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Playing The Last of Us for the primary time in 2022: A re-review

I’ve managed to go practically 10 years with out encountering The Last of Us spoilers. How did this occur? For one, I wasn’t protecting the online game trade in 2013 — I labored early mornings kneading bread and creaming butter for cookies in a bakery, then twiddling with keys to get into strangers’ homes to stroll their canine. I performed console video video games on an getting old Xbox 360 and StarCraft 2 on my Mac laptop computer. I hadn’t had a PlayStation console for the reason that PlayStation 2, which had lengthy been retired to my mother and father’ storage, and wouldn’t have considered one of my very own till the PlayStation 5 — save for a quick interval the place I borrowed a PlayStation 4 from a buddy to play Death Stranding.

This is all to say that I had no bodily manner to play The Last of Us, and, in opposition to all odds, I one way or the other averted spoilers, too. And now, I’ve a PlayStation 5 taking over manner an excessive amount of house in my front room, and I can lastly say that I’ve performed The Last of Us. And yeah, it’s nonetheless a fucking good recreation.

It feels trite to summarize The Last of Us Part 1, given its significance and ubiquity, however I’ll do it for the sake of anybody else who doesn’t know the setup by now: The Last of Us is about in a postapocalyptic world the place people have been contaminated by the Cordyceps fungus — a parasitic fungi that infects the mind and turns contaminated people into violent, mutated monsters. The foremost plot begins 20 years following the preliminary outbreak, the place people have moved into decaying, militarized quarantine zones and distant, harmful settlements. Joel and Ellie are two of the survivors; Joel survived the preliminary outbreak, though his daughter didn’t. Ellie, then again, was born into this world. Their relationship is initially hostile, at greatest, as Joel is tasked with smuggling {the teenager} out of Boston and into the arms of the Fireflies, a revolutionary group that wishes to make use of the immune Ellie to discover a treatment for the an infection.

Joel leans over in a still from The Last of Us Part 1, captured on PS5

Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

The Last of Us’ world is as harmful and violent as some other zombie epic, and its characters are simply as ruthless and brutal. But The Last of Us is consistently reminding its gamers that the brutality of the world is a holdover from pre-infection society. Sure, a lot of video games centered on violence earlier than The Last of Us, and plenty of proceed to do the identical. But regardless of the sheer variety of postapocalyptic video games, films, and books which have emerged in The Last of Us wake, Naughty Dog’s nonetheless feels impressed — virtually recent — in 2022. This could also be a results of zombie fiction falling out of trend in the previous few years, or the truth that linear, big-budget action-adventure video games are few and much between. Either manner, the timing for this re-release simply feels proper.

Still, in 2022, the violence in The Last of Us nonetheless feels upsetting. Folks have stated it earlier than and I’ll say it once more: The Last of Us isn’t precisely enjoyable to play. It’s no Halo Infinite or Fortnite, whereby capturing and killing is only a collection of numbers ticking up on a scoreboard. Holding Joel’s gun, aiming that gun, and capturing that gun is depressing, insufferable, and painful — not solely as a result of Joel is keeping off different surviving people, however as a result of the assets are so scarce: Am I going to remorse utilizing that bullet?

For all its moments of cynicism and remorse for a misplaced world, The Last of Us can also be a really tender recreation. It navigates Joel and Ellie’s relationship by means of shifts each delicate and tectonic as they journey throughout the damaged U.S. Their dynamic begins antagonistically — Ellie’s a burden to Joel, the bags of a promise he made to a now-dead associate. And to Ellie, Joel’s simply one other stranger who will abandon her in some unspecified time in the future alongside the way in which.

joel and ellie looking into the wilderness

Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

But every westward American metropolis presents a brand new catalyst for that relationship. From Boston to Pittsburgh, by means of Jackson and Salt Lake City, Naughty Dog’s option to tempo the sport alongside the seasons works wonders: from the summer season in Boston, the place you’ll be able to virtually really feel the warmth radiating off its decaying buildings, to winter in Silver Lake, Colorado, the place blood stands out on the intense, white snow. Though the sport is comparatively brief — or not less than, devoid of bloat, by trendy requirements — the motion of the seasons makes time really feel tangible. And with that point, Joel and Ellie’s relationship begins to develop.

Little by little, they settle right into a fraught father-daughter bond. There are serenely touching moments interspersed between the brutality of all of it, essentially the most affecting of which is when Joel and Ellie attain Utah and discover a stray pack of giraffes that escaped and are thriving exterior some deserted zoo. It’s a scene that’s grow to be pervasive, virtually a meme — that factor everybody talks about after they’re discussing The Last of Us. And that’s for good purpose; the second nonetheless floored me, 9 years later.

The second comes so all of the sudden, surrounded because it was by distress. Ellie, hoisted onto a ledge by Joel, drops the ladder she was tasked with dealing with — she sees one thing that Joel can’t see. I anticipated horror, one thing extra grotesque than even essentially the most bloated bloater. But then her voice modified, and I noticed it wasn’t something unhealthy. It was lovely. Naughty Dog neatly lets the participant linger on the overlook, the giraffes nipping leaves from timber and wandering round a flooded patch of metropolis — now one thing extra like a lake. I stayed there some time to relish in Ellie’s delight, and the fantastic thing about the image, and it felt merciless, on reflection, to open the door into The Last of Us’ subsequent, bleak part.

joel and ellie, from behind, in a dark cave

Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

In a manner, I’m glad I’ve solely simply now seen The Last of Us by means of to its conclusion. I can see it exterior the trope of violent, unhappy dads that dominated the milieu when it was launched — assume BioShock Infinite, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and Grand Theft Auto 5, too. The Last of Us could be very a lot a product of its time, and there’s definitely points there. But now that I’ve seen how properly it’s aged total, I can actually respect it — not as a cultural relic or a stepping stone, however as its personal grisly, lovely creation.



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