Days 5 & 6 (May 9 & 10, 2015)
So now Joel and Tess have picked up Ellie and intend to take her to rendezvous with the Fireflies. Naturally, this requires sneaking out of the Boston quarantine zone and venturing through lots of dangerous shit with soldiers and zombies.
The Last of Us starts to pick up from here. Tess and Ellie are both NPCs (a new term I learned which means non-playable characters; I thought it meant National People’s Congress), but only Tess really helps out by attacking enemies.
Speaking of which, I love the variety of enemies in this game and how it mixes the humans with the zombies to provide different strategic experiences. With the humans, you have to sneak up on them and strangle or stick a shiv into them from behind so they don’t make too much noise. If they discover you, you’re screwed, and you’ll have to end up taking them all out the old-fashioned way like Emilio Estevez in Young Guns. With limited ammo and supplies, that’s not often a good idea, and you’ll have to make the most of the terrain and your ability to run to take them out one by one.
It’s really nerve-racking taking on humans because some of them have either guns or melee weapons. Using your special listening ability to see where they are hiding is often crucial, and having the patience to take your time is key. Like Eminem, my palms were sweaty.
One of my favourite tactics is to throw a bottle or brick at a human enemy to stun them, then race up to grab them and do my thing. I’ve also learned that sometimes you just have to run and forget about fighting them. It’s not like that in every game.
The zombies — known as “the infected” — provide a different experience. There are at least four types, as far as I know, depending on their stage of infection. The Runners are basically like humans, except they can’t use weapons so they are easier to kill. However, they also travel in packs, and Joel can’t fight like a character from Dynasty Warriors so the best option is usually to run away and hide.
The Stalkers are the next level up and they are pretty ferocious. They’re aggressive and can jump out of nowhere, plus they also travel in groups. Not a good idea to engage these guys head on. Then there’s the Clickers, or as I like to call them, the Motherclickers. These bad boys freak me out with the clicking noise they keep making. They’re blind, but they have super hearing, so you must try and sneak past them if you can, or distract them by throwing something in the opposite direction. The worst part is that you can’t kill them by punching them, meaning you must have a melee weapon or gun equipped. In the panic of battle, my number one option usually ends up being run!
Whether it’s fighting humans or zombies, The Last of Us is probably the tensest, most atmospheric game I’ve ever played. I was on the edge of my seat, sometimes literally, and I even had to turn up the air conditioning because it was making me sweat. The last game I played with great atmosphere was Heavy Rain, but that was more like a “choose your own adventure” extended cut scene as opposed to a real game.
The most action-packed game I’ve played recently is Resident Evil 6, which had plenty more zombies but was extremely poor in generating any real suspense. It was over-the-top and arcade-like, and the zombies were more like pinatas for you to destroy rather than real dangers.
Games I’ve played that have been both engrossing and atmospheric, with just the right amount of action, including Resident Evil 1 and 4, and Silent Hill, though those games aren’t on the same level as The Last of Us in all categories. There’s nothing quite like sneaking up on a dude, strangling him, then being jumped by a Stalker, then running to hide from a Clicker, before smashing in the head of a Runner.
The Last of Us is not relentless action by any means, but it’s precisely because of that the game is able to build up so much suspense. Rather than boring, the silence comes across as eerie and unsettling. You just never know what’s going to break that silence.
Anyway, by the end of day 6 of playing, Joel and Tess finally managed to take Ellie to the place where they’re supposed to meet up with the Fireflies. But of course, they go in to find all of them dead. To make matters worse, Tess has bad news. She’s been infected! No!!!
Naturally, I was devastated. I had been hoping that Joel would be able to keep her around like what Michonne did with her zombies in The Walking Dead, but alas, Tess preferred to sacrifice herself instead to allow Joel and Ellie to escape from the soldiers. As Jack Bauer said when Renee Walker died, “Dammit!”