The Last of Us Review: Ellie’s Tale

Humanity’s Last Hope is a 14-Year-Old-Girl.

Video games have taken a turn toward laziness when it came to storytelling as of late. Developers throw bright distractions and explosions at gamers in order to hide the lack of story or character development. This one is a bit different.

“The Last of Us,” a stealth/action survival horror game, created by Naughty Dog, the creators of the popular “Uncharted” series. From the get go “The Last of Us” shows that its attachment to characters is on the same level as George R.R. Martin’s, the end result is a cinematically paced adventure that grabs at your heart whenever you don’t expect it to. While certain sections can be tedious, the game is ultimately more an epic for its message than its ability to scare you with enemies or wow you with lush environments.

You begin the game as Joel, the middle-aged protagonist who bears a resemblance to the Brawny man. Joel loses his daughter in an attempt to escape the outbreak of a fungal virus, which turns humans into bloodthirsty animals. 20 years after the outbreak and Joel is tasked with a mission to escort a young girl about the age of his late-daughter across the post-apocalyptic remains of America in order to save the human race.

The girl, Ellie is immune to the virus and may be humanity’s only hope to combat the fungus which has decimated most of the population.

What makes Ellie stand out from the usual non-combatant partner is that her personality. Ellie is rude with a mouth like a sailor, which makes it evident that she has been raised in a society with no rules. Her characteristics and mannerisms break the tension between the two strangers forced to travel together. She even helps in minor ways in combat situations.

Since it is evident early in the game that Ellie cannot swim, throughout the game you are tasked with constant missions to find pallets for Ellie to jump on top of so that Joel can transport her from place to place. After about the third time, the whole process becomes tedious. Luckily near every mass of water there is a pallet conveniently hidden.

Joel, though, is designed like a real person. When you turn to look around there is a slight delay as a human would. The little snags and steps Joel takes shows that he isn’t a superhero or a cyborg like creature. Joel seems fragile, a bit older and he must use any means to overcome his age and complete his mission but most of all to survive at all costs.

The game uses stealth as a means of conservation, with limited supplies of rations, ammunition, and blades weapons stealth becomes the greatest ally in encounters which would otherwise prove to be impossible.

Most of the combat is either stealth or cover-based shooting, although the melee executions use the environment in creative ways to demolish the enemies. Joel uses desks, walls, and floors to crush skulls of his enemies.

There is an arsenal of weapons available to Joel in order to keep himself and Ellie safe. Pistol, shotgun, bow and arrow, hunting rifle, sawed-off shotgun to name a few are all at your disposal. As ammo runs low, you must change to different weapons.

As you travel from city to city you realize that the infected are not the only dangers in this world. Humans have become a primal and greedy species. Hunters are humans who hunt other humans for their weapons, ammo, clothing and lives. They are Darwinism personified. Most major cities are overrun by these militia groups and they are out for blood.

Along with the Hunters are the Cannibals who have resorted to means less than normal to keep themselves fed. Cannibals hunt humans in order to eat them as well as to confiscate their goods.

Through the progression of the game you realize that as bad as the infected are at least they don’t control their actions. They are sick. The real menace of the game is the human element. Humans are the ones who turn to cruel and barbaric methods of survival.

“The Last of Us” uses its soundtrack to add to the ambiance of the game. The music speeds up into a rapid buzz when danger circles, yet when Joel and Ellie are found in the middle of the beautiful foliage of the American countryside, the music dances like the wind in a way which emphasizes the beauty of nature and it’s safety.

“The Last of Us” is a story driven game with a presence of action and adventure built in. It can best be described as similar to a movie where you control the parts between the dialogues.

If anything The Last of US gives the player an experience which is thoroughly filled with dramatic turns. Exploration of areas thrusts the characters into dialogues which reveal their emotional attachments to events which happen.

What makes “The Last of Us” stand out are the elements of surprise and the predictability. The game comforts the player into safety and then throws them for a loop. It balances action and story. It gives you hope and rips it away. The most important aspect of it all is that it shows humanity for what it is. Humans are neither good nor evil- there is a balance and at any given point all people fall on both sides of the spectrum. There is no good or bad when it comes to self-preservation, it is all subjective and in “The Last of Us” it is brought to the foreground.

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