The Last of Us
In June 2013 a game was published on PlayStation 3 by Naughty Dog called The Last of Us, it received universal acclaim and is said by many, including me, to be the best game of its generation and potentially ever. Then a short DLC was published, The Last of Us Left Behind, and it is this super bit of story telling that I play through in this playlist.
Naughty Dog have a deserved reputation as one of the most consistently brilliant game developers in action today. From their iconic Crash Bandicoot platformers on PS1 to the load screen free openworld power of Jak and Daxter on PS2, they really came to the fore with the brilliant Uncharted series on PS3. With the Uncharted games they created Nathan Drake a modern antihero to rival Indiana Jones, then filled a gloriously beautiful world with tight compelling game play, witty intelligent storytelling and finally casting a voice actors that could really act. They have been at the forefront of motion capture technology in games and Uncharted 2 is simply one of the best games ever made.
The Last of Us
That is until they delivered The Last of Us to a astonished PS3 community in June 2013. This game was a total change in direction for this talented company. Instead of colourful jungles, boy’s own action and handsome engaging heroes this game was as bleak as it was beautiful. Set 20 years in the future, humanity has been devastated by an infection leaving the survivors either killing each other for scraps or living squalid lives in military controlled quarantine zones. Survivor Joel, an embittered smuggler, is tasked with taking a 14 year old girl called Ellie across the USA to a resistance movement working on a cure.
What The last of us does very well is to make you care deeply about the flawed humans in this road movie. The acting by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson (Joel and Ellie) is so brilliantly realised that you cannot fail but to emotionally engage with them, I am a grown man and this game had me in genuine tears 5 times. The first time was only twenty minutes in, at the end of a prologue that finishes with one of the most traumatic events I have witness in most films let alone a game. How the relationship between Joel and Ellie grows and changes is natural and superbly scripted, the incidental characters are never just incidental they add weight, colour and impetus to the awesome script.
No game is complete without enemies, The Last of Us premise is that a fungal infection called cordyceps (an actual infection that invades the nervous system of insects, video here) has jumped to humans and turned them into violent mindless beasts that attack and kill or infect any human they come across. They come in various flavours from the infected who are still recognisably human, to the terrifying clickers who find you by echo location because their faces have burst open from the infection growing in their brain. As terrifying as these abominations are their real power is that you eventually see them as victims rather than monsters.
The real monsters are the human survivors and they hunt you relentlessly, their AI is well programmed and they will flank you and coordinate their actions to take you down. Considering how sparse your ammo and weapons are this makes every encounter tense and potentially fatal. The term monster also extends to the main playable character Joel, who does some fairly monstrous things to survive and protect Ellie. This is a morally ambiguous story that will leave you wondering whether the decisions made were the right ones, a game that makes you think… That’s a bit unique in itself.
The Last of Us Left Behind
This is a two to three hour long piece of DLC that tells the story of how Ellie became the package Joel had to smuggle across the US, it also fills in a missing segment of the original game. Even though it is short it delivers every bit the impact and intensity of its big brother. Once again the voice acting is superb, the small cast of characters beautifully drawn and even though we know how it ends (do not play this before you’ve finished the main game) it still packs a tear inducing emotion gut punch at the end. The Last of Us Left Behind is a phenomenal story on its own but as an compliment to the main game it is essential. You can see my full play through of The Last of Us Left Behind by clicking here.
I hold The Last of Us as a benchmark not just for last gen gaming but as the standard all companies should strive for in new gen gaming. With a sequel and a feature film in the works we will see a lot more of this franchise and I am sure that a developer of Naughty Dog’s expertise will ensure that the quality remains intact. With The Last of us remastered for the PS4 and The Last of Us Left Behind free with this enhanced version a whole new tranche of gamers have the opportunity to play this superior gaming experience, have you?.
The Last of Us Left Behind – Part 1