Why The Last of Us is such a heart-wrenching game

 Bethan Beddow

Released in 2013, The Last of Us remains as poignant today as it did nearly a decade ago. The game is one of the best-selling games of the century, selling over 17 million copies since its debut.  Primarily a console game, it is set to be available for the PC in 2023: even more players will be exposed to the beauty that is The Last of Us.  Bethan reflects upon the game’s success and why people are so emotionally connected to it.

*Spoilers ahead*

The game is multifaceted, possessing a powerful storyline that can instil both fury and euphoria in a player as they engage in a fast-paced plot. One moment you are playing as Sarah, the daughter of main character Joel, as she awaits her father’s return to their suburban Texan home. The next, you are embroiled in a post-apocalyptic madness, watching as Joel and his brother, Tommy, guide Sarah to safety from screaming infected people. The first death in the story is Joel’s daughter, and its suddenness elicits a sorrowful horror that will last until the game’s end.

Their gritty, imperfect relationship is so natural and realistic that a player cannot resist liking them

Joel’s agony at losing his child is central to the story. It fuels his development into a skilled, brutal smuggler who shows no mercy for anyone. However, the introduction of Ellie shatters his hardened demeanour. She is a young girl who is stubborn, strong and almost fearless.

Players must help Joel escort Ellie through the dangerous wasteland of North America, and will be unable to stop themselves from becoming emotionally attached to the characters. The pair endure extensive trauma together, battling the infected, other survivors and even each other. Their gritty, imperfect relationship is so natural and realistic that a player cannot resist liking them.

every area that a player explores is visually stunning

This realistic theme is prevalent in the visual art of the game – every area that a player explores is vividly stunning. Salt Lake City, for example, combines decaying silver skyscrapers and overgrown nature. The invasion of green upon an urban space is fantastic to see. The game designers excelled in detail, featuring shadow mapping to depict accurately the time of day and implementing high texture resolution to increase realism. Such detail helps with immersing a player into the game.

The success of The Last of Us was also largely helped by its varied gameplay. Played from a third-person perspective, you are able to watch how fluid Joel’s animations are and how he runs, walks and fights – these are things a first-person perspective cannot display.

The combat is just as diverse. A player can pick from a long list of weapons: long-range weapons, like a rifle, bow or shotgun, or short-range weapons, like a hand-gun, and even scavenged melee weapons, like a brick, pipe, baseball bat, which can be used to distract or attack enemies. You can upgrade items at workbenches and craft health kits or Molotov cocktails.

There are also different modes of combat. You can use stealth mode to sneak by enemies undetected or ‘Listen Mode’ to locate enemies utilising enhanced hearing and visual awareness, which allows you to view other beings through walls. Lastly, a player can challenge themselves by selecting a level of difficulty: there is Very Light, Light, Moderate, Hard, Survivor, and Grounded. 

a stellar game

All of these factors contribute to why The Last of Us is so intensely wonderful. It is a game that can never be dull to play; the depth of the story, the fleshed-out characters, the decadent and decaying art and the diverse gameplay are outstanding. It is a stellar game, and hopefully the 2023 PC release will generate a new wave of fans for this beautiful creation.

Bethan Beddow

Featured image courtesy of Daniel Lincoln via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article video 1 courtesy of PlayStation via YouTube.com. No changes were made to this video. 

In-article video 2 courtesy of Jekavac TV via YouTube.com. No changes were made to this video.

In-article video 3 courtesy of PlayStation via YouTube.com. No changes were made to this video.

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