“You have no idea what loss is.”
November 25, 2019 3:24 PM   Subscribe

The Last of Us is worth returning to, 6 years later [Polygon] “TheThe Last of Us may be five six years old, but it’s still the best big game story out there. If you have access to a PlayStation 4 and haven’t played it yet, you should definitely get your hands on the The Last of Us Remastered. [...] In the half-decade since, I’ve played plenty of games that are more fun and more tightly constructed. But no big budget game has yet equaled The Last of Us for story. There have been strong contenders among the multi-million dollar production set — Horizon Zero Dawn, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Wolfenstein 2 come to mind — but none of them have delivered the levels of depth, sophistication and narrative transgression that we saw with this game, back in 2013. I came back to The Last of Us in recent days, wanting to re-familiarize myself with its characters. It surprised me that I was just as affected by the relationships in this game as I was when it first came out.” [The Last of Us Remastered] [Game Trailer]

• The Last of Us is a masterclass in silent storytelling [Eurogamer]
“The Last of Us is stamped with what once was and never will be again. It is a world so ravaged by death that still, decades later, it offers little respite for its survivors. Bodies rot under the midday sun, as others - bloated and moist - decay in sewers. They sit mouldering in vehicles choking off-ramps and cower behind boarded-up windows in empty suburbs. It is an endless, relentless reminder of yesterday that offers scant hope for tomorrow, but it is also Joel and Ellie's reality. As such, the poignancy of this broken world - and this broken man - gut-punched my emotions in a way I didn't quite expect. [...] No, The Last of Us wasn't the industry's first foray into zombie games and yes, it uses a smorgasbord of rote, if competent, paint-by-number mechanics like crafting, upgrading, and unremarkable cover-based combat. The humankind-is-its-own-true-enemy theme isn't particularly novel, either. Yet The Last of Us remains the only game to make me grieve for characters I never met, mourn a world I never saw, and root for this broken man and his live cargo.”
• Why ‘The Last of Us’ Was the Greatest Game of the Last Console Generation [Vice Gaming]
“Most big-budget, triple-A games attempt to attract the player with style over substance, with sweeping vistas and bright blue skies, striking environments and colourful characters. But while it's from the same massive-publisher production line, The Last of Us isn't like most games. It's dark and claustrophobic, gritty and cruel. It's shitty people, with dirty clothes and greasy hair, doing whatever shitty things it takes to survive. The game's macabre world sees every ounce of your hope and joy and slaps them out of you with frighteningly cold indifference. It bludgeons, garrottes and contorts your twee perception of morality until you're mercilessly and systematically gunning down an entire hospital of innocent people. And, in the end, you'll be glad for the experience. Because, never mind other games, no other entertainment medium can evoke such raw emotion, can make you care so passionately about its characters. The Last of Us is special because it encapsulates that innate will to survive like few examples of its kind can so much as aspire to. This is as good as it gets.”
• It Took a Dystopian Future Affected By Fungal Virus For Me To Say “I Like Girls Too” [The Mary Sue]
“The Last of Us quickly became a serendipitous reminder—a shower of nostalgia—about what attracted me to the first girl I liked. Her personality was highly similar to Ellie and it did not click at first, but as the game progressed, I started referencing mental images of Ellie in my head that represented characteristics I liked about my childhood crush. [...] My experience playing The Last of Us is less about surviving through a fungal infection in post-apocalyptic America with Ellie, but more about unraveling an identity I have detached as Ellie guided me back through it. To put it simply, Ellie created an opening for me to explore the basis of what attracted me to girls. Truly, The Last of Us made me experience a full narrative exploring the character dynamics of Ellie, as well as the duality of her relationship with Riley. But more importantly, this game provided me the reassurance I needed to validate me being bisexual. If it were not for characters like Ellie and Riley, I would not have had developed a backbone to accept my bisexuality. Diversity like this is significant because they give weight to representation in games.”
• Let's Watch Nolan North Play The Last Of Us For The First Time [Kotaku] [YouTube]
“The Last Of Us has one of the most powerful beginnings of any video game, which makes it hard to stop watching this unusual new Let’s Play of the game. The 77-minute video, uploaded to YouTube yesterday, is hosted by the actors who played the lead roles in that intro scene, while the game is played by a Last Of Us first-timer: the voice of Nathan Drake, Nolan North. Without spoiling things too much, the game’s intro establishes the disastrous state of the world in which the rest of the game is set. It lasts about 20 minutes before the opening title sequence hits. The actors co-hosting this first installment are Troy Baker, who played Joel, and Hana Hayes, who played Joel’s daughter, Sarah. Both talk over North’s playthrough of the intro, offering behind-the-scenes tidbits about how various scenes were staged, as well as revealing that a key line early on had been ad-libbed and describing how they handled multiple takes of the intro’s climactic moment.”
posted by Fizz (64 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Definitely one of the titles I'm sorry I missed out on by skipping recent Playstations.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:29 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


F yes, The Last Of Us is amazing and has pretty much spoiled me for most other game narratives and voice acting. I eagerly await the sequel.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:32 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I am extremely hesitant about the upcoming sequel (can't handle gruesome scenes as I get older), but this first game for sure cemented Naughty Dog as royalty among game studios for me. Uncharted 4 was amazing, and The Last of Us was amazing.

Yes it has some conventional plot points, yes you still need to pick up a gun and shoot bad guys, but dang I still think about it years and years later.

I'm so excited to watch Nolan North try it!
posted by erratic meatsack at 3:36 PM on November 25, 2019


With regard to the gruesome violence, this is what erratic meatsack is referencing. See this previous post.
posted by Fizz at 3:41 PM on November 25, 2019


Oh man, it looks like they’ve come out with a Mac version, too!

(I know what I’m doing over the Christmas holiday!)
posted by darkstar at 3:52 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


The game's macabre world ... bludgeons, garrottes and contorts your twee perception of morality until you're mercilessly and systematically gunning down an entire hospital of innocent people.

Good lord, what an "...are we the baddies?" ending that was.
posted by ripley_ at 4:00 PM on November 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


Oh man, it looks like they’ve come out with a Mac version, too!

Where do you see that? It's always been a Playstation exclusive. (Which is why I've never played it.)
posted by neckro23 at 4:03 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


PSNow maybe?

I tried it for another title on my PC, didn't find it very satisfactory.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:04 PM on November 25, 2019


I suppose I'm dissenting voice here on Last of Us (I wrote about my issues in that Last of Us 2 trailer post so I'll try not to repeat my points at length here) but I didn't connect with it at all. It makes me queasy imagining replaying it - all that really personal violence... At the very least I really wished that they included the possibility of a nonviolent run through it (or at least an alternate to strangling everybody) and a bit more nuance of an ending would help too.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:07 PM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Is there a good video I can watch to get the story without playing the game? I've tried to play it like three times and I just hated the game mechanics, quit halfway through. I know a big part of the game is the emotional bond you get actually playing through protecting Ellie, but at this point I'm never gonna do it and just want to watch. Miraculously I've somehow never had the story spoiled for me.
posted by Nelson at 4:11 PM on November 25, 2019


The Story of The Last of Us

all of the spoilers, naturally
I haven't watched it, so no voucher for quality, but I think it's just the cutscenes and any other key moments edited together.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:14 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I had such a weird response to this game. I was super hyped for it, bought a used PS3 just to play it, even wrote a gushing FPP about it. It didn't disappoint -- on the contrary, it was so incredibly gripping that after devouring it over the course of a few days I popprd it back in the case and never played it again. Like that first experience of it was so immersive and powerful that playing through it again would somehow diminish it. Never even got into the multiplayer, despite loving the mechanics and getting a free trial for it.

Needless to say, I'm super excited for the sequel.

edit: I should mention for context that I've replayed epic narrative games lots of times -- Portal, the Halo trilogy, Fallout 3, etc. This is the only one that's been so emphatically one-and-done.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:18 PM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I also didn't like it, almost entirely based on the gameplay - I was never able to shake alert enemies. Combat became either a matter of keeping up stealth for almost the entire battle, and the game's stealth is not as deep or as satisfying as it'd need to be for that to be fun, or I'd die pretty quickly and have to start from the checkpoint.
posted by Merus at 4:20 PM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm with Nelson: the game mechanics were just too "off" for me. And I say that as a veteran Soulsborne player, played Doom on the PS4 with no problems, can play various racing games even while stoned, etc.

When I first sat down to play it, I remember thinking during the opening segment "Ahhh, as an Austinite, I finally know how people from Paris, London, Chicago, SF, NYC, etc feel when they see the liberties gamemakers take with their city's layouts and scale!" :-D

I'll probably return to it one day soon and force myself to get better at the mechanics, but I do wish it had a super-simplified play-through mode like Detroit: Become Human though.
posted by lord_wolf at 4:21 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well crap.

It appears the web sites listing it for Mac are just lying hackers trying to get you to click on something.

It does look like it’s for PS exclusively. What a shame.
posted by darkstar at 4:37 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Add me to the list of those who couldn't get into TLoU. Tried twice. Can't get into these "serious" movie games much at all.

These epic movie/game/things just don't work for me. Like someone mentioned in the other MeFi thread linked: I cannot grok the disconnect between "Nathan Drake, the realistic cut scene guy" and "Nathan Drake, the murderous gunslinger superhuman with Unlimited monkey-like climbing and jumping ability (but only in spots where the game allows super-monkey climbing abilities) guy". It's so completely silly for me to play as an acrobatic superhero with unlimited stamina who guns down twenty thugs with four different guns and a grenade and a Molotov in one scene, and then play as the moral everyman with some Tough, Real Life Decisions™ to make in the next. And has a touching conversation with his wife over the phone.

Then back to the monkey acrobatics and gunslinger stuff. Repeat.

And stealth: Stealth games always feel to me like the real game is figuring out what the game wants me to do versus just playing playing the game. Add in the typical "patrolling guard" mechanic... where the guards walk, pause, turn, pause, walk back with clockwork reliability and timing, finding the bush-path to take, avoid the searchlights, etc and it always feels artificial to me. Like the developers built 2-3 different routes a player can make to get through, then set all the obstacles up afterwards.

TLoU doesn't have the same amount of silly murder-carnage and unlimited monkey-skills as Uncharted. But these story games—especially the "serious" story games—always come across as me doing crazy chores just so I can unlock the next chapter in the movie I'm trying to watch.

Make a movie. I'm sure it could be at least a GOOD movie. Or make a game. Just don't try to have it both ways. It's too much of a disconnect for me. Let me let go of reality and play a crazy action game! That's fine and it is a good thing sometimes. Or let me watch a serious movie and reflect on life and human relationships and love and loss. That's also a good thing sometimes.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:49 PM on November 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


Make a movie. I'm sure it could be at least a GOOD movie. Or make a game. Just don't try to have it both ways. It's too much of a disconnect for me. Let me let go of reality and play a crazy action game! That's fine and it is a good thing sometimes.

With all due respect, fusing these things is one of the experiences the video game medium enables.

It doesn't have to be for you, and using machinima (cinematic game engine manipulation) tools to produce 'developer's cuts' of beloved games for watching by those who haven't played the title (or just really love it) seems like a natural evolution both artistically and commercially.

I'd be kinda curious to know what Kojima thinks the authoritative Metal Gear experience is, compressed across the titles. As an example.

(Although, arguably that loses some of the variability of the experience that characterizes the form.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:52 PM on November 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


Of course it doesn't have to be for me. And I think this fusion you mention can and does work sometimes. Just played Borderlands 3 recently. That works for me as a continuous story and a game at the same time. Because the action is crazy and over the top, and the story is too! It's not trying to paint a realistic, gritty real-world that we can all relate to. (Just an example off the top of my head... I don't think the story in Borderlands 3 makes for an amazing movie, just that there's no screaming disconnect between cut scenes and gameplay.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:57 PM on November 25, 2019


One of the things that I like best about TLoU is that I didn't feel that disconnect between "good guy in cutscenes" and "murderous guy during gameplay." I feel bad for Joel, and I get why he is who he is, but past the intro, he is not a good person. I didn't want to do that in the hospital, but Joel absolutely would.

It's a hard game to get through, both in terms of difficulty and the brutality of it, but it's one of my favorite gaming experiences.

That final "Okay." Oof. Brutal.
posted by Sibrax at 5:13 PM on November 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


Can I ask for a clarification?

Does the game actually require the player to massacre a hospital full of innocent people?

Or is that some kind of allowed-but-not-required game play?

Because if the game actually requires you to be a heinous mass murderer, then no thanks.
posted by darkstar at 5:26 PM on November 25, 2019


Can I ask for a clarification?

Does the game actually require the player to massacre a hospital full of innocent people?

Or is that some kind of allowed-but-not-required game play?

Because if the game actually requires you to be a heinous mass murderer, then no thanks.


Not in the sense you're thinking of - gurl'ir gnxra phfgbql bs Ryyvr, gur tvey lbh'er cebgrpgvat guebhtubhg gur tnzr, orpnhfr fur unf n trargvp zhgngvba gung nyybjf ure gb erfvfg vasrpgvba, naq pna or hfrq gb perngr n inppvar. Gur bcrengvba vf sngny, naq vg'f abg pyrne gung Ryyvr pbafragf gb guvf (ohg vg'f nyfb dhvgr cbffvoyr gung fur jbhyq).

Zbfg bs gur crbcyr lbh nggnpx va gur ubfcvgny ner nezrq naq unir nezbhe, ohg gurer ner fbzr ahefrf jub jba'g nggnpx lbh naq pna or vtaberq. Gur tnzr qbrf gel naq gevpx lbh vagb nggnpxvat gurz, orpnhfr gurl'er nyfb gur svefg ACPf gung ner arvgure nyyvrf abe rarzvrf fvapr gur fgneg bs gur tnzr.
posted by Merus at 5:53 PM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think in order to have that discussion, darkstar, we need to talk about what innocent might mean in the world's context. There are no easy answers in the world of TLoU. That's the main reason why I too was a one-playthrough person. It was an amazing story with outstanding VO, some tremendous scene setting and level design, and middling gameplay mechanics. And without a gameplay reason to gnaw its bones, it's too challenging emotionally to take another run through just .. for fun.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:54 PM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Because if the game actually requires you to be a heinous mass murderer, then no thanks.

I couldn't figure out a way I wasn't a mass murderer in that game (and the Uncharted games). Maybe there's a way and I wasn't able to see but if there was the game definitely wasn't going to make it easy for you to do so.

For me what was worse was that the game keeps stats on the type of kills and the quantity you make... When I looked through those numbers I was profoundly disturbed to see them quantified this way. Maybe I'm just getting too old for that shit but... it was a half a year before I played another game.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:54 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Heheh. There's a part early on in Uncharted 4 where the main character learns that some of the activities he might be playing a part in involve black market, smuggling, theft and shady criminals. And he's unsure if he wants to get involved with that kind of thing. And he then proceeds to break into a private estate and ends up slaughtering like 25 security guards at an invite-only auction/party.

But the real moral dilemma the game presents is that he's lying to his wife about getting "back into the game" that they used to be a part of. And he's feeling guilty about that!
posted by SoberHighland at 6:06 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ludonarrative dissonance is the term of art for those differences between game and story.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:33 PM on November 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


Make a movie. I'm sure it could be at least a GOOD movie. Or make a game. Just don't try to have it both ways.

No, you totally can! That's what makes games so interesting; they can tell complex stories with cinematic techinques, while also being interesting and fun games that do even more in story telling with interaction and player choice.

At the high end of gaming, a masterpiece like Skyrim or Breath of the Wild do this masterfully. They're both very much hardcore games, but then they also have a pretty good story. I think Red Dead Redemption 2 is the very best example of this kind of thing but enough people didn't like the game part that I recognize the opinion is not universal.

But even at the less ambitious game designs.. Something like Gone Home or Firewatch is incredibly compelling even though the gameplay is nearly zero. People derisively call these games "walking simulators" but they work much better as an interactive game than it would be as a movie. There's something about the first person view, and the interaction forcing you to identify with the character, it makes it very compelling.

Death Stranding is the divisive game of the moment on the game/movie axis. Partly because Kojima has spoken about wanting to just make movies. And his games have like 3 hours of damn video cutscenes in them and sometimes it's like "ok, make a movie already". Also the gameplay in Death Stranding is highly idiosyncratic and almost trolling and some folks don't like it. Me, I think it works great.

My complaint with The Last of Us is it just felt like a clumsy shooter. Or clumsy stealth game. or both. With some mediocre RPG and inventory management elements. The game design didn't hold up enough for me to enjoy playing it, which is a shame because everyone raves about the story.

Thanks for the story link Snuffleupagus (I SEE YOU). But it's more of a recap, with some rando narrating. In that genre see also this recap. Not a bad way to pick up the highlights in 20 minutes though.

What I'm looking for is more like this 90 minute edit of just cutscenes. Or something with important story beats from gameplay too, like this 3.5 hour version or this 6 hour version. That's a big commitment though, hoping someone here has already watched one of these and can vouch for it.
posted by Nelson at 6:36 PM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


And his games have like 3 hours of damn video cutscenes in them...

There's about nine hours of cut scenes in Death Stranding. One is at least an hour long. I just cannot take that.
posted by SoberHighland at 6:41 PM on November 25, 2019


I just started playing, about one hour in and I'm loving it. The game play is just light enough that it's engaging but not overwhelming. It has a similar vibe to the Tell-tale Walking Dead games. Just not as janky with the graphics. Looking forward to more. Can't wait for the sequel. I'm already invested in these characters.
posted by Fizz at 7:21 PM on November 25, 2019


These days when it comes to games with great stories to tell, I'm more likely to just enjoy watching a playthrough then slogging through the game mechanics on my own. That's what I ended up doing with TLoU. While it definitely held my attention, and Ellie was a compelling protagonist, I find the zombie apocalypse a bit tiresome as a theme. As far as playthroughs go, I probably enjoyed Detroit Become Human a bit more.
posted by xigxag at 7:23 PM on November 25, 2019


I understand, Merus. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by darkstar at 7:29 PM on November 25, 2019


Nelson, here are a few links to no-commentary walkthroughs of the TLoU.

The Last of Us (PS4) - Full Game - 100% Stealth/Collectibles - No Commentary
I'm not familiar with this streamer, but usually "100% stealth" and "no commentary" means the violence is limited to only what's absolutely unavoidable and there's no voiceover to distract from the gameplay. I find this prevents accidentally getting exposed to the racist/sexist/misogynist/et al elements that infect a lot of youtube videos. This is 10 hours, though, so maybe not great.

The Last Of Us - Walkthrough Part 1 [1080p HD] - First 2 Hours! - No Commentary
I watch a lot of this channel's walkthroughs, and they're really good. The best part, aside from the lack of commentary, is they're broken into manageable chunks so you can dip in and out as you have time. This channel usually eschews the stealth-only runs (if they're available or applicable in this case), but they're also comprehensive (in terms of completing all game elements).

Hope this helps.
posted by malthusan at 8:01 PM on November 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


Ludonarrative dissonance is the term of art for those differences between game and story.

PSA:
It’s also a term you shouldn’t use around anybody actually working in AAA narrative unless you’re trying to get them to fiercely hate you. Like, “anonymously chucking a brick through your car windshield next Tuesday” levels of hate you. Nobody who actually makes games uses that phrase unless they’re deliberately parodying the absolute worst Simpsons Comicbook Guy type of gamer or have completely disappeared up their own asshole.

(That’s not a finger pointed at you, or Clint Hocking, or anybody else in this thread. Certain game journalists had a field day with the term after Hocking coined it and They Must Be Stopped. Everyone working on the narrative team of projects at that scale was aware of both the term and the problem before Uncharted 1 shipped.)

Disclaimer: I was on the narrative team for Bioshock, the original target for that term, and I may be somewhat biased. My recognition of personal bias will not save your windshield.
posted by Ryvar at 8:14 PM on November 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


It's interesting seeing the reaction to TLOU now - I feel like people are looking back with some rose tinted glasses. When I described it to a friend of mine, I told him it was a compelling zombie movie, with awesome motion capture, facial animation, and attention to detail, but the gameplay felt repetitive and artificial (bearing in mind that all gameplay is by nature repetitive and artificial).

That said, in certain parts of the game I feel like the gameplay really enhanced the storytelling. For example, gur frafr bs vfbyngvba naq ihyarenovyvgl sryg ol Ryyvr qhevat ure frtzrag bs gur tnzr, naq gur ynfg ovg bs gur tnzr, jurer V unq orpbzr fb vairfgrq naq qenja vagb gur fgbel gung V jrag unz ba rirelbar, vapyhqvat gur ahefrf, naq gura srryvat vaperqvoyl greevoyr nobhg vg ng gur raq bs vg nyy.
posted by theony at 8:27 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I once stopped by the deli at Publix to get a sub for lunch. The kid behind the counter spent the whole five minutes gushing about this amazing new game he was playing called The Last of Us. I don't play a ton of games and have never cared much for the zombie genre, but his enthusiasm was genuine enough that I still recall the conversation six years later. Maybe I'll give it a shot if it ever comes out on PC.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:32 PM on November 25, 2019


I played TLoU maybe 5 months ago for the first time. It is a Very Good Game.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:40 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ludonarrative windshield brickings aside, The Last of Us is as wonderful as everything else Naughty Dog touches, and certainly represents the high bar for AAA storytelling.

I think Planescape Torment and Disco Elysium represent the best writing in the medium by virtue of exclusive focus, but part of the high-wire act of telling stories at the AAA budget level is just getting a team of 300 developers pushing in the same direction. This can be incredibly difficult - bordering on impossible - when you’re building an original IP rather than reinterpreting existing storylines (ie MCU). The simple fact that TLoU emerged with such a clearly shared vision across every aspect of its production is nearly a miracle.

As far as games I am eagerly anticipating this coming year goes, the list is TLoU2 and Cyberpunk 2077. I’ll probably feel really embarrassed about ten different omissions after I’ve clicked Post, but off the top of my head those are the two I’m actively waiting for.
posted by Ryvar at 9:20 PM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Different strokes - I loved the game mechanics, despite the occasional bug. I love the scarcity of ammo, the necessity for scavenging constantly, the impossibility of shooting your way through.

I particularly liked the contrast between Joel's ponderous brute strength and Ellie's agile quickness.

The first game I played since Shadow of the Colossus that actually felt like art.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:57 PM on November 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


Is there an easy way to read these encoded comments people are using?
posted by panhopticon at 9:59 PM on November 25, 2019


ROT13, and there are browser extensions for true instant gratification.
posted by The Tensor at 10:40 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Death Stranding is the divisive game of the moment on the game/movie axis. Partly because Kojima has spoken about wanting to just make movies. And his games have like 3 hours of damn video cutscenes in them and sometimes it's like "ok, make a movie already". Also the gameplay in Death Stranding is highly idiosyncratic and almost trolling and some folks don't like it. Me, I think it works great.

The thing about Kojima is that, despite his start as a failed film director, despite his excitement at working with Hollywood, and his indulgent, extremely long cutscenes, he's also a game designer who's been wielding the affect of his games like a weapon for years in a way that few designers are able to match. I don't know what he'd be like as a director, but he's a master game designer. Death Stranding is a great example: it's a game about appreciating community, and how he's doing that is by building a game where an empty countryside feels intimidating, and a ladder placed by another player, or even better an actual road, is something you appreciate.

The man got you to feel triumph over adversity by getting you to climb a ladder. In two different games, now I think about it.
posted by Merus at 11:13 PM on November 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


Can I ask for a clarification?

Does the game actually require the player to massacre a hospital full of innocent people?

Or is that some kind of allowed-but-not-required game play?

Because if the game actually requires you to be a heinous mass murderer, then no thanks.


“Innocent” is not a term that really applies to the world of TLoU: very few people in it are innocent. It’s one of the few murdergrind AAA games out there where the murdergrind is almost justifiable in game & doesn’t completely fall into the pit of ludo-narrative dissonance doom.

But it’s still an AAA murdergrind game: By the end you’ll have a slaughter count of actual human beings measured in the 100s & there’s no in game way to avoid that. Killing people is the game.
posted by pharm at 3:39 AM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


NB. If you want to watch a proper cinematic version of The Last of Us, then the best one is probably Grant Voegtle’s version. It’s a six part mini-series & he went to great lengths to mix cut scenes & in game footage effectively. It’s far more than just a playthrough with the cut-scenes thrown in.

The Verge wrote about it here.
posted by pharm at 3:46 AM on November 26, 2019 [11 favorites]


I never played through TLoU, but I did watch the cinematic cut that pharm linked. It's very well done. I did find the ending of the story verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry morally ambiguous, but I think that's the point.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:41 AM on November 26, 2019


“Innocent” is not a term that really applies to the world of TLoU: very few people in it are innocent. It’s one of the few murdergrind AAA games out there where the murdergrind is almost justifiable in game & doesn’t completely fall into the pit of ludo-narrative dissonance doom.

Something happened in the last few days that I think is worth sharing here in the context of violence in a video game.

I recently started playing Red Dead Redemption II and very early in the game, you're presented a choice to allow a criminal to either flee or to choke them to death. I opted for a more violent route and went ahead and choked the criminal. My wife was watching me and she remarked at how easily I made that choice, like I didn't think too hard about it.

I was playing The Last of Us last night and I was presented with a similar situation where violence was presented to me and I just leaned into it. Now here's where it's interesting. I had to set the controller down because the violence in TLoU just felt more serious, it felt like it had consequences for Joel.

Maybe it's the fact that TLoU takes places in an alternate United States that feels oddly prescient. Red Dead Redemption II is set in a historical time and it's far enough removed that it doesn't feel as serious or consequential. The murder in RDRII felt cartoonish by comparison.

Those are just my own observations. The Last of Us is just doing a lot with it's story and it sets this tone right from the get go that this is a world where innocence is quickly lost but not forgotten or taken for granted. I only played a few hours last night but I'm really enjoying the narrative and it's holding up as well as most people have said it would.
posted by Fizz at 5:40 AM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


RDRII also plays heavily on Western fiction and cinema genre convention; Arthur Morgan is presented to you as an antihero, a bad man and one of the leaders of a band of criminals who deal in violence as much as the game encourages you to like their characters.

It's up to you how much you want to go in the 'redemption' direction — although the game does nudge you that way through its systems, the plot will support any shade of hat.

(Note: I haven't finished RDRII yet; I picked it up recently and am lingering in the mid-game. I know generally what happens to Arthur in the end, and am aware of the complaints about the forced expedition to another locale, but haven't gotten to either yet.)

posted by snuffleupagus at 5:55 AM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


My wife was watching me and she remarked at how easily I made that choice, like I didn't think too hard about it.

How else am I going to get free bullets?
posted by biffa at 6:22 AM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


But it’s still an AAA murdergrind game: By the end you’ll have a slaughter count of actual human beings measured in the 100s & there’s no in game way to avoid that. Killing people is the game.

I understand that that's who Joel *is*, and killing infected is one thing, but I disliked that the game gave you no choice but to kill uninfected people, not only because the no-one-is-innocence concept cuts both ways, but also because in the world of the game, living, uninfected people are a rare resource, and Joel goes around wasting them.
posted by Gelatin at 7:11 AM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


a rare resource that is actively trying to kill you
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:15 AM on November 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


Yeah, up until the ending I didn't feel especially conflicted about the combat. IIRC most (all?) of the non-infected humans you fight before then are actively trying to kill you, as inHilltr8r notes.
posted by ripley_ at 8:48 AM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the Joel is wasting them bit gets to me as well. I don’t blame feel bad about the hospital - starting with this SPOILERS link and (using <details> tag because we’ve been asked to avoid ROT13)
Don’t click unless you want spoilers Paying attention to the in-world narrative:
1) there was no guarantee whatsoever that Ellie having her brain carved out would actually lead to a cure without resorting to retrovirals of the kind the Fireflies will never have the resources to produce,
2) there was no guarantee they have the resources to distribute the cure even if they did somehow magically produce it, and
3) all of Joel’s experiences with the Fireflies specifically and the world in general forced the conclusion they would never use it ethically. It would simply become a new weapon in their losing war against the military and one that marked every cured person as a target for immediate execution by the world’s dominant power. Finally,
4) the world’s already gone. Humanity will eventually claw its way back with bullets, burning and paving over the old world one acre at a time, but a genuine cure ethically distributed isn’t going to change that, or end the present dystopia, it would at best just make it slightly easier and even that’s the outside 1% chance that the Fireflies and military somehow permit ethical mass distribution.

They were asking Ellie to sacrifice far too much for too little potential gain, and Joel thinks he’s saving her from a fatal sucker’s bet. This doesn’t change or excuse the fact that his true motivation is his own feelings, borne out of a simultaneous paternal love and toxic masculinity. But he’s not wrong to wipe out the Fireflies. Not at all.

So, yeah. I don’t feel terribly conflicted about the end, except in terms of the broken trust on display. His paternalistic “you can’t handle the truth” bullshit is a personal betrayal and Ellie deserves better from him. I don’t blame her for the clear lingering bitterness we’ve seen indicated in the trailers for the sequel.

posted by Ryvar at 8:57 AM on November 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


There aren't many things that tempt me to spend $400 on a PS4, but The Last of Us is one of them.
posted by sotonohito at 9:27 AM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


I tend to steer clear of immersive gaming experiences where I have to take on the persona of a sociopath. I understand that TLoU is a survival game, in which the reality is crafted so that it’s either you or them. But still.

For gritty dystopian survival, I appreciated games like “The Walking Dead” (I’ve played Seasons 1-3), and “This War of Mine” where survival is very much the key, but the games don’t require you to effectively become a mass murderer to enjoy the experience.

The more I read about TLoU, the more it sounds like the dad-daughter dynamic is the mechanism by which the game designers permit/encourage the player to become a sociopath.

(But then, that’s always frustrated me about the real-life parent-child dynamic that seems to encourage/permit parents to become sociopaths if it means their own offspring get an extra 2% leg up in the world.)

If it ever comes out on Mac, I’ll probably be tempted to buy it, because I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic literature and games. But that seems unlikely, given the graphics engine...
posted by darkstar at 6:39 PM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


There aren't many things that tempt me to spend $400 on a PS4, but The Last of Us is one of them.

$200 bundled right now for Black Friday. Preeeeetty tempted.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:31 PM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


At that price you’re also getting the platform for Horizon Zero Dawn, Dad of War, Bloodborne and Uncharted 4.

...Goddamn, Sony really had all the great exclusives this generation except Breath of the Wild.
posted by Ryvar at 10:34 PM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


TLoU's character dynamics are more nuanced than dad/daughter (which they are not, and yet...), to the eternal credit of the writing team. Both of the characters do a whole lot of learning, growing and changing over the course of the story. It's not like it's a story of shitty sociopaths. It's generally about people who are trying their best to be decent in a morally ambiguous swamp of a civilization, up against people who are not trying so hard to be decent. And some of it feels rather a lot like the writers brainstormed all the ways people might be terrible to each other in a zombie apocalypse and then made getting through all of those ways, and solving the problems they inspire with weapons, a game. And yet, in each of the scenarios, there are living, breathing characters with feelings, motivations and justifications. Some are straight up bad, some are good, some are neither but just trying to survive, whatever that looks like.

It's one of the most "it's complicated" games ever created, to be honest.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:14 AM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Joel is already a 'sociopath' (not really, but in action by our non-zombie world standards) well before Ellie meets him. He was a hunter (the non-zombie bad guys who steal/hijack from other survivors) before he got to Boston. It's why he knows about the ambush in Pittsburgh, and how the hunters there think, how they've given up on anything but bare survival at any cost.

He's lived 20 years since Sarah's murder and become so hardened against the world that his brother moved across the country to get away from him.

He's the one who knows the title of the game is true. These are the last humans. There is no rebuilding society to the point where the Fireflies would have the ability to do anything with Ellie's brain. I recall a newspaper you can read in the prologue that talks about the fungus infecting the food supply--animals and grain. When the zombies die, they release more spores into the air. There's no real way of coming back, and Joel knows it. So the procedure in the hospital is just needless theatrical cruelty by people who can't accept what Joel knows. The Joel from the beginning of the game wouldn't have cared. Whether it's a good thing he started caring again is... ambiguous.

My favorite part of the game (aside from the whole part in Pittsburgh where you learn about Ish's group) is when you play as Ellie, when Joel is injured. (Also please play Left Behind, the Ellie DLC. So good!) The snow, the low visibility, the fire, the super creepy villain, and the only real traditional 'boss fight' in the game. Such a good chapter. I'm so excited to play as Ellie in the sequel!
posted by lovecrafty at 7:56 AM on November 27, 2019 [7 favorites]


When the zombies die, they release more spores into the air. There's no real way of coming back, and Joel knows it. So the procedure in the hospital is just needless theatrical cruelty by people who can't accept what Joel knows.

I don't follow why this implies that the procedure wouldn't work. There is definitely uncertainty about whether the procedure would work, but I don't think it's as cut-and-dry as you suggest.
posted by ripley_ at 3:27 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


>...Goddamn, Sony really had all the great exclusives this generation except Breath of the Wild.

That’s because the Microsoft strategy is that almost anything developed for the Xbone will run on, or is easily ported to PC. And vice-versa.

This is more of a knock on the Switch as the hardware dongle required to play BOTW and Smash, and now Pokémon, which really undersells the Switch.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:18 PM on November 28, 2019


It’s also a term you shouldn’t use around anybody actually working in AAA narrative unless you’re trying to get them to fiercely hate you
Fair enough. I think there was an earlier (90s?) term for the same thing. I remember it kicking around the IF community for a while when I was a student, but couldn't remember enough to google it.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:08 PM on November 29, 2019


“Sins against mimesis” ?
posted by pharm at 11:33 AM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also, I think the writers of AAA games doth protest a little too much: It’s not as if the overwhelming ludo-narrative dissonance has gone away in the intervening decade or so has it? If anything it’s got worse.
posted by pharm at 11:34 AM on November 30, 2019


I’d suggest that certain....modes...of LND have become genre convention. Which leads to the question of whether it is still a dissonance, at least as registered by the player-audience. Maybe power fantasy action sequences and skill trees, etc., are only incompatible with angsty cutscenes if the wider audience reacts that way.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:03 PM on November 30, 2019


pharm: Wow, yeah, that was it! Revisiting it now, it's not exactly the same thing, but there's a fair bit of overlap I think.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Lessons From the Screenplay: “The Last of Us — The Art of Video Game Storytelling
posted by pharm at 10:25 AM on December 5, 2019


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