This is going to be full of spoilers so make sure you've finished the game before reading!
The Last of Us became one of those games that I needed to play. No matter how much time passed by it would always be there, timeless, after receiving so many positive reviews from countless journalists. I was an Xbox gamer through and through and considered purchasing a PS3 purely to play it. Time passed further and with the announcement of the PS4 and a remastered version of The Last of Us (including all DLC) the rest was kind of inevitable.
I started playing, ready for the experience of my life, hyped up more than I had been since walking home (drunk) with a copy of GTA IV in hand - I was setting myself up for disappointment again.
I started the game and proceeded to watch the very well paced opening scene - a ticking clock sticks in my mind as Joel's daughter gives him the watch. It's uneasy & tense - you know roughly what's going to happen but that doesn't make it any easier to handle when it does. You are helpless as Sarah and you can't fight as Joel. You run, you don't look back but when Sarah dies it hurts, it really bloody hurts.
Fifteen minutes into the game, my jaw is on the floor and I'm crying at a videogame. It is one of the greatest opening scenes of anything I have ever seen. This emotion and intensity was hard to shake off and I realised this was not going to be a light hearted affair.
I would have to wait a long time to feel that again. As I started playing the game properly, getting to know the mechanics of it, I found that things were a bit repetitive. I feel like the game went in so heavy that there is no way it could keep up with the bar it set itself. Don't get me wrong, the game is utterly beautiful and the action is satisfying but you are doing the exact same series of events over and over. Walk somewhere, talk, scavenge and then stealth kill whatever enemy is in front of you. You could argue that every game is like this but for a good 4 hours I was really left wanting more, not just sneaking around clickers reserving ammo.
I didn't care much for Ellie. I suppose that was the point though. This girl, that had been forced upon you, was brash and on the verge of annoying. You just inherited the longest escort quest known to man. Fortunately she looks after herself for the vast majority of the game (I was having flashbacks about Sherry for Resident Evil 2).
I started to enjoy the game more, the plot thickened and the relationship between Joel & Ellie was growing constantly. That was the entire point of the game really. The more I played, the more the action became less important, almost as if it were my way of earning more of the journey. In the same way that you always want to watch one more episode of whatever show you're watching, when Ellie & Joel creep into Spring, it really is hard to not say, "five more minutes."
The defining moment for me is when Joel is injured and you take over control of Ellie. Suddenly, you're looking after you (if that makes sense?) The way Ellie acts in the situations she is thrown into is how I wish I would react if I were here. She is strong and she doesn't take any prisoners. When the two are reunited, it was a physical relief for me. I won't go into every detail of the end game - for me it was sudden but it works incredibly well.
The credits rolled and I sat in silence thinking about everything that had happened. It was over.
It was over and I couldn't let go of it. I felt that now it was over I didn't know what to do or what I should play. One of the most wonderful and profound things about any story you are involved in is how it can affect you away from the medium you are in. The Last of Us is so strong that you take it with you well after it is finished and even into your real life. By the end of the game you care so much about both characters that the thought of something happening to them crushes you. The game sets itself up very well, letting you think it is all going to hell.
It lets you think that this is the end and you, as a bystander, are the one who has to make it happen. I stood still at this point in the game for a good 15 minutes just thinking about how it was nearly finished. How this would be the last good memory to be experienced. There is no explicit explanation, no gestures, no direction. You just know because you've spent the past 10 or so hours living through these two.
I stand by what I said in the first place. The game is the same and it is repetitive - it's not doing anything new and it's simply a 3rd person action game. This is more than a game though.
A week after I finished the main game, I also completed Left Behind (the single player expansion). Just starting up the game and hearing that music pulled me back into the story. I remember it like something that happened to me, not the characters in the game. You shared the experience and you don't forget the trauma.
For any "game" to that to you is pretty special. That is why it is so good. That is why it deserves its place in gaming history and why I will always, always recommend it to anyone who cares about games.
I'm just sorry it took me so long to play it in the first place...
Am I on my own here or did anyone else feel this way?