The Last of Us: Left Behind

The Last of Us: Left Behind Features for PS3

On: PS3
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7Out of 10
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The argument for...

Simon:

The Last of Us screenshot

A year on from its release and back to the forefront of people's minds thanks to its remastered version, The Last Of Us remains one of the standout games across two generations. Both a justification to own a PS3 and a genuine reason to now invest in a PS4, there's a very strong argument to be had that Naughty Dog's action-horror is among one of the best titles, period.

As the developer is more than happy to let you know, a large part of this is down to its narrative. Taking risks that games don't often dare take, it follows very few of the cliches the genre often falls victim too. The focus here is on making the world both believable and depressingly real to the point where the idea of a protagonist doesn't really exist. You may be asked to take control of Joel, but there's nothing you can do to prevent him being, on occasion, an absolute asshole. Rather than giving you the opportunity to reflect yourself in his character, you're merely a tool as his story unfolds. For the most part, that can be exceptionally unpleasant.

This goes for every individual in The Last Of Us as well and yet none ever come across as false or uncomfortable in the scenario they find themselves in. Saying this feels 'real' may be a step too far, but it certainly never feels out of place. Every rule the Californian developer sets for itself is held up meticulously until the end credits roll, allowing yourself to be far more immersed than almost the entirety of the competition.

While it succeeds in doing this through its story, Naughty Dog also ensures the core of the game keeps you intrigued. The central concept constantly comes back to the idea of avoiding detection from the infected and continually feeling like it's never an even fight. I can't believe anyone didn't have a few 'edge of their seat' moments, desperately hoping not to be seen or have their face eaten off. In particular, finding yourself trapped beneath a hotel surrounded by Clickers is among one of the most tense and terrifying in all of gaming. I was genuinely relieved to get past it.

This why it excels, however. From the second it pulls the rug from under you with its prologue up to its hard-hitting end, it never shies away from the harshness it wants to represent or the journey it wants to take you on. There are few instances that can be described as jovial and uplifting, but they're all the more impactful because of it.

So while the argument will never truly be laid to rest, The Last Of Us deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Ocarina of Time, Shadow of the Colossus, Dragon Age: Origins or whatever games come to your mind when you think about those that are your favourite. It's not perfect, but it comes pretty damned close.

The argument against...

Brett:

The Last of Us screenshot

Let me start off by saying I love The Last of Us. Its narrative touched me deeply, and was a game that I immediately showed off to friends and family who have no interest in the medium to show them how impactful the story was.

Watching my mum cry at the end of the prologue, turning to me and asking the simplest of questions, “why?”, will be as powerful as any moment. This also leads me to my major issue, not with the game itself, but with people’s appraisal of it.

Whenever I talk about The Last of Us with friends, I notice a common theme: when people discuss their favourite, or standout moments, very few are actually tied to gameplay.

Many of the key moments people recall are cutscenes, a piece of biting dialogue or that moment in the surgeon’s theatre, but nothing of which the player is the agent. Of course, it can be argued that the giraffe scene and pulling the trigger were gameplay moments, but in actuality, you had no control: they were in-game cutscenes in which you had no autonomy - you had to follow Ellie to the edge of the building, you were forced to shoot that doctor.

This is where my sticking point regarding The Last of Us lies: yes, it is the greatest narrative ever told, but it is not the greatest game ever made.

As I’ve said before, for a relatively young person, I’m a fussy old curmudgeon when it comes to gaming. I have a very old-fashioned idea for what constitutes gameplay. When people talk about the best of all time I think of Super Mario, Zelda and Dark Souls. But there have been narrative-driven experiences that also rank among my favourites, Telltale’s The Walking Dead being one such example. The gameplay in TWD serves the progression of the narrative. I don’t want a challenge; I don’t want to learn the intricacies of its mechanics - I simply want to get to the next cutscene and make an all-important decision that’ll probably lead to someone’s face being chewed off.

Naughty Dog's action-horror has very good gameplay mechanics for the most part - far superior to Uncharted, a series I’ve never particularly enjoyed because of its linearity. The gaming sections are very good, just not outstanding. Remember those plank-and ladder-fetching sequences? Do they scream G.O.A.T. to you? Again, my problem isn’t with the game. I’m perfectly happy with the gameplay and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I love The Last of Us and it will be a long time before a team offers a narrative as compelling, but there are already games out there that are more entertaining to play.

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User Comments

Neil_S_Bolt's Avatar

Neil_S_Bolt

It's one of the best of the generation gone, and by virtue of the remaster, this one too. The meld of narrative to gameplay to design is done so well, creating a great atmosphere.

Gameplay wise? TLOU is alright, like a modern Manhunt in many ways, but that is certainly the weakest part of the entire experience. However, it doesn't matter as much as it could simply because it is so tightly woven into the rest of the package.
Posted 01:11 on 04 September 2014
Woodfella's Avatar

Woodfella@ renegade

If you cant fit it in to the world they why have it there at all? Scrap it!

It completely took me out of the world, an absolute disaster in a game like this.

Joel could have just as easily been caught in a different trap, a pit, cage bear trap. Then the struggle is "*****, we have to get out of here before they come back" rather than shoot about 50 guys until you're allowed to get down
Posted 20:23 on 03 August 2014
joeydamosthigh's Avatar

joeydamosthigh

I don't think The Last of Us is the best game ever made. I don't mind it being considered as one of them though. I really enjoyed the story, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated at times because Ellie or other characters would get me killed by Clickers because the AI for characters following you wasn't too sharp. I wish there was a feature where you could command them to move to certain hiding spots/places for cover. I also didn't like the repetitiveness of getting planks for Ellie, could've at least made it that it wasn't a plank every time lol Besides that, it's an excellent game, and at times a challenging one, which is good. Does have a good amount of cheap deaths though. Best game I've ever played was Arkham City. I'd say it's impossible to say which game is the best game ever made objectively. I think it's completely possible with simulation sports titles.
Posted 19:56 on 03 August 2014
renegade's Avatar

renegade@ Woodfella

Lets flip this around.

This is a game and that point is a checkpoint. So you have 5 bullets and miss etc and die, you restart again. This could happen forever because its a checkpoint loop that you had no idea was coming so would not prepare for it.

Sad as it is, and yeh its stupid, but it is required.
Posted 08:40 on 03 August 2014
Woodfella's Avatar

Woodfella

Oh, I forgot about one of the worst bits! In a world where resources are scarce Joel somehow magically gets infinite ammo when he gets caught in a trap
Posted 02:19 on 03 August 2014
gonzalobot's Avatar

gonzalobot

TLoU is an incredibly polished and thoughtful execution of the wrong way to make video games. It's a very high note in the tune AAA development has been singing since the Playstation broke through: the "cinematic experience". As Brett says, the greatest moments of the game happen as you, the player, just watch. The interactive portions of the game usually elicited impatient sighs from myself. I was very invested in the story and whenever I was forced into a shooting gallery I just rushed through as quickly as possible - on easy. With the exception of one scene* there was very little integration of the "two cultures" as it were. Having some conversation while you walked about, clearly demarcated by the pacing of the environmental design and the character animations, before walking back into Shanksville wasn't enough. None of this is to say that the videogamey moments were always bad, but I found them to be pretty run-of-the-mill sneaky third person action stuff. I felt it used combat too much of a crutch (and way too many games do), as if it had no other ideas for what the player could do to interact with the world (pallet puzzles notwithstanding).

I will applaud Naughty Dog for delivering a very satisfying ending to the narrative though. From the moment you meet Ellie in the game, I was terrified that the final scene would be an echo of that final scene in the prologue, with Joel holding a dying girl in his arms and crying. Even worse, it could have been a happy ending where everything worked out great. So kudos for ND for having the balls to go for something all together darker and more believable. It means so much for a narrative heavy game to end well (see the first Bioshock or Mass Effect 3 - ugh), so I'm very happy ND didn't fall into back into convention when it mattered most.

If I were to score it, I'd give it a solid 8/10, inviting the *****-eating scorn of half the internet, even though 80% is a mark you'd be happy to get on an exam or as the likelihood of making it through a cancer treatment.

*The best integrated moment in the game was the deer hunt as Ellie. It told the player a lot about Ellie's progression, and about the world she now lived in with very little being explicitly said. It was beautiful and serene, and I wish the game was brave enough to let more moments like that fill in the "interactive" portions of the game.
Posted 10:11 on 02 August 2014
fruit_n_veg's Avatar

fruit_n_veg

While I do see Brett's point that many (but by no means all) of the memorable moments in The Last of Us are cutscenes and driven by its narrative, rather than gameplay, I do think that one of the great successes of TLoU is that it integrates its gameplay elements so well with its world and narrative (unlike, for example, Uncharted). I think that it is perhaps unfair to split the game into 'gameplay' and 'story', as unlike some other narrative-driven games, such as, in my opinion, Bioshock Infinite, TLoU does not feel like the developers were effectively trying just to tell a story, while just bolting on gameplay as a secondary element. The survivalist nature of the gameplay and the strong tension it creates helps to immerse the player into the world and also empathise with the characters by making the player experience the same harshness of the situation. I think that the gameplay is integral to creating the tension of the story and thus in building up the atmosphere of the game - when you complete a difficult combat section, you feel the same feelings as the characters do, and thus connect with the characters and the world. I do not believe that TLoU, and its strong narrative, would be anywhere near as effective without the gameplay (watching a walkthrough or just the cutscenes is not the same as actually playing the game) - the success of its story is greatly served by its gameplay, thus these elements cannot be so simply separated, and are reliant on eachother to create the overall experience.
Posted 23:44 on 01 August 2014
Woodfella's Avatar

Woodfella

Can I please write a piece for Videogamer called "Is God Hand the best game ever made?"

It's 10,000 words long.
Posted 22:41 on 01 August 2014
Junior86's Avatar

Junior86

Great game, but it will never top Uncharted 2 for pure adrenaline and non stop fun, from start to finish the game is one big roller coaster. It might not have the emotional punch that last of us delivers but it has well developed characters and engrossing story.

I do agree with Simon and the clickers under the hotel part, that was some scary biscuits, especially on hard difficulty.

Here's a tip for new players, near the final chapter stick to the right of the corridor when faced with all the bad guys, you can breeze right past them.
Posted 20:46 on 01 August 2014
Lalaland's Avatar

Lalaland

Are we not into 'what is a game' territory here? For me TLoU is one of the best games ever made (Civ will always own my heart) but the more interesting question for me is Brett's idea of whether a game is mechanics, story or a combination of these and more.

By way of comparison Koyannisqatsi is one of my favourite films of all time but I will happily admit that it's barely watchable unless you're happy for a film to be a purely visual experience (although I would argue the Philip Glass' soundtrack makes it an auditory delight also). Equally my burning love for Kubrick is tempered by the knowledge that as narratives his films are frequently incomprehensibly dull (except Dr Strangelove which is awesome in every possible way).

I suppose the question I would ask is does a game have to offer interactivity, narrative and choice in equal measures to be the G.O.A.T. or is it sufficient to be an outstanding example of one or more?
Posted 19:48 on 01 August 2014
boycee's Avatar

boycee@ VGSteve

I don't think there's been a more terrifying game than the Resi remake.
Posted 15:17 on 01 August 2014
Woodfella's Avatar

Woodfella@ VGSteve

Nice, I'd have guessed resident evil 4
Posted 14:39 on 01 August 2014
VGSteve's Avatar

VGSteve@ Woodfella

The Resident Evil remake on Gamecube.
Posted 14:23 on 01 August 2014
Woodfella's Avatar

Woodfella

Oh and I loved using the bow and arrow. It's really quite difficult to aim unupgraded and it takes a while to line up shots but that is the sacrifice you make for eliminating foes silently from distance. Don't upgrade it.
Posted 14:21 on 01 August 2014
Woodfella's Avatar

Woodfella

This game just wouldn't let me love it. It's great and I can still remember brilliant emergent moments of combat that occurred during my play through. BUT it seemed that just when I began to enjoy myself the game thought "Not so fast Richard" and ruined it. The tedious slog of the first few hours with that effing SWAT team. The bit where you have to avoid sniper fire. When I had to go and fetch a pallet for the umpteenth time I started to decry the fact you couldn't just let her drown.

The biggest disappointment came in Winter though. I think it's the best part of the game, the shift in the narrative and that deer hunt were fantastic. Following the trail of blood and coming upon the wounded animal, echoing what had happened a few minutes before, great. Sneaking around in that fog was brilliant too, it was really tense and also brilliantly frustrating by design. At this point the player knows where Ellie is but Joel doesn't. The fog is an equaliser. BUT THEN. THEN. I entered that building as Ellie and my heart sunk. I clocked the (un)conveniently scattered fragments of broken plate and instantly thought "Ugh, boss fight". That boss fight with... Elijah(?) is horrendous, it sticks out horribly. And that's because it's perhaps The game's most 'videogamey' moment. Three hits and he's dead, mario style. And that's a funny thing to criticise a game for isn't it? Being too "gamey", but up until then The last of us had been a bit different, film like in its narrative ambitions. This is a blemish in gameplay and narrative terms.

I like the end though and I mean the very end, not that *****e hospital siege. No sequel please, thanks.
Posted 14:18 on 01 August 2014

Game Stats

Release Date: 14/02/2014
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: SCEE
Genre: Action
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 1,340 222
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