Still a Gem?  “The Last of Us”

Trailer.

​Full disclosure, this is one of my personal favorite games of all time.  I chose to write about it first because, to me, it is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
The argument I end up in oh so often, is that game “X” it the greatest game of all time.  I personally don’t want to believe there is an untouchable greatest game of all time, and end up challenging someone’s views of their greatest game.  Is it grand nostalgia?  Or is their gem truly a timeless classic?

The Last of Us – to me – isn’t a perfect game, but from the moment the end credits rolled the first time I finished it, I knew I would never forget the gaming experience, or the emotionally drained state it left me in.  To me it was the greatest game I have ever played.

Looking Back

Realeased originally on June 14th 2013 on the PS3, The Last of Us was received with fairly unanimous critical acclaim constantly scoring on average a 95%.  Just over a year later, in August 2014, it had sold over 7 million copies on PS3, and a million copies of the HD remaster on PS4.

Reviewers praised the story, characters, and well designed gameplay.  It isn’t hard to find a positive review, but you can find one of my personal favorites here.

Back to the present.
After playing back through The Last of Us, one thing that might be starting to show its age is the graphics.  I played through on the PS4 HD remaster (without the 4K upscale – no fancy PS pros for this guy).  While still quite far from ugly, some of its textures, lighting and particle effects are starting to show signs of age.  It’s not that it looks bad, there are just some games doing a far better job now (I’m lookin at you Horizon Zero Dawn).  While important to the atmosphere and helping with the illusion of the stealth segments, these aren’t the most important visuals of the game.  Those still belong to the characters and both their motions and facial animations, and they are still excellent.  The performances by all the talented actors still shine through and make all those digital characters very human, and their story that much more of an emotional  affair.

And then there’s the story.  If you’re ​a fan of The Last of Us, and you haven’t seen the movie The Road, bookmark this, go watch that, come back, and thank me in the comments.  

Back?  Ok.  Let’s continue.
While I can feel heavy influence from movies like The Road, and maybe even some Romero scattered in the background, The Last of Us has a story that feels familiar, but manages to focus so heavily on the human elements in such an inhuman world.  I could spend hours talking about my respect for the story, it’s themes of human relationships and dependancy, or how much I respect the game for not just making the entire 15+ hour experience about redemption, but I’ll leave it to this: the story and the characters within have been crafted with such love and care, that you can’t help but truly feel a connection with them that motivates you to push on and do whatever it takes to survive.  It’s a powerful and sometimes emotionally taxing experience that I have only felt playing a videogame a handful of times and never to this degree.

But all of this could have just been a really long movie without the gameplay.  As a rule, I’m not usually a fan of stealth gameplay.  I’m horrible at it.  I get spotted and panic and then “poof” mission failed please try again.  The Last of Us manages to make stealth an important part of survival within the game, where if you’re spotted, the tention gives way to all out panic and chaos.  Once you hear that runner scream, you have seconds to run or make a stand, using up valuable resources in the process, leaving you vaulnerable for possible future confrontations.  I’ve played this game from beginning to end a dozen times.  I know every scene and senerio like the back of my hand, but because of the superbly crafted gameplay, I still find myself sitting on the edge of my seat with every encounter mumbling “oh god oh god oh man….” the whole time.

If you’ve read this far, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious.  The Last of Us is a gem.  If you haven’t played it, you need to.  If you have played it.  Play it again.  It won’t disappoint.

Now I will just have to play though it again while waiting for The Last of Us 2. 

Thanks for reading.  What’s your favorite game of all time?

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