experiencing in regards to the emotionally draining roller coaster you are embarking on. My husband and I both sat on the couch, jaws dropped with tears rolling down our faces. I mean, seriously, how do you start a game like that? There’s not much to hope for, but therein lies the strength of the character you play as for the majority of the game. Joel doesn’t punk out, while so many of us would have.
Joel’s strength becomes a barrier over the years, as clearly seen in his interaction with Ellie as they begin their journey together. He refuses to talk about what happened to his daughter or offer much information about himself. Regardless, Ellie’s devotion to Joel shines so brightly as she cares for him after a devastating injury. In an act of heroism, she runs to draw attention away from an injured Joel, who soon musters the strength to climb to his feet and do what he’s done for so long – protect Ellie.
When Joel finds her, after she has escaped multiple horrifying situations, this scene made me cry the most. Their expressions. The visuals.
“Come here, baby girl.”
That. Line. I welled up at the beauty of Joel finally opening up and expressing his care for her. The embrace that followed was like a stab to my heart. I’ve never felt so emotionally attached to a character from a freaking video game. But this…this had become more than a game.
As the end of the game approached, I feared for the worst. Would the game end the way it began? Would Joel lose the most important thing to him at that moment while holding them in his arms? I was relieved, proud, ecstatic, and drained all in the same moment.
Now, as I’ve said before, I have appreciated many games for their artistic concepts and visual appeal. On some level, I would probably call video games in themselves “art” because it does take time to craft a world in which players immerse themselves in. But, The Last of Us…this game in every way, to me, is art. The start screen pulled me in. And all it features is a windowsill with gently flowing curtains. I became attached to these characters so quickly, and I felt as though I were there.
I’ve read that some people felt that Joel’s actions in the end were selfish and the question remained who really was the bad guy, but personally, I feel that there was no question. Through his eyes, losing his world to save what was left of the world was too heavy a cross to bear. Would I protect my son, even if it meant that hundreds might die? As a parent, I can tell you that you’d have to pry him from my dead arms.
As you fight off Infected, there is a constant of Joel always protecting Ellie and looking out for her. For a few scenes, I just closed my eyes and listened to the music. It was beautiful and sad, hopeful yet fearful. I wonder if this is all meant to represent what is going on in Joel’s head. A dark and dismal world surrounds him but that hope that he clings to, Ellie, drives him and yet scares him. What if he loses her like he lost his daughter? What if one day, she is no longer there? Its a lovely and solemn feeling that hangs heavy throughout the game.
In short, Naughty Dog did something I’ve never seen in a game, with its realism in both visuals and emotional attachment. I applaud them, because it is difficult to get me to sit and watch a game being played. And who knows, I may even give the game a shot myself. That is, if I feel that my heart can take a figurative beating again.
Have you played? What did you think?