After completing the opening of the critically acclaimed survival horror game (and by opening, I mean when our faithful trio dwindles down to two adventurers) The Last of Us, I decided to offer my initial thoughts.
Now as someone who doesn’t do great with survival horror (or any sort of horror) The Last of Us’ initial appeal was the step it takes away from jump-scares and strange noises in order to focus on the story and character development. However, what I wasn’t expecting was the juxtaposition of peaceful chatter with horrors hiding around the corner guarding much needed rags. Although sounds of clicking tell the player when a certain danger is around, the game still manages to hide enemies well enough that you’re never truly expecting them. So much so that after a while, I was creeping forward with my finger held down on the R2 button in order to catch dangers before they caught me. That tactic ended up being quite flawed. Yes, I ended up getting killed a lot. Stealth is a weak point of mine, okay?
As I was failing bitterly, I decided to change the difficulty down a notch before realising that it wasn’t too helpful a move. Rather than getting rid of some enemies and giving me a few more blows to the head before I died, the difficulty settings seem to affect nothing but the scarcity of ammo and materials as well as how many bottles you can knock over before being overheard. Now that’s the sort of difficulty changes I like, especially in survival games; nobody really wants to change from being able to kill enemies in one shot to having to unload an armoury’s worth of ammo into their super-strength heads. Instead, The Last of Us tests your survival skill rather than your perseverance with a weapon. Rather apt really, considering this is a game set on atmosphere and forward planning.
Speaking of survival and forward planning, Joel is incredibly responsive to your commands. He’ll hug the wall when you want him to, even hug other characters who get in your way, rather than move five miles around them and stand out in the open for all to see. Something that both Ellie and Tess need to take notes on. On various occasions, both women decide to hold their position when a soldier or clicker is walking around to look behind your hiding space. At this point, Joel is happily creeping in the opposite direction, obviously because he actually values his life. What makes it worse (although I possibly mean better, I can’t quite decide) is that the enemies never seem to spot them. If I try the same thing though, I’m dead before I can curse the AI. Don’t get me wrong, after a while you start watching your own back and not really caring what they’re up to, so it doesn’t detract from the experience too much.
As for the relationship we’ve seen in numerous trailers and gameplay between Ellie and Joel, I’ve yet to see. Currently we’re herding this young girl around because she has special blood and because Tess told us so. If it were up to me, I’d ditch her and head back home for a nap – she feels the need to comment on everything and questions what we’re doing far too often. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that she’s seeing the real outside world for the first time and no doubt wants to be offered some sort of explanation, but an off switch wouldn’t go amiss. Here’s hoping that part of the story is building that relationship as the characters open up to each other and the player (because from what I can tell, Joel feels exactly the same way I do), otherwise by the end of the game I may have accidentally strangled the wrong being.
Tess is a much nicer companion and seems to be the one driving the story at the moment, albeit only heading forward to get some guns that already belong to them. However, I’ve found that she likes telling Joel to take the lead without really telling him which of the five directions is the right one – Joel may have taken this route before, but Sian certainly hasn’t. Getting lost isn’t too bad though, especially when you’re outside where the game goes from being brown and dark to a brightly coloured peaceful scene (riddled with death). Exploration is key to this game and, as long as you keep stocked up on shivs to open all the doors, is an enjoyable experience. You forget all the trouble back in your zone and really start to enjoy nature as it should be.
It’s just too bad it’ll take the end of the world to make people do so.