I’m injured, maybe dying. I’m crawling my way through an abandoned school with just a few bullets left. In an old chemistry lab I ground behind a long table and just as I do, a man bursts through the door at the other end, wielding a shotgun.
“Why?” he says, “Why did you have to kill them? They were my friends.”
I don’t play too many video games.
That may be a lie, I play a few, but I don’t really consider myself a gamer. It is, I suppose the same thing as music or comics. I tend to listen and enjoy music when the lyrics are strong, and the music itself, that comes kind of second. I can look past bad art in a comic if the writing is strong too.
When it comes to games I’m the same. Bad gameplay, that’s kind of okay if the story itself and if the writing is good. I want to get completely enveloped in a tale, care about the characters and come out of it with the same feeling I get when I read a good book.
So, I’ve played a few games this year which have tried to tell stories and haven’t done a particularly good job. The Tomb Raider reboot was fun, and interesting for a while but suffered from an awful, awful ending, Far Cry 3 was fantastic but kind of racist, and the less said about so bad it’s good but really it’s just terrible Deadly Premonition, the better. The highlight of the year for me, is Naughty Dog’s incredible post-apocalyptic horror game, The Last of Us.
People who’ve read The Road may recognise a few familiar elements within the story, in which a plague decimates the world, and two survivors Joel and Ellie are thrust together on a road trip across the wasteland. It’s more action packed than that novel, such is the way with games, but it has a lot of the same weight to it. The plague, a kind of mind-controlling fungus, allows for some terrifying moments, but also some truly beautiful ones. The idea of nature taking back the world is at the forefront of the story, as in this brilliant scene from near the end of the game (no spoilers here though).
I don’t want to spoil the game for those who haven’t played it, especially since the final scenes are absolutely note perfect, and it’s perhaps unfair to even talk about the opening of the game, which I really didn’t see coming either. Suffice to say that few games develop characters in such a way that even when you’re acting in a way in which you feel you would never act as a person, you do it because you feel that this is how your character would behave.
The moment I mentioned at the start, in the chemistry lab is just one of many brilliant touches in the game. When you’re crouched down there, and the guy bursts in – he’s genuinely upset about what you’ve done. He’s scared and angry, and all of that emotion is in a character you see on screen for all of thirty seconds. After you’ve gunned him down – because, what other choice do you have? – there is a moment where you question just what you’ve been doing the whole game.
The Last of Us is one of the best games I’ve played on any platform, and tells one of the best post-apocalyptic stories I’ve experienced. Well worth buying and savouring.