‘The Last of Us’ Diary: Part I

May 9, 2015 in Best Of, Game Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

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Nearly two years ago, American studio Naughty Dog released The Last of Us on PS3. The game went on to win more than 240 game of the year awards around the world, a number only slightly less unfathomable than the fact that there actually are so many game of the year awards to hand out. I wanted to get the game immediately, but with an 18-month-old baby, another one due shortly and this other commitment called life, I was forced to put my dream of playing the game on the backburner.

Last month, I went to Tokyo and visited a Yodobashi Camera, just possibly the best electronic stores ever created. It was in the store’s video game section that my eyes feasted on a familiar image that brought the memories flooding back. Not only that, the game had become part of the PS3 classic collection, meaning it was ON SPECIAL.

This was my face upon those realisations:

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And so, despite having games I bought more than two years ago still wrapped in their original plastic covering, I decided it was imperative that I purchase The Last of Us immediately.

After returning, however, I didn’t rip into the game right away. It’s hard to describe, but I liken it to starting a new writing project — you’re excited but you’re also terrified of the commitment it’s going to take to get through to the end. Accordingly — and I’m not kidding — I spent one night admiring the cover (both front and back), and another reading the Japanese instructions manual (front to back).

And then, I was ready.

This post and those to follow it will be a diary of my experience playing The Last of Us. There could be some mild spoilers, but I’ll keep the big revelations concealed for those who want to check it out for themselves.

Day 1 (May 5, 2015)

– Man, I miss the days when you can just plug in a cartridge, turn on the system, and get playing right away. These days, you have to first log in to the Playstation interface, select the game, and then, just when you’re pumped to go, it tells you that you have to update the “system” and install some underlying game files. The same went for The Last of Us, meaning I had to wait about another 15 minutes before I could actually get into the game.

– I also missed the old loading times, or lack thereof. You don’t notice it once you’re into the game, but in the beginning The Last of Us took so long to load I thought the game had stuffed up.

loading

You see this a lot in the beginning

– Finally, we’re in. The first thing that struck me about the game was how cinematic it looks and feels. Games these days all tend to go down the cinematic route, with Heavy Rain in particular sticking out in my mind (I haven’t played a lot, as you can tell), though The Last of Us takes it to another level. The camera angles, the cuts, the spot-on musical score — it’s no wonder a movie version is in the works, set for release in 2016. It’ll be easy — the director can probably just take scenes from the game and film them again in exactly the same way.

– The opening scene of the game is an eerie one that sets up the calm before the storm. The protagonist, Joel, returns home from a long day of work and his baby girl is waiting for him. It’s a sweet little scene that takes minimal time to construct a genuine father-daughter relationship before the shit hits the fan. And boy does the shit hit with a splatter. As most of you know, The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic horror-survival drama game (what a mouthful) set 20 years after a viral outbreak that has wiped out most of civilization.

lastopening

So sad

– After the trauma of that superbly executed opening sequence — which holds its own against any post-apocalyptic zombie movie in recent years — we get the intro credits, a work of art in its own right. It’s stylish, informative, and reminds me of the openings of the best shows on TV in the modern era.

– When the credits finish rolling, the story moves forward by 20 years. There are a few safe/quarantine zones scattered around, with martial law being the norm. Joel has become a member of a shady group of smugglers in Boston. And here’s my first complaint about the game — he looks a little too similar to how he did 20 years ago; just greyer hair, a bushier beard and a few more wrinkles around the eyes. Perhaps the difference is more noticeable on the PS4 version, but the numbers don’t fully add up. We have to assume Joel was probably in his mid-30s in the opening scene, meaning he would have been in his mid-50s by the time the game begins “properly”. And he looks a little too buffed for a dude living in a world where food is insanely scarce. I think I thinner Joel would have been more realistic, and perhaps a clean shaven young (or stubble) Joel would have brought out the age difference more.

Young Joel vs Old Joel

Young Joel vs Old Joel

That brings me to the end of my first day of playing and Part I of my Last of Us Diary. I only played it for about 20 minutes, but I’m starting to feel that the hype surrounding this game is not unwarranted. Seriously, I already think it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played, and I haven’t even done anything!

Stay tuned for Part II.

PS: Just about everyone I spoke to about the game said I should have gotten a PS4 so I could play the remastered version of the game released last year. It was tempting, but ultimately I knew it wouldn’t be a wise investment given how little I get to play consoles these days. Besides, the graphics on the PS3 look good enough to me.