The infected apple of the Playstation’s eye, Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us is seen as a crowning achievement of the past generation. Bestowed with previously mythical gaming awards like ‘best performer’ and ‘best story’, it catapulted narratives in the medium to an island of newfound integrity built on a sea of Cormac McCarthy novels. So as Sony gears up to release a remastered PS4 version, does it still stand up despite the passage of time which has clawed at our sour cheeks?
Silly questions deserve silly answers, so of course it bloody plums my goat. I actually finished The Last Of Us a while back, but because of my tragic need to ingest new titles during the post-release hype storm, I’ve failed to garble some words about it. It deserves one hell of a garble too. While it is everything you’ve probably already heard; moving, visually stunning, terrifying with a brilliantly bittersweet aftertaste, one thing The Last Of Us is not, is a Christmas game.
Cast your mind back to Christmas Eve 2013. Tinsel curled around trees, golden paper littered house-bound wrapping stations and warm alcoholic drinks were the ‘hip’ thang. As Winter stroked its frosty finger over door handles nationwide, everyone huddled around the box and waited on the usual promise of crowd-pleasing television. Once Rod Stewart’s Christmas show appeared, many thought festive cheer had been cast into fairytale. A term whispered by pixies in the woods under nightfall and scratched into stone walls by horny aborigines. It became a cutesy phrase for a simpler time, when a food coma in front of the TV wasn’t a psychological weapon.
We all sought refuge in our own unique ways, so I chose to immerse myself in a world where human civilisation was at the brink because a viral infection was turning everyone into fungal explosions. A creepy, pleasingly violent and scrupulously tense place where my natural equilibrium could be restored. But as I reached the game’s bleak ending, the idea of sitting around a table pulling crackers and testing how many sherry’s it would take for G-ma to hit the deck, seemed almost impossible to deal with. I was sucked into this grim world of relentless survival and no amount of Roy Wood was bringing me back.
It was odd, because I took a while to warm to the game initially. After the emotional slam dunk opening, the game loses a bit of steam in setting up the world, introducing the game mechanics and pushing the two central characters together in a natural way. Once these shackles are loosened and the relationship between Joel and Ellie begins to collide with other survivors however, the game quickly blazes back into remarkable territory and never lets up.
I’ve had a fair amount of time to nurse my opinion on The Last Of Us, yet I still remember it just as fondly as when I completed it. It isn’t the nerve-shredding moments against the Clickers that stick out in memory either, but the quieter moments between Joel and Ellie. Whether it’s the bickering during a cruise down a desolate highway or some of their little exchanges as you scavenge through rooms in abandoned houses, it’s a game that pulls you into the little details despite the monstrous picture blowing up around it.
That isn’t to say the game is short on memorable gameplay sequences, the cat and mouse chase between Ellie and David might be one of the most tense I’ve ever experienced. A face-off where you desperately try to outflank a lone man with a machete inside a burning restaurant, all while trying to avoid broken plates or debris that could give away your position. I found myself not driven by wanting to progress or to hear the satisfying twinkle from a new trophy, but because I actually wanted Ellie to get her own back on this twisted nut job. Even despite the uncontrollable organ circus which was booming beneath my rib cage.
In not so many words, I loved The Last Of Us. It brought ruin and misery to my Christmas spirit yet still remains a beloved gaming chestnut inside my soon-to-be-collapsed heart. I’m unconvinced on the idea of a sequel, yet if they announced one tomorrow I’d rain bricks from the sky like a satanic pigeon to get my paws around it. Even if my crime of passion pleas are not accepted in a court of law, at least I’d be locked away in another space where I could play The Last Of Us all over again.
You know, in those prisons that let you play video games all day which totally exist?