There are video games that transcend their medium. They transport you into a different world that is so engrossing, it actually starts feeling real to you. Though these game worlds are few and far between (think Rapture from the original Bioshock as another example), when they happen, they stick with you. Not just for days or for weeks, but for life. Much in the same way a favorite book or favorite song would. It just settles down in your soul and never leaves. When I look upon my last twenty years of gaming, I genuinely believe no game has achieved that quite as perfectly as Last Of Us did. From the scares to the combat to the pacing and narrative, Last Of Us might just be the single greatest game ever made. Yes, that was just put into print. Before you toss me to a pile of ‘clickers’ please just hear me out first. By the way, SPOILERS AHEAD, obviously.
I actually had someone close to me lend me this game after they beat it under ONE condition: they could come over and watch me play the first hour. Anyone who has played this game can tell you why she wanted to watch me play. That first twenty minutes of this game pretty much puts all of Hollywood to shame. Unsure what is going on, you rush out with your daughter to try to escape the impending catastrophe, only to have her shot dead in your arms. You had spent five minutes with the girl, but even as a gamer, you felt crushed, defeated.
And that was just the intro, for Christ’s sake.
The Story Line
We have ALL played zombie apocalypse games by now (and played dozens of them) but Last Of Us dared to approach the genre differently. Let’s make the violence feel real. Let’s make the characters feel real. Let’s make the setting feel real. Nothing about Last Of Us ever makes you feel like you are playing a video game. At one point, my mind clicked and was like: holy shit, THIS is what the scene evolved into since Mario. Can you even wrap your head around that? Once we only ran left to right. Now, I am practically pissing my pants on my actual couch while I struggle with all my might to keep this little girl alive.
No game before Last Of Us ever put that kind of weight on my shoulders. I actually CARED about Ellie. It messed me all up and made each play through that much more serious to me.
I am just gonna glaze over this aspect because we all know great graphics do not always make great games. There almost seems too much of an emphasis in making games look good, yet having no problem with said games being shallow. Last Of Us was the opposite of this. It looked stunning, and played amazing.
And seriously, even playing through the four seasons and seeing the change in weather and environment was a treat. Oh, and that giraffe scene:
Right outta Jurassic Park, and just as awesome a moment.
All I have to say is, have you EVER had a NPC character in a game you cared about MORE than Ellie? I have essentially played every game ever made, and can tell you, none can measure even touch how human Ellie feels, and she grows on you as a player the more time you spend with her.
I mean, as soon as I saw her air guitar’ing between battles, I knew that girl’s safety was my number one priority. And don’t even get me started on her incredibly charming and awful jokes.
Clickers might just be the creepiest and best “zombie” variation…natch, enemy, I have ever encountered in a game. When they are walking, three inches away from you, and all you are doing is PRAYING you don’t mistakenly knock over a glass bottle on the ground. Man, that shit is pure tension, and makes for some AMAZING game play moments.
Few games are scary or tense anymore, but Last Of Us had that in spades, and didn’t even consider itself a horror game. That takes balls.
Oh, come on. We all know you killed the surgeons and lied to Ellie. It may have been one of the BEST set ups for a sequel EVER in gaming, but it also left you feeling like shit (which is a profound thing for a game to do). Think about it. You shut the game off after it is over and YOU, an actual person, not binary code, feel bad for something your character did in a video game. How many games have you walked away from feeling like that?
And it is with those exact thoughts in mind that I go on to say THAT, my friends and fellow geeks, is why Last Of Us is the best video game ever made. And hell, I could keep going…..