It’s nearly dawn. We have finally made it through the night, passing through an infected horde filled museum. The golden hour is upon us, a symbol of hope.
As we cross the building the camera shifts to Joel and Ellie, focusing on their facial expressions. Ellie’s eyes are star-struck towards the horizon as Joel speaks in his gruff voice,” Is that everything you hoped for?”
The camera pulls back to their shoulders, as I witness this beautiful scenery with them, taking a deep breath after that frantic escape a couple of minutes ago.
Ellie comments on experiencing what is undoubtedly her first-ever sunrise,” Jury is still out, but man can’t deny that view.” I nod in the background as if this sunrise is the most beautiful thing in the world as if suddenly I have this heightened sense of respect and attachment towards this nature’s gift. Just like Joel, I’m left with this incredible sense of serenity for a moment as Tess snaps me back into reality by saying,” Hey! Pick it up.”
That is one of the many breathtaking, raw and intimate moments in The Last of Us where I as a player has been completely drawn into the game’s universe. Even though its a game, played from a third-person perspective, it feels like I’m there, traversing this wild, unforgiving, post-apocalyptic United States in the footsteps of Joel.
Many video games have absorbed us into their worlds. Whether it’s through their addictive gameplay or intricately designed plots and characters. Many would say that The Last of Us falls into the latter category but I often argue that it also firmly belongs to the gameplay category as well and I’ll get to that later.
Irrespective of this, The Last of Us is considered one of the greatest video games of all time. Now you won’t find many people arguing about this because this is a straight fact. The Last of Us is not like Death Stranding or Red Dead Redemption 2. Both of which have a pretty polarizing audience in my opinion. The Last of Us is universally adored and this is what makes me even more nervous and excited about its upcoming follow-up and so the question arises: Are we ( and I mean everyone) ready for the sequel?
The Last of Us was first released way back in early 2013, about seven years ago. Now a lot of people have experienced this game in the different times of their lives, in a different state of mind and ultimately had a varied impact on their respective selves.
I played The Last of Us for the first time on my PS3 back in 2013. Being a 2nd-year high school student, I sure found the violence a bit disturbing and yes I could not completely understand Joel’s reserved nature and his daughter like a relationship with Ellie for the obvious reasons. I especially could not understand the gravity of the game’s abrupt ending, which I found, in that space and time unsatisfactory.
Fast forward to a few years later. I had grown up and you can say that I have had the taste of what the “real world” is all about, that includes the feeling of losing someone, the feeling of being lost, the ability to not trust other humans. I have experienced these things to some extent and so when I went back to play The Last of Us, this time on my PS4, my experience with it is much more impacting, much more emotionally enthralling and yes, much more absorbing. It’s like I was playing and experiencing something completely new as I had missed out on so many tiny details.
As of now, it has become a sort of ritual for me to play through The Last of Us again every six months or so ( and also let my non-gamer friends try this with a shock of disbelief on their faces that video games can be so powerful), and I’m surprised that my experience with it keeps on getting better for some reason. In fact the last time I played it was on the highest difficulty and it completely changed my experience with it. If you haven’t yet, The Last of Us is meant to be played at the grounded difficulty. It was this playthrough where I realized the importance of Joel’s statement to Ellie. “Make every shot count.”
Bruce Straley, who served as the gameplay director for The Last of Us did a phenomenal job capturing the same feeling of terror, loss and the melancholic aura that Neil Druckmann and his team captured through the game’s narrative. Sure the gameplay had its flaws. The AI was clumsy and the gunplay did felt a little uneven when compared to the Uncharted series but overall, it generated the same feeling which the game’s narrative did. And that is why I say that both narrative and gameplay played its part and making The Last of Us such a powerful experience. A masterpiece that is universally appreciated and acknowledged.
Fast forward to 2020. The Last of Us Part 2 is about three months away from its grand release on Sony’s PS4 and PS4 Pro. Naughty Dog has been hard at work on this game for over five years now. It has already been delayed once and there is indeed a possibility that it may receive another delay because Naughty Dog wants the launch product to be the best version of the game.
In Narrative terms, The Last of Us Part 2 is the biggest game Naughty Dog has ever crafted in the company’s history. Ellie has significantly grown up and it seems though is on a revenge mission. According to Halley Gross, who serves as the co-writer for the game, The Last of Us Part 2 is “about the cycle of violence.” It’s more about this systemic trauma that Ellie goes through over the course of the game story, which also means that we as players are going to experience something similar.
What’s noteworthy is that the sequel has grown up just like I and many others have. The Last of Us Part 2 is not going to shy away from portraying explicit content to express its story. According to the recent ESRB listing, we know that the game will feature nudity, sexual content, both of which are the first for this studio, as well as a relatively more brutal world ( as if the first one wasn’t enough.)
Gameplay-wise, a lot has changed, for the better. Ellie is more agile than Joel. Giving her more traversing options. She can dodge, prone, climb, this time around. She can also traverse the areas with a boat as we saw in the latest story trailer.
To make things more complex, enemy AI has become smarter than ever. They all have names this time around, so for example, if you shoot a woman in front of a man, who was his wife, be prepared for all hell to loose upon you as the man screams and curses you while calling his party members, making you feel guilty and tensed at the same time. Adding such elements clearly imply that Naughty Dog wants you to feel conflicted while playing the game.
Whereas the narrative has its own way of portraying “the cycle of violence,” the gameplay has its own. And so the question arises again, Are we ready for this?
Back in 2013, The Last of Us was one of the final two PS3 exclusives titles to be released on the PS3( the second one being Beyond Two Souls) as we moved onto the PS4 era. Seven years later we stand at the same place with its sequel and Ghost of Tsushima which will release further down the lane this year.
As of now, there are many more people who play video games. Throughout the years, The Last of Us has become sort of a defining game of the last decade, a must-play game for everyone and so after so many years, carrying this insane amount of hype and expectations, undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of all times, I wonder yet again: Are we ready for The Last of Us Part 2?
How has your experienced changed with The Last of Us over the course of years and how excited are you for The Last of Us part 2? Tell me in the comments down below.
Also read my opinion on why we need a new Uncharted game on the PS5 here.