What makes ‘The Last of Us’ a Surprisingly Beautiful Game?

The Release of ‘The Last of Us Part-2’ has had many delays, previously it was said to be released on the 29th of May but due to the Global Pandemic, the release has been delayed indefinitely. Hopefully it will release this year but because the developers, Naughty Dog, do not want the first gameplay experience to be compromised, we cannot be so sure as of now. ‘The Last of Us’ is based on a post-apocalyptic world. Much of the population is infected by a brain infection called Cordyceps that makes them turn into ‘zombies’. Now, even though the Gaming world has already over-killed the whole Zombie-Genre, ‘The Last of Us’ stands out to be the best (according to my and many other gamers and critics’ opinions).  The genre easily attracts a decent amount of players who buy the game in hope of something new, but end up being disappointed due to lack of disparity. Most of the Game Developing Companies focus more on getting better graphics and gory scenes in order to make a zombie game ‘better’. TLOU broke this misbelief with its release on PS3 on June 14, 2013. Selling over a whopping 1.3 million units in its first week, it is no surprise that it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. Naughty Dog is the company behind the creation of this masterpiece, the company is also known for other great games like the Uncharted Series. Due to its massive success, Naughty Dog decided to release a Remastered version of the game for the PlayStation 4. The Remastered version included a spin-off of the game called ‘Left Behind’ where we get a deeper insight into Ellie’s character where we get to take a look at her past. This was also to make us feel acquainted to playing Ellie as the main character because the next game is gonna be mainly played as Ellie.The reason behind the game’s massive success are numerous but here are the ones that are the most prominent and crucial.

Storyline and Plot

The Zombie-Genre is usually looked at just for the gore, combats, eeriness etc. Even after being a ‘Zombie game’, The Last of Us managed to strike the perfect balance between the Zombies and the Story. Instead of being a bunch of pointless battles with hordes of zombies with slight variations in each level, TLOU has by far been the best story-driven game I have played. Every second that you spend playing the game, you are not sure of anything, all you know is just the next step you’re gonna take. The story revolves around Joel and Ellie and proceeds to slowly unfold and put in all the missing pieces together. Ellie is supposedly immune to the infection and is thus taken to the doctors to possibly find some cure for the disease. This simple task is carried out by Tess and Joel, the journey of bringing Ellie to the doctors is full of ups and downs. The amount of twists and turns the story has is just right, enough to keep you wondering what the next level might throw at you.

Character Development

Joel and Sarah

The character development of all the characters was also quite impressive as we slowly get to know them better and as their bonds with each other grow stronger. Numerous types of zombies have different abilities and some can only be killed in certain ways. Instead of just fighting monsters, we also sometimes have to fight other human beings who just like us, are looking to capture the scarce amount of resources and survive. These could be the military, raiders and smugglers or members of the Firefly group. All along the way, we get to interact with different people who play small roles in the game but become a turning point in the whole story of the game. The Game ended with Joel taking Ellie away from the doctors instead of sacrificing her life for the possible cure of the infection. The last scene showed that Joel lied to her and didn’t tell her that the extraction or creation of a cure for the infection was possible yet he took her away. This scene shows how Ellie seems to now have the same importance to Joel as his daughter, Sarah, who died during the initial days of the apocalypse. At the end of the game, Joel carries Ellie away from the Soldiers in the same way he carried Sarah away from the Zombies at the beginning. He knew what would happen if he made one wrong move and thus, made sure he doesn’t make the same mistake again.

Atmospheric Setting

The Atmosphere of the whole game is wonderful and relevant to the ongoing story to some extent. The strengthening of Ellie and Joel’s friendship is portrayed with the help of a lush green environment and blooming flowers. The setting gets more chilly and dark when sorrowful events take place. This type of setting also portrays uncertainty, whether it’s when Joel is injured and Ellie does not know what to do or when they cannot find Fireflies and are lost in the infected city not knowing what their next step might be. TLOU is not a game completely based on Zombies and is definitely not hours of zombie combats on end. There are many ‘wholesome’ moments in the game, the story is pretty engaging and the post-apocalyptic vibes never fail to give the players literal chills. These little details are something any average gamer fails to notice while playing but subconsciously these things make a huge difference in the overall gameplay.

Soundtrack

Like any game, the soundtrack plays a crucial role in making the game much more intriguing and interesting. The Soundtrack is composed by Gustavo Santaolalla (in the pic on left), most of the tracks are Acoustics which gives it a more soothing and classic feel. A South-American instrument called ‘Ronroco’ (also known as the Charango), which gives it a distinctive sound. Certain sound effects like the clicking noise that a clicker makes, the sound effects of the strong gusts of chilly wind on the mountains or even the sound effect a player hears which alerts them that they were almost seen sneaking around by an enemy, also makes every level much eerier especially if it’s a stealth mission.

Collectables

Each level has some hidden passages or collectables that make exploring much fun regardless of the limited area given to explore on each level. These collectables could include Firefly Pendants or Necklaces, Badges, Comic Books, Tape Recorders with Voice recordings of the survivors which give us even more insight into the aftermath of the apocalypse. Another way that this game was made much more ‘atmospheric’ was that whenever you switch your flashlight on or off, the sound does not come from the main audio output (could be Headphones or TV Speakers), instead, the clicking sound always comes from the Dualshock 4’s In-Built Speaker. This also happens whenever you play a tape recorder, the complete recording is played on Dualshock 4 and not anywhere else.

Physics and Combat

The overall physics of the game were pretty impressive too. During a chase, you can vault over some obstacles, cling onto walls etc. The Character’s body movement and the animations play the most important role in making these moves seem real, but the camera movement and the way it follows the character also plays a major role. This creates a continuity in the player’s movement and thus much more real. The body movement of the character is also quite natural, these movements are much more prominent when the character jumps from high ground and starts running or while dodging bullets or attacks.

The Combat Physics of the game makes every fight much more interactive. Many games lag behind when it comes to making combats much more controlled. The movements of the character when using a melee weapon are pretty real and natural. The character also dodges and flinches when getting shot at. During a Gun Combat, you can take cover, charge and take out the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Even though there are not many “New Things” in ordinary combat, the overall Game Physics make it much more realistic and engaging.

Crafting System

There is also a crafting system in the Last of Us. By collecting different items found in the game which could include pieces of cloth, alcohol, Sugar, Blade etc. you could craft items and weapons like a Shiv, Nail Bomb, Health Kit. You could also use these items to upgrade your melee weapons to make them more lethal, increasing their durability and damage. When it comes to guns, you can collect gears and parts to upgrade different aspects of the weapons you own. These upgrades could result in improvement in handling and aiming, decreasing reloading time, increasing ammo capacity etc.

My Personal Feelings

Apart from the technical reasons, I adore this game for many other reasons. This was the first PS4 game that I ever played and I have many happy memories attached with this game in particular. My brother used to have a PS4 back then and I didn’t, I used to get to play this game whenever I used to visit him. It was so fun playing PS4 with him all-day and all-night. The game’s atmospheric seeing and the soundtrack always makes me go back to the time when I used to have fun with my brother playing the PlayStation, watching funny videos, listening to music and straight-up vibing. This is a pretty personal reason and is also the reason why I love this game but is not the only reason. Everyone relates a certain time period of their life and particular memories with this game. It has to be something about the aura of the game as a whole, but technically and emotionally this game is an adventure.

A Huge Shoutout to Néstor Carvajal, his amazing Flickr Profile helped me access and use these amazing photos and screenshots! It would’ve not been possible for me to make this post as beautiful as it is without his help! Make sure you check out his Flickr profile and give him a follow, he deserves it!

Attributions; Néstor Carvajal, Rogelio A. Galaviz C.


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