Why The Last of Us Sucks

the last of us shot one

Along technical criteria The Last of Us is a stunning entertainment product. The art direction is rugged, detailed, and presents a post-apocalyptic American civilization both in ruins and in the process of returning to nature. The character animation, modeling, and voice acting (coupled with an attention to body language) is damn close to the best in the industry, setting new benchmarks for the quality of human depiction in AAA design. The sound design is sparse, evoking a quieter world punctuated by the percussion of gunshots or the wet smack of a fist in the face. It’s not hard to be impressed by Naughty Dog’s production work, which may very well outstrip anything they’ve accomplished in the Uncharted games.

It’s really too bad that the rest of the game sucks.

To get at why, you’ve got to look past the portentously important Serious Themes of the game and the po-faced earnestness of it all. You’ve got to cut through a horde of affirmatively nodding, self-congratulating “game journos” tripping over themselves to connect this game somehow to Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road I guess it’s enough for them that there’s a guy and a kid that meet cannibals. Get past the sense that this is somehow supposed to be what a “great” video game looks like in 2013, and you’ll find little more than hackneyed, predictable setting and themes- which drag in elements from pretty much any post-apocalypse fantasy ever made from great examples like ”Children of Men”  to execrable ones like the Will Smith remake of “I am Legend”. There’s also a thick layer of tired, bedraggled zombie tropes weighing down the entire affair that should be exhausting even the most diehard fan of the subject matter.

But beyond the clichéd, expected scenarios and situations, the core of where The Last of Us fails the hardest, is that it’s just another turgid stealth/cover shooter that wouldn’t have been impressive on a gameplay level half a decade ago. I almost felt like the game was trying to make some kind of meta-joke at one point, when the characters walk into an area with carefully arranged waist-high walls. Or when I turned on the main character’s magical mutant hearing ability. I’m also not quite sure how anyone can miss that Ellie is just another version of Ashley. Between Enslaved, Bioshock Infinite, Amy (giggle)and The Last of Us, there still hasn’t been a game that has done the whole “escort the girl” thing better than Resident Evil 4, even if Ellie’s dialogue is far better than her ancestor’s.

It’s disappointing that a game that has such good dialogue and attention to detail falls back on routine shooting action, clumsy melee, sneaking, phony “exploration” and other completely generic and unremarkable simulations of brutality and violence.  You can pretend all you want that the game is about Serious Themes, but really it’s just another game about murdering people and shooting at fungus people to get to the next story-delivering cutscene . In a sense, it’s spiritually close to the “Mondo” films of the 1960s, that purported to be about educating audiences about world cultures…but they were really just exploitation films with plenty of sexual and violent content. It’s dishonest, and in the end the disconnect between the themes of the storyline and what you actually do in the game is vast. I’m still not quite sure how following somebody for five minutes while they ramble on and then helping them press the triangle button to get to the next area qualifies as “gameplay” anyway.

So instead of a game like Catherine, that uses a seemingly arbitrary puzzle game mechanic to metaphorically represent the character’s relationships, growth, and change, we have another game like Bioshock Infinite that wants to be about Serious Themes but fails because the designers can’t think of something better for you to do other than to rifle through drawers and shoot motherfuckers in the face.  This also completely upturns any sense of morality in the story, just as it does in the Uncharted games where Nathan “The Butcher” Drake is revealed to be a completely amoral, psychopathic one-man slaughterhouse.  The expectations of the video game audience are very different than those that passively watch a film or TV show. Video game players expect there to be action, and violent action at that. And that’s where the participation element is unfortunately focused in The Last of Us. It’s really too bad that the developers didn’t take a higher road. But I guess “a higher road” wouldn’t include a multiplayer mode.

Throughout the game, such as it is, I kept thinking about how powerful it would have been if Joel wasn’t a gun smuggler, that he was just a regular guy. Maybe somebody that turned to farming and a solitary lifestyle of peace after the zombie apocalypse. He could wind up with Ellie in a similar story, but instead of the core action being killing people and/or fungus men, the game would focus far more on evasion, ingenuity, problem solving, and developing the father-daughter relationship without the bloodshed. They didn’t get into gunfights with eight or nine bad guys at a time too much in The Road, did they?

The thing is, if The Last of Us were an unashamed, unpresuming VIDEO GAME- I wouldn’t mind so much. I love video games, and in particular games that revel in being in the medium. Left 4 Dead succeeded because it didn’t pretend like you paid admission to do anything other than shoot a bunch of zombies and holler at your friends. Resident Evil 4 is a game about shooting zombies in the face. It doesn’t pretend like it’s anything but that.  It is also squarely a video game focused on (great) gameplay, player engagement, and activity. There’s no somber appeal that it’s really all about parenting issues and dealing with loss. Shinji Mikami was never under any impression that Resident Evil 4 was in competition with movies and TV shows.

Don’t get me wrong- I want video games to reach for bigger, more literary themes. I like that developers are at least trying. The problem is that games like The Last of Us exist in this sort of twilight existence between game and film, and if games are to be successful as an artistic medium then it’s the unique-to-the-medium qualities of gameplay we should be looking at, and how that gameplay articulates context, subtext, and meaning. Not how those things are described by the production values, because if you put The Last of Us up to cinematic or literary comparisons then you are also holding it up to a much, much higher standard informed by films made by people like Kubrick, Tarkovsky, McCarthy, and hell, Shakespeare.  You are, at that point, no longer comparing the work to Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. “Good…for a video game…” no longer makes the grade.

Developers like Naughty Dog are doing it wrong, tacking the gameplay as a gating system for story progression in a “good… for a video game” CGI film. It should be the gameplay and the mechanics of gameplay that define the experience and tell us what it’s about.  It’s pretty telling that when you inconsequentially die from a random one-hit kill in the Last of Us, there is no “game over” screen. It’s a perfunctory, obligatory half-assed video game stuck into a routine zombie movie with stellar production values. That’s all there is to it.

Lots of people love this game, more power to ‘em. I guess this formula works for some folks. For my part, I’m hitting the Wikipedia summary after six hours of play and realizing that I’m just really, really bored with the game. I don’t care enough about the plot to sit through another six hours of snooze-inducing stealth and man-shooting bookending dialouge scenes. I’ll read what happens in the plot (which I think won’t be much of a surprise) and then I’m going back to Guacamelee. Now, that’s a video game.

71 Responses to “Why The Last of Us Sucks”

  1. Ben Leggett June 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Still gonna play it but I suspect you’re right.

    And yeah, Guacamelee is brilliant.

    • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      Please do, by all means you should check it out and see what you think about it. It’s a game that I think is worth discussing…but not because of anything that happens in the story or whatever. It’s worth discussing because it REALLY points out this fracture between actual video gaming and the strengths of the medium and the AAA “interactive movie” style.

      Guacamelee is just so much fun. I just about threw the controller last night, this part where you’ve got to go down through all these floors and fight at each level. Freakin’ hard! But good hard.

    • drumjod September 9, 2014 at 5:01 am #

      I totally agree with this review. After playing the same scene with similar textures and different layouts, I looked for some validation of why this game seems overrated.

      It’s got me performing the same menial tasks and only playing to get to the next cutscene.

  2. Dorkmaster Flek June 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Ha, as soon as I saw this game getting all kinds of praise, I immediately knew you would be railing against the linear, cover-based same old shooter gameplay we’ve been seeing for so gorram long. :)

    And you’re totally right, I’m not disagreeing at all. There’s more satisfying emergent gameplay in something like Gunpoint (to pick a current example) or Mark of the Ninja than in the biggest, most bloated AAA lumbering beasts. Hell, I’ve been going back and playing the old Thief games ever since I found out the reboot is sounding more like a steaming pile of bollocks, and that kind of freedom essentially defined those games.

    You generally won’t have a terrible experience with one of these modern AAA productions, but man is it ever boring. Everything has been focused tested and committee designed into blandness. And isn’t being boring just about the worst sin a game (or any entertainment product really) can commit?

    • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      That is exactly right, Flex- The LAst of Us is very much one of those can’t fail AAA games that has exchanged risk and idiosyncracy for safety- and sales. Like Brandon said over in the other discussion, he’d rather play a “safe bet” game like TLoU than a riskier, possibly low return title like Remember Me. That’s totally understandable and I think there’s a valid argument there, but you are correct that the result is homogenized, standardized, and vanilla-ized games that are, if you’re looking for something fresh, VERY boring.

      I’m not against AAA games at all- Arkham City, for example, is a HUGE AAA game that’s packed full of quality gameplay. But when AAA means these very expensive carnival rides with limited interaction…I’m not interested. I’m also not interested when intended content and action don’t match up.

      • Brandon June 19, 2013 at 7:14 am #

        Hold up. My intention was not to say that I’d rather play a safe game than a riskier game. I got all but one achievement in Remember Me. I played the hell out of that game. I’m saying that for me, the quality of the game is more important than whether or not the narrative is completely original. If your game sucks, the fact that you have an original story will certainly win you some points in my book, but if I don’t want to play your game to experience it, then you failed. By the end of Remember Me, I could give a shit about the people in that world. I care more about Joel and Ellie now than I ever did anyone in Remember Me.

        I also think the idea that The Last of Us is focus tested and speaking to the broadest possible demographic is, frankly, ridiculous. Survival horror is not a least common denominator game genre. It just isn’t. Now, you can argue that TLoU doesn’t conform to all of the survival horror genre tropes, but the aspects that it does cling to, having to stop to heal, having limited resources, not regenerating health simply by crouching, having to be smart about combat encounters, those things are not in there to appeal to the mass market gamer.

        Plus, let’s be honest, this game isn’t fun. It’s not supposed to be. When you leave a combat encounter you don’t feel like you just saved a busload of orphans or singlehandedly rescued democracy. You feel pretty shitty, and you should because this world is brutal and awful. It’s exhausting. If that’s the result of focus tested game design, I must have missed something.

  3. Beeblebrox June 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    I really, really liked it. And I found it much better than Uncharted regarding all that ludonarrative dissonance stuff – Drake in cut-scenes is likeable (more or less, but you know what I mean) adventurer, stumbling after getting shot and then barely walking, just to start jumping from one train coach to another during gameplay segments couple of seconds later. And not to mention that whole “The Butcher” part and slaughter of countless John Does.

    On the other hand, Joel is at least portrayed as broken and weary smuggler (even as a former bandit), so he felt much more believable during violent gameplay segments.

    Regarding story cliches, gotta agree – it’s more than preditable on more than a few occasions, but I must admit that ending surprised me, and thanks to great acting and quality of the dialogue, I found the story really enjoyable. Plus, character arcs of both Joel and Ellie were great, although a little bit on the slow side during first half of the game (or even during first two thirds).

    Now, back to gameplay – I’d disagree with your assesment – it seemed much more than just another stealth/cover based shooter, thanks to survival and crafting elements (I’ll just ignore Listen mode, as I ignored it during gameplay, game seemed much better and more tense without it). And exploration often paid off with new crafting materials, which you would use later during one of those combat situations. Not to mention decision to use same crafting materials for medikits and molotovs, which I found as a really nice touch.

    That said, I’d really like if they allowed you to skip more of the combat encounters, while throwing in some non-lethal takedowns (that strangling from stealth sequences seemed non-lethal to me, but game counts it as killing :( ). Also, I think it’d be nice if they used some of the gameplay elements from Ubisoft’s I Am Alive, like threatening enemies with empty guns, while trying to get to the next section without killing anyone. Or something like that…

    And now back to the good stuff – like pacing. And oh boy, what a great pacing! Which reminds me – many of those waist-high walls and covers during quieter moments of the game went unused, I think you’d be surprised if you gave it more time. Also, some great moments in the second half of the game, where you could spend up to 10-15-even 20 minutes without encountering any hostiles, while just enjoying the view and looking for supplies… just to be thrown in some really, really great combat/stealth/survive-next-wave-of-enemies sequences.

    Also also (bear with me, and sorry for almost-rambling-like nature of this comment, I’m trying to address most of your points), regarding Ashley – while I liked Resi 4 a bit more than TLoU, I wouldn’t say that Ellie is just another Ashley. Maybe in the first couple of hours, or, even first half of the game, but she later becomes much more useful, helping you during stealth sections, and even in combat. On the other hand, Ashley was just a helpless companion, if I recall corectly.

    Aaand, I think that’s more or less it. In short – yeah, story is cliched and predictable for the better part of its duration, and gameplay is stealth/combat heavy, but at least it’s focused on survival, which sets it appart from other third person games (I’d say Tomb Raider here, but I didn’t play it more than couple of minutes so…). And I would recommend people to play the game on the hardest available difficulty, with Listening mode turned off, to let that survival part stand out even more.

    PS – have you heard Troy Baker’s take on Hamill’s Joker in new Batman game? I think both he and Roger Craig Smith (or what was that dude’s name), nailed Conroy and Hamill’s style for both Batman and the Joker. And while Arkham Origins looks like just more of the same old Arkham games, I can’t say that I’m not looking forward to it, even though I’d like new Rocksteady’s game more than it.

    (And now let’s hope I won’t find some nasty typos or weird sentences after I click submit comment…)

    • Beeblebrox June 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      Ok, this is a huge comment, but it’s at least much shorter than my TLoU review :D

      PPS – Guacamelee is indeed really good and fun game, enjoyed it couple of months ago.

    • fring June 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      Yay! Your comment is longer than mine!

      • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

        I appreciate the long comment, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on it and sounding off on them.

        I did like that Joel was something of a moral question mark, I think that _does_ help justify having a main character/hero that has no issues with shooting people in the face. I liked that bit where Tess says “We’re shitty people, Joel”. However, that also feels like an excuse to have a character that just “doesn’t care anymore”- I would be much more impressed by a character that has a higher moral position and sticks with it in the face of adversity.

        I didn’t find the survial/crafting elements to be all that interesting- mostly because other, better games have done all that before. Exploration, I’m tired of games where you can either follow the “pace car” character or look to your left and find an item. That isn’t exploration.

        I didn’t play I Am Alive, but I like the sound of that threatening somebody with an empty gun- that’s a cool concept.

        It’s funny that you mention that about Ellie becoming more helpful in combat…because I was finding that I was actully just running around trying to avoid getting hit while Tess did most of the shooting. I figured she had unlimited bullets whereas I didn’t. I’ve gotten into this weird habit in these kinds of games where all I want to do in combat is to freak out the AI by just running at it and punching. I did that A LOT in this game. It fared better than Tomb Raider’s AI by far.

        I started on the hardest difficulty, but after a couple of fights I didn’t feel that the combat was rewarding enough to deal with having to replay sections of the game. Normally, I play anything like this as hard as possible but there’s got to be some real risk or sense of danger. I didn’t feel like anything was at stake in this game other than having to rewind and redo parts of the game.

        I’ll play the Arkham game because I have to, being a Batman fanatic and all. But I’m not very optimistic about it, I think at best it’ll be a decent but not particularly spectacular “inbetween” game.

        • Beeblebrox June 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

          I meant have you seen the trailer for Arkham Origins, and, specifically, have you heard Troy’s Joker voice (and laugh). I almost had no doubt that you’ll play it either way.

          Re: your TLoU response – you won’t follow another character for the whole duration of the game. It’s there during some parts, and most evident in the opening hours with Tess, but for the most part, it’s just you and Ellie, or you and some other character who follows you (and that results in those weird AI moments when enemies don’t see them, but I’ll rather take that if the alternative was lots and lots of fail-states because enemies spotted your companion jumping between two covers).

          Difficulty-wise, as far as I know, there’s no difference between enemies on normal and hard, it just boils down to less crafting materials and ammo on higher difficulties. Also, sorry if this sounds (kinda) stupid, but – isn’t that fear of losing progress in the game something like only stake you could lose when you fail/get to the game-over screen or whatever? I mean, I get that some people won’t find it scary (I don’t, especially compared to my first hands-on with Left 4 Dead), and won’t see any risk beyond losing couple of minutes of progress, but it still can be tense with all that creepy runner vailing, clickers’ clicking and environment noises.

          Oh, and that part where you sneaked and tried to open that door blocked by file cabinet – yeah, scripted, you gotta kill those zombies in that area. But, later in the game, if I remember correctly, there are more than a few places where you can sneak around lots, and lots of zombies/bandits, and just get through the exit and into the next area. And when you do manage to sneak past some of them, and especially – when you do so on your first try, surrounded by half a dozen clickers and a damn bloater (huge, huge fungal-zombie-creature), it’s tense and amazing.

          Still, as I said, it’d be nice if Naughty Dog allowed for more of the combat scenarios to be avoided, but hey. Maybe they’ll do so in the sequel?

          • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

            Ah, no, I haven’t yet. I’ll have to check that out. It’s hard to top Mark Hamill, but I actually really like Joker’s voice on Brave and the Bold- it’s a different interpretation, more sinister and lest manic. Not as good as Hamill, but it shows that somebody else can pull it off. Troy Baker seems like a good voice actor, seems like he’s well on the way to becoming the next Nolan North.

            Egad, that would be a disaster if the AI caught the other AI out in the open like that. That’s one of those areas where you’ve really got no choice but to allow some gamey-ness in there. That said, the character shouldn’t be literally standing right in the middle of the firefight, either.

            There’s a GREAT point you raise here about failstates, stakes, and being “scared” in a game. All of which are answered by Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls. And to some extent, Zombi U

            You’re absolutely right that in almost any situation within a video game, the most you’ve got to lose is actually time unless a game will strip you of a couple of minutes of progress or some resources. It’s very rare that you get a game like Left 4 Dead, where you can actually _lose_ and that generates tension, stress, and even fear. But that works because it’s scenario-based, not 15 hour storyline based.

            What the Souls games do right is make the game ExTREMELY perilous at almost every turn so that the atomsphere feels threatening almost all the time. Both games show you in the freaking TUTORIAL that they are not going to softball you. I’m going to borrow a board gaming term here and compare it to push-your-luck games like Sid Sackson’s Can’t Stop…you CAN keep going and try to get further…but the further you go the more you risk if you fail and have to go back to zero. The Souls games then task you with getting back to where you were…or losing everything. That makes combat tense, frightening, and compelling.

            But I think you can make a game “scary” too by atmosphere, so that even if the actual risk is low it FEELS more threatening than it is. There is no game better at this than Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4. The “dogs through the window” bit is still the single best scare ever in video games- perfectly executed because it’s a window you’ve walked by 20 times before it happens. The licker and the one-way mirror in 2 was like that too. 4 had that absolutely brilliant opening with the villagers- you run from them, climb the tower, and you hear a fucking CHAINSAW crakning up in the distance. Later on, the cultists’ chanting gives an eerie vibe, and their relentlessness is genuinely terrifying. But yeah, “you are dead” doesn’t REALLY mean that much out of context.

            Unfortunately, most video games resort to carnival “dark ride” tactics to scare you these days, and when there’s zero risks involved, it’s hard to really feel a concrete sense of danger. Especially when so much is canned in today’s games.

            As for avoiding combat- that first big action piece with Robert’s men, I avoided combat by just bum rushing them. I ran right for the door. Tess fiddled around with shooting people and then magically appeared to shut the door behind me. I guess the bad guys couldn’t open the door or something.

          • fring June 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

            Man, Barnes, I wish I’d thought of just running for the door there. I bypassed (read as: strangled) the guards. And as far as survival horror goes, there’s definitely a tight rope that games have to walk between making the player tense and scared at the fear of failing and turning it into a puzzle where the player purposefully dies a couple times to get a feel for a situation and then starts to tackle it for real. A lot of games, included this one, end up weaving back and forth across that line.

            I wouldn’t say that I’m getting scared while playing TLoU, but I agree with BB that Naughty Dog knows pacing and they’re very good at building that tension up.

            I played I Am Alive, for, like, 20 minutes and quit. I might go back to it someday, but it seemed to me to be a rather poor implementation of a very cool concept. I couldn’t make the controls work for me in a fight, which was just not any fun.

            Lastly, I’m not sure what the right way to do exploration is. But, man, those locations have atmosphere. Walking through an evacuated ghost town was, well, perfectly done. Almost no zombies (so when they did show up, it was for a nice scare), conversations with Ellie and Joel, and little artifacts telling the stories of those who’ve been gone for 20 years. Of course, you probably didn’t like the exploration in Enslaved, either.

  4. fring June 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Before I get any further, Enslaved was awesome and I don’t care what you say. Also, as far as escort games go, I’m pretty sure Ico has always won it for me. It’s been a long time since I played RE4, but I don’t remember having any particularly positive feelings towards Ashley.

    Anyways, The Last of Us. I just finished in the school, so I think you probably got further than me, but I’ve been really impressed with the stealth gameplay with zombies. For one, I think the basic Runner/Clicker set up makes for really interesting, really tough stealth gameplay. I like that I don’t have nearly enough ammo or shivs to kill, well, much of anything. So, I’m going through areas carefully taking down zombies that I can’t sneak past, but primarily having to move really slowly to avoid the clickers while also sticking to hiding spots for the runners. And if I make a mistake, everybody converges on me and I typically have to reload and try again.

    It is annoying, though, how often you manage to get through nearly everything, to find that there’s some stupid runner sitting watching the exit ready to scream the moment you go through. But, whatever, dealing with your plan falling apart is a fair mechanic too.

    On the other hand, I’m a little nervous with what they’ve done with humans so far. The gunplay isn’t nearly satisfying enough for me to want to play this as a straight up 3rd person shooter, but the stealth mechanics with humans seem a little less interesting. I’ve already had one section where I managed to lure ~6 soldiers into a dark hallway (one at a time) and then strangle them. Effective, yes. Psychotic, definitely. Fun…only slightly.

    Lastly, I haven’t gotten to any sections in the game involving morality, but so far, I’ve felt that the gameplay is doing a perfectly reasonable job of capturing the characters. My sense is that we’re supposed to be playing Joel as a cold-hearted psychopath without any remorse for the people he kills. Nothing in the story has suggested any other expectation from me. The key difference here, is that in Uncharted, Drake acts like the massacres never even happened. In TLoU, Joel’s too weary from killing to care anymore.

    • Beeblebrox June 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

      Try not to load the last checkpoint after zombies/bandits discover you (it’s hard, I know), because it can be much more tense and better experience if you try to fend them off with your existing supplies. And if you do succeed… it’s a great feeling.(Btw, they’ll often drop some ammo after you kill them, but… yeah, nothing is perfect)

      • fring June 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

        Yeah, I kinda play it by ear. For the most part, I think the check points are nicely laid out, such that if you’ve only made it 30-50% of the way through the area, then you don’t feel like you’ve lost much by reloading, but that once you’ve made it 60-75% of the way through to the next area, things start getting really tense because you don’t want to have to go back if you screw up. I end up fending them off way pretty often (although the shotgun has made fending them off a massively more feasible option).

    • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      But even the runner/clicker thing is better handled in Left 4 Dead, with the different classes of zombies. The Witch is WAY scarier than the popcorn-headed men. The clickers just make me laugh.

      There was one bit featuring that dynamic that I liked, where I snuck through a bunch of clickers and runners and the door was blocked by a file cabinet. I started to pull on it, and it scraped the floor, alerting everything in the room to come kill me. Now, if I actually had a chance to make it into the door, it would have been a tense moment. But there’s no way. Not that I could see, at least.

      Heh, I pulled one of those “strangle trains” too. They just queued right up. I will say this, at least the AI in this game can actually SEE you, unlike in Last Light. ;-)

      As for the morality, like I said above, it almost feels like casting Joel as really kind of a ostensible bad guy (in that he’s a criminal/hard man/killer) is an excuse for the game to be so much about shooting. Think about what a different game this would be if the main character was highly principled and refused to give in to the savagery of the post-apocalypse…and part of the journey was his gradual realization that he’s got to resort to violence in an extreme (and singular!) instance…and the game deals with the guilt, grief, and remorse after that.

      Video games have just RUINED the impact of on-screen death. They really have. I am holding out for a game where you only kill ONE person, but that one death is massively impactful.

      I mean shit y’all, Batman doesn’t kill anybody…

      • Beeblebrox June 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

        File cabinet door – addressed in my previous comment – see above :D

        And that “game with only one kill” comment reminded me of what someone said regarding Assassin’s Creed games (could it even be you? Now that I think about it…) – it’d be so freaking great if we could get an AssCreed sequel/reboot, or game like that, where you spend most of the game just gathering the neccessary information and planning the assassination, and then trying to escape or something. So, basically, AssCreed with just one kill, and not fucking bloodshed of countless guards, beggars, street musicians and other bystanders.

        • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

          Hey, I said that!

          If you haven’t picked up on a common theme in my games writing lately, it’s that I am sick to death of killing a bunch of people in video games. It’s OLD. No matter how you dress it up, it’s just a boring excuse for unimaginative gameplay at this point, and it’s unfortunate that a game with real potential like The Last of Us gets saddled with this demand to show incessant, repeated brutality that is completely stripped of any kind of power or meaning.

          Think about Taxi Driver. When I was a kid, I always heard that it was this violent, bloody movie. When I saw it as a bloodthirsty 20 year old that couldn’t get enough violence and gore in movies, going through the Hong Kong movies, Italian slasher pictures, and so forth, I was sort of bewildered by the fact that Travis Bickle only kills a couple of people in it. It’s not a violent movie at all. But what violence is there is cathartic, emotionally charged, and it happens like the top of a potlid blowing off from too much pressure. The visceral impact is FAR greater than anything like that crazy scene at the end of A Better Tomorrow 2.

          Now, what if games were more like Taxi Driver and less like A Better Tomorrow 2?

          • Beeblebrox June 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

            Ok, since WordPress won’t allow me to reply to your previous comment above, I’ll just mash 2 replies in one, hope you don’t mind.

            Yeah, I totally forgot about Souls games, and now that I think about it, we have whole roguelike genre (which I don’t know very well to be honest), and even XCOM with Ironman mode, where it’s devastating when you lose an experienced member of the squad. But, hardly anything of that would work in a story driven game like Last of Us, so… let’s get back to its scariness, or lack thereof. I think it’s really, dare I say impressive, how Naughty Dog manages to tread so close to the survival horror genre, even if they said they’re making survival action game. Atmosphere can be really creepy and tense, and would be even more great if there were less of ammo and crafting materials, which I hope is the actual situation on Survival difficulty. Also, it maybe could’ve been better with less checkpoints? Dunno… or maybe even some ultra-hard game mode with only couple of saves, like that unlockable Dead Space 2 difficulty?

            Btw, thanks for reminding me of Resident Evil 4 time and time again, I would really, really like if Capcom released disc version of HD remake for PS3 – I’d rather buy that, than digital PSN version. And when I think about it… I finished it (and LOVED every minute of it) only once, many years ago, which is a crime.

            Oh, and I didn’t even think about trying to avoid those guys in that first real stealth/action sequence, since it seemed like you should get rid of them before progressing (hm, looks like games trained me well for some of those linear, “non-avoidable” encounters :/ ), which seems to be the case now that you mention Tess magically appearing behind you when you exited the area.

            Now, onto your second comment – first of all, I haven’t seen those movies, so I’ll get back to you after I see them, hopefully sometime soon (already have The Road in plans, thanks to all those mentions in the recent Last of Us articles).

            Also, couldn’t agree more with you on that point that games are so goddamn (over)focused on (over)killing as one of their core mechanics. But, *for the better part* of the game, it felt justifiable in The Last of Us, with all that postapocalyptic tone and thematics.

            And what it would look like without all that killing, stealthing and crafting? Maybe like something along the lines of Telltale’s Walking Dead? Which you didn’t like, if I remember correctly, but I’m not sure why. If it was writing, would you prefer that minimalistic gameplay (if we can even call it that), with writing on par with TLoU?

      • fring June 18, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

        I gotta say, man, Batman might not kill people, but he comes pretty darn close to it in those games. I seriously loved Arkham City, but somewhere near the halfway to two-thirds mark, I started feeling like I needed to protect the inmates from Batman. I can’t remember when, but I suddenly realized that I was avoiding the streets and the guarded rooftops, because I didn’t really want Batman breaking anymore arms and legs than was necessary. They might be the bad guys, but that didn’t make the violence any more extreme. Of course, the one on-screen death in that game is still massively impactful.

        In general, I agree that video games have totally ruined the impact of killing people by making you do it all the time. For me, though, it’s more about whether the game will allow me to make the killing meaningful. For a recent example, Metro:LL did a pretty good job of letting me make killing meaningful (excluding the war/battle sections near the end, I think I only killed the raping thieves you encounter at one point). I liked that I was playing a character who could easily be a killer, but reserved the killing based on some sort of moral code.

        So, The Last of Us isn’t quite where I’d like for dealing with killing, but it’s not as far from my ideal as most games. The way I play Joel, he has no qualms about killing the zombies, but he’d really rather not kill a normal person (he made a special exception for every single one of the soldiers involved with Tess’s death, even the ones he could have easily sneaked past). At the same time, I would have liked a non-killing stealth option (even if it only worked for, like 60 seconds), because I do hate that there are situations where I have to sentence a guy to death because he’s standing in an inconvenient location.

        But, that’s just me and maybe I haven’t gotten far enough to find out that the game is going to just keep having me kill more people until it becomes totally meaningless. Which would be disappointing, but hardly surprising.

  5. moofrank June 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Oh it isn’t that bad. Overhyped as the GREATEST GAME EVER, but it is a reasonably decent stealth shooter. Ignore the story, and the game part carries itself like Uncharted 4, but with a pretty strict resource system.

    It is just basically Uncharted 4, which isn’t a bad thing.

    Although Ellie is a massive step above Ashley. You don’t really have to escort her, and her responses during combat are interesting and subtly quite impressive.

    The game does ABSOLUTELY nothing innovative, but it is extremely well-developed. Flawless enough that you notice tiny details, and the level of polish is practically insane.

    • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      Oh, I totally agree- it is extremely well-developed and supremely polished…and I think that’s some of what robs it of any kind of innovation or singularity. As mentioned above, it’s completely safe. Which is exactly what I DON’T want out of a survival horror game.

      Zombi U is such a great counterpoint to this game…because it is a REAL survival horror game. But it’s raw, rough,unpolished and has virtually no story because each survivor you go through has their own narrative arc.

      There were some great bits with Ashley…I loved that part where she’s tied up and Leon has to shoot the cultists. So campy, yet it was really tense and thrilling.

      I would say that Ellie is quite a bit more interesting than Elizabeth from Bioshock INfinite though, at least Ellie doesn’t literally stand directly in the middle of a firefight glancing around, looking for hot dogs and cotton candy to throw you.

      • dougisfunny June 20, 2013 at 3:05 am #

        I don’t know that Zombi U is such a great counterpoint, because there is a story. It’s just not your characters’ story. It’s the guy on the radio’s story. The people you take over are faceless mooks, intentionally made for you not to really identify with any individual one.

        I haven’t played it but from what you and others have written I would guess you’re falling into I guess what could be described almost as the uncanny valley of gaming. Where lots of it is really good that the parts that aren’t that good break it for you. But since the rest of the presentation just works, the little bit that is off makes the entire thing just that much more offputting.

  6. OminousFog June 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Your analysis is spot on, Barnes. I just fired it up last night (hey, I was away for the weekend!) and I’m only about 2 hours in.

    I will say that my eyes rolled right out of my head when I encountered my first “room with waist high crates”. I immediately went into stealth mode knowing that everything in the room is set up for a firefight. In those regards, I think this game fails. Something that obvious will literally pull me out of the entire story and remind me of what you so accurately described as cutscenes bookended with manshootings.

    That being said, the game is stunning. And I’m not so disenchanted with the formula that I’m going to walk away from it just yet. I will, however, disable (can it be disabled?) or just not use the listening mode. Using it yesterday seemed cheap and a little too casual for my liking.

    The thing is, I don’t need every form of gaming entertainment to follow the formula that makes it a game. I will play and enjoy Guacamelee, Mark of The Ninja, Civ 5, and TLoU… all on their own terms. For what it brings to the table, I consider TLoU an overwhelming success. I would love if there was some sort of option to let you negotiate with the enemy AI or threaten them with an empty gun… or with a loaded gun, but no intention of firing. Imagine having them put their guns down slowly out of fear, and begging you not to shoot? That would raise the morality factor up a notch.

    • Michael Barnes June 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      That’s true, and with the ability to grab a guy and hold a gun to his head that could have been there.

      I like a wide range of games too- I loved all three Uncharted games, for example, regardless of their childish insistence on making me shoot people. And it is very important to assess games based on what they are, not what they should be/could be, I agree with that. But that said, I do think there are medium-level standards and values that should be met that really define what video gaming is, can be, and shouldn’t be.

      What it comes down to with The Last of Us, I think, is that I am disappointed that Naughty Dog didn’t bother to offer anything in terms of gameplay other than the aforementioned following/pressing triangle, rifling through drawers, and manshooting. This game could have been so much more, it could have been revolutionary. Instead, it’s an immaculatey produced example of AAA game design circa 2013, and an indication that this particular kind of game is at both its fullest flowering and its point of declination.

      • OminousFog June 18, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

        Agree entirely with that last statement. Those are some pretty lofty standards to set. Perhaps the next gen will usher in something a little more ambitious.

        On a side note, this review and the comments that followed reminded me of this PA strip. One of my personal favorites:

        http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/10/19/

  7. drunkenpandaren June 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    This review reminds me somewhat of the Polygon one that was put up. I have yet to play the game, but I don’t know when I’ll ever get the chance. My PS3 has been gathering dust since Metal Gear.

  8. Brandon June 19, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    I forgot to mention that The Last of Us is a 100 out of 10 because it has W. Earl Brown in it.

  9. OminousFog June 19, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    In other news…

    How do you guys change your avatar picture? I don’t see an options on wordpress, and I’m not really fond of my avatar since it vaguely resembles the human female reproductive system.

    • Beeblebrox June 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      I just see a pink frog there… :P

    • dougisfunny June 20, 2013 at 3:06 am #

      The fallopian tubes are going the wrong way.

  10. Brandon June 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    I have no earthly idea. I’ll see what I can find.

  11. GoodToknowGamer June 19, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    I have 10 things wrong with The Last Of Us on my channel, actually quite funny. You guys should check it out. My channel name is GoodToKnowGamer , or you can just google “10 things wrong with ps3′s the last of us”. Hope you guys enjoy it!!

  12. Caralon June 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    What? Barnes is upset about a videogame that came out because . . . of the same reasons he was upset in his last half-dozen rants?

    • Michael Barnes June 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      Well, if they made every game like Bayonetta, I wouldn’t have to keep writing this same article!

      • Brandon June 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

        Yes but Todd would have to be upset about hair nudity for every game, so it would be a wash.

  13. Human Gamer June 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    Sure, guy whatever.

    Just another wanna-be game director (with no experience or training) chimes in as a “reviewer”, slagging other people’s hard work because well you can’t actually create anything yourself, so must espouse negativity & contrarian views to get attention.

    I wrote a longer & more-detailed reply, citing all kinds of valid awesomeness in this game, things you oh so conveniently gloss-over & ignore, but then realized that i seriously doubt you have the maturity to respond to my reply with facts and honest views, so will instead just keep it short.

    The crux is this:

    ———–> You’ve lost perspective, and are apparently too jaded to enjoy great immersive games like this. Time to hang up your spurs, cowboy.

    Trying to guess all the time what will happen, then saying the story is cliché & expected, re-writing parts in your mind like the clever person you wish you were, then slagging a game because it doesn’t magically outwit your over-saturated imagination (because you’re SOOO CLEVER! and you JUST GOTTA PROVE IT, for some reason, right eh?? OOOH Be sure to tell your daddy!) doesn’t make a valid review worth reading.

    News flash here jaynyoos, they’re called “archetypes” for a reason!

    So yes you can criticize that you’ve seen a zombie in a game before, and hey yeah you’ve shot a gun behind cover in a game before, and yeah the post-Apocolyptic setting has been done before… and yeah The Last of Us has all of this.

    But you clearly have failed to grasp or experience what everyone is talking about, indirectly or otherwise, and that is this:

    ———–> The Last of Us is more than the sum of it’s parts.

    You’d know this if you could still allow yourself to be immersed in a game, instead just seeing a bullet list of features, so busy trying to guess what is coming next, struggling in vain to maintain some sense of appeal to your narrow opinions….

    Really, this article is just the obligatory “great game is great so must take opposing position to get clicks (because hey, gotta sell blog ads!)” And nothing earns clicks more than going against the grain eh? Wow solo clever!! Did you think of that all by yourself!! /sarcasm

    I’ll give you this, you’ve got a decent vocabulary (which you over-use BTW, and it totally shows how insecure you really are!), but this article is MASSIVE FAIL dude.

    It’s kinda sad to see really, because with such an immature attitude as yours, you’re actually hurting the industry more than you know (but hey, as long as the ad-revenue comes in, who cares right!? Well actually, a lot of people who aren’t you care about the harm your unintelligent views cause yeah.)

    And no, i don’t have any vested interest in the success of this game beyond being a mature gamer who sees The Last Of Us for what it is, a high water mark of the genre (because i can still play to have fun and get lost in the world of the game, unlike you apparently!)

    And yes, I signed up just to reply to this article, so i guess your little (and i do mean LITTLE) plan worked? :)

    Honestly, if you had any real intelligence, you’d start to write your own games (since you seem to think you know better), instead of just shitting on other people’s creative work & hard effort. Then maybe you’d start to see what this game actually achieves.

    Unlike a lot of games, The Last of Us actually deserves the praise it gets, just not to pedantic wannabe dorks like you.

    That is all.

    • Michael Barnes June 20, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

      Buddy, Tom Chick’s review is at Quarter to Three, I think you posted in the wrong place. But hey, thanks for letting me know that I rocked your world.

      • Human Gamer June 21, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

        Nice dodging of all my points, and by “nice” i mean, sad & pathetic.

        Good luck with that buddy!

        • Michael Barnes June 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

          I’m sorry, there was a point to that? From what I read, your only point was “your opinion is different than mine so it’s wrong”. And then a bunch of childish bullshit that would probably be more appropriate in a Metacritic user review or another venue where reading levels and rhetorical skills are expected to be lower.

          Take a second to read some of the other posts here. Folks disagreed with me. We discussed and debated. You’re the only poster acting like an ass. And if you’re going to come on to my web site and act like an ass, we’re gonna wipe you.

    • Brandon June 21, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Look man, I’m glad you signed up because we welcome all sorts of discussion here but what we do not welcome, not in the slightest, is personal attacks against anyone, in any way shape or form. I don’t agree with Mike on this game, hell *most* of the time I don’t agree with Mike and he doesn’t agree with me but we’re able to discuss things without dropping to the level of personal attacks.

      We love intelligent discussion around here, and love opposing viewpoints but continuing the conversation in this manner will get you banned.

      Also, we make about ten bucks a month from advertising, so…yeah.

      • OminousFog June 21, 2013 at 9:58 am #

        Honestly guys, I never even knew you had advertising because I’ve got adblock on my browser. I just disabled it and refreshed the page. It’s laughable to make any sort of statement that this website is driven by advertising revenue.

        • Todd Brakke June 21, 2013 at 11:23 am #

          To be fair, the rest of the NHS crew *thinks* we only get about $10 a month. Actually, I’ve been embezzling from them since the project started. It’s a multi-million dollar site and soon I’m buying my very own island in the Pacific. So long, suckers! (Dear NSA: This is sarcasm/snark and not an admission of guilt.)

      • Human Gamer June 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

        Look man, being observant and making logical conclusions based on available evidence is what “review” is all about.

        Same for a game, same for a game reviewer… which is all my post is.

        So, sure you can this “personal attack” but it isn’t, not in reality-land.

        No more than than an article titled “Why x sucks” is really just an immature hit piece that targets a damn fine game.

        Or maybe I got that part wrong too? ;)

        Fact is, if the “reviewer” had a leg to stand on, he would address the observations i shared.

        Since he doesn’t have a leg to stand on, can’t bear to withstand a little criticism (no harsher than he dishes out), he won’t; instead, he chose to spew more childishness, dodging my points by referring to another person’s review.

        Stick up for this child-like behavior all you want, it doesn’t change the facts I’ve shared.
        (which, i might add, remain undisputed!)

        So, thanks for playing, better luck next time!

        • Michael Barnes June 21, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

          Please tell me this is some kind of ironic performance art piece satirizing the immaturity of video game forumistas…

    • Bill Abner June 21, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      Disagreement and discussion are encouraged here. But this place is not a democracy. Free speech doesn’t exist here and you’re on a fast track to being banned.

      • Brandon June 21, 2013 at 9:54 am #

        That seems harsh. I was only trying to help!

      • OminousFog June 21, 2013 at 10:06 am #

        Ooooo… fast track. I hear the wait time for all the rides is less if you opt to pay for the fast track. The Lolcopter is my personal favorite…

  14. OminousFog June 21, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Getting the discussion back on track here…

    I’m about 20% into the game and I entered what I would consider to be my first stealth only portion. For those who have played… it was in the subway where you’re surrounded by clickers, and where there’s a safe in a bookstore, etc.

    I lost some respect for the game at this point…

    Having to tip-toe my way past clickers, while my two partners in crime go jogging, rolling, and TALKING OUT LOUD two feet away from these “dangerous” enemies… is just horseshit. It took me out of the game instantly. I was no longer on edge or anxious about moving through this veritable vipers nest. In fact, it lost all of its anxiety altogether. It simply became a moment of moving really really slow, while listening to annoying clicks and chirps. I can honestly say that, if all encounters are like that one… well… I hope the story keeps me engrossed, because the gameplay alone won’t.

    • Beeblebrox June 21, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      A lot of other stealth sections in the game have only you sneaking around. Or, if Ellie is around, she’ll stay quiet, or whisper something from time to time, reacting to you strangling enemies, telling you they’re coming from the left side or something like that.

      But yeah, in the beginning, it can be annoying when Ellie, Tess & co. run around, bump into enemies who don’t notice them, and when they say something so loud. Although, I don’t remember that happening much in the later stages of the game (I doubt that I managed to totally ignore it, suspending my disbelief, but it’s possible).

      That said, second half of the game is (much) better than the first, and somewhere after the 40-50% mark, it just gets rolling and getting better and better. Also, although predictable, story was certainly enjoyable, and even managed to surprise me here and there. Great acting and writing certainly did help.

    • Brandon June 21, 2013 at 11:13 am #

      That was a huge immersion breaker for me as well. I got into it a bit more when recording the show last night, but wait until Ellie and Dan Doherty from Deadwood are hopping between cover like speed addled club kids. ;)

  15. Neckbeard June 21, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Maybe I’m repeating other comments but would this game be as disappointing if it hadn’t been over-hyped for so long? What if Naughty Dog had said they were making a game for the masses and it would be really, really polished? I’m not defending the game but it seems like it might have set a bar for what a truly finished game should be like.
    In short, does every game need to innovative?

    • Michael Barnes June 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

      Not at all. Every game needs to just be more like Gunstar Heroes or something. :-P

      I was never really all that hyped for the game to begin with. It looked exactly like what was delivered, and I don’t think there’s a sense of disappointment at all with it, as far as I’m concerned. It was the critical reaction that really made me take note and stick the game at the top of the Gamefly queue- the reverential, “this game is IMPORTANT” tone of it all…it was VERY disappointing to see how low critical standards are when weakened by supreme polish and Hollywood razzle-dazzle…that’s “good for a video game”.

      You hit on something important here- that this is a _very_ MAINSTREAM video game…that’s significant. This is not the video game equivalent of an arthouse film or something with marginal appeal. It’s big budget, big audience fare. That explains a lot about the game, including its piss-poor, rudimentary gameplay.

  16. Spirit1776 June 22, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Man, I’m so glad that somebody is talking about the pathetic state of games. It’s like every major game developer wishes that they were in the movie business – and not the game business. (And most games journalists don’t help the matter. They spend half the time in their reviews discussing “set pieces”, “narrative arc”, and “humor”, as though that’s the primary focus of most gamers.)

    Also, I loved the “Tom Chick comment.” That honestly the first thing that I thought too after reading Human Gamer’s pointless rant.

    Anyways, I read his comment two more times looking for the so-called “points” that he wants you to respond to. But the only non-insult-based statement that I found was this:

    “———–> The Last of Us is more than the sum of it’s parts.”

    Needless to say, this is hardly the brilliant knockout punch that HG thinks he delivered. In fact, it’s kind of stupid and meaningless. So, here’s my recommended response:

    “The Last of Us is NOT more than the sum of it’s part. And Human Gamer sucks.”

  17. Spirit1776 June 22, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Man, I’m so glad that somebody is talking about the pathetic state of games. It’s like every major game developer wishes that they were in the movie business – and not the game business. (And most games journalists don’t help the matter. They spend half the time in their reviews discussing “set pieces”, “narrative arc”, and “humor”, as though that’s the primary focus of most gamers.)

    Also, I loved the “Tom Chick comment.” That is honestly the first thing that I thought too after reading Human Gamer’s pointless rant.

    Anyways, I read his comment two more times looking for the so-called “points” that he wants you to respond to. But the only non-insult-based statement that I found was this:

    “———–> The Last of Us is more than the sum of it’s parts.”

    Needless to say, this is hardly the brilliant knockout punch that HG thinks he delivered. In fact, it’s kind of stupid and meaningless. So, here’s my recommended response:

    “The Last of Us is NOT more than the sum of it’s part. And Human Gamer sucks.”

  18. Gore4ever July 25, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    You know I really do not like these types of articles that say “Hey you like this? Well here is all the reasons why you shouldnt and why it is bad.” When ever an amazing game like last of us comes out people are always going to be here to say that it is bad. Last of Us is something fresh and new from the usual shitty FPS. The Last of Us is great in every way. This is one of those articles that spends two seconds talking about the good and the rest about what they think is bad. Also this article is presented as if everything said is fact. You didnt find the combat enjoyably so it sucks right? This is an opinion it should not be written as fact. The story in the Last of Us pushes it towards more greatness compared to other TPS games like GOW and Uncharted. Next time try not to make everything you say sound like fact.

  19. Michael Barnes July 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Hang on- aren’t you stating as a fact that this game is “amazing” and that it’s “fresh and new”? Isn’t “The Last of Us is great in every way” just as much of a fact-based statement as anything I wrote? Your post is presented as if everything said is fact, isn’t it?

    You should assume that when you are reading a blog post (or anything else) written by an opinionated writer that everything you are reading is an opinion. Got it? Sorry my opinions don’t match up with others, lots of folks love this game and that’s awesome. I don’t have to be one of them.

  20. jackbot July 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    great article, and thank god i’m not the only one. (not referring to the comments, cos i didn’t read them, but only to the article).

    yeah, i really hope that the last of us doesn’t represent the direction that future games are going to take. that would mean the end of me buying AAA games. i guess i’ll just stick with indies at that point…

  21. DennisRodQuin July 26, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    This review is utter shit. All you’re doing is taking ridiculous, childish arguments and making them unnecessarily wordy just to make you sound smarter.
    How the hell is this game remotely like I Am Legend and Children of Men? Because they’re apocalyptic? There’s a difference between common themes in apocalypse stories that are necessary, otherwise the story wouldn’t feel complete, and ripping off. Last of Us does the former.
    I’ll agree that the chesthigh walls are a bit strange, but when does that REALLY happen outside the first hour of the game? And Joel’s hearing is hardly what I’d call “mutant”. You’re pressing your ear up against the wall, which is different than listening through your speakers on your couch. Clearly, you wouldn’t be able to hear the things that Joel would be able to hear. Also, not everything is visible through this mechanic, example, it’s hard for you to tell what weapons enemies are holding, and enemies that are farther away are harder to see. Ashley is better than Ellie? How so? When was the last time Ashley got you supplies? When was the last time Ashley helped you in a fight? When was the last time you shared a deep bond with Ashley? When was the last time Ashley played any role outside of following your ass and hiding in dumpsters? I don’t hate RE4, nor do I hate Ashley, but you didn’t give any reason to believe this. Your argument was literally “Ellie sucks because she’s not Ashley”.
    I am so sick of people complaining about cutscenes. Sure Final Fantasy 13 sucks and focuses way too heavily on them. But video games NEED cutscenes. Just because games in the 90s can survive without them doesn’t mean all games can. Newsflash, LAST OF US IS DIFFERENT THAN MARIO! The reason Indie Games don’t need stories is because most of them are simple games. I understand it’s foolish to think a game needs 20+ hours of cutscenes to be good, but it’s even more foolish to think that games that DON’T have cutscenes is somehow being symbolic and artistic.
    Also, that “example” of saying that following someone around for five minutes and pressing triangle is bad is like saying Megaman sucks because there’s a part of the game where you move around a menu and press A, you’re taking a part of the game that happens once or twice and blaming the entire game for it.
    Comparing Catherine to Last of Us, is incredibly stupid. One is a kwirky puzzle story adventure (Personally, I feel making Last of Us like Catherine would have been a terrible mistake, seeing as how, then, all people would have done is complain it ripped of Catherine) whereas the other is a dark and gritty Zombie suspense game. The choices in Last of Us is intentionally unfocused in reality, but more in pragmatism. In an actual zombie apocalypse, sure, at first you would want to take the moral highgrounds, but, after 20 years, that becomes a minor priority. This was intentional, not a flaw.
    Your analogy to The Road goes back to your RE4 analogy. WHY? Why would it have been better if Joel was a farmer? How would that have been better? That would have been so stupid if Joel was just a normal guy in a zombie apocalypse. Why would Joel need a gun? Why would Joel be as broken down as he is? Also, how would the gameplay work in Last of Us? How can you complain about the combat and you earlier complained about parts where you just walk from A to B?
    Your last couple of paragraphs clearly show that you did not care for the game at all. You never even tried to be immersed or interested in it’s stories and characters. Your just one of those people who say “the game sucks because I don’t care” but don’t have any reasons NOT to care.
    Again, comparing Last of Us to Guacamelee is incredibly stupid. Guacamelee is a simple and comedic game with different standards and goals then Last of Us.
    Lastly, I would like to clear up, I don’t hate this review simply because you disagree with me, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that you don’t like this game. But when you claim that I’m “pretending” this game has serious themes, you are clearly implying that you are right and that I don’t understand what makes a game serious.

    • DennisRodQuin July 26, 2013 at 4:02 am #

      *I meant to say morality instead of reality.

    • Darkevony July 27, 2013 at 1:55 am #

      1: Because
      2: Because
      3: Because
      and 4: Because (Hold on, this last one needs a little more elaboration so let me jump into that.)

      Firstly, you are very rude. Your language is very rude. Terminology states that a specific set of words can cause a specific reaction. Which means, your wording in this is very hostile and aggressive, calling out someone in a personal level stating that they are mentally impaired, and your text wall of Jericho ultimately implied that you’re butthurt about someone thrashing what would have seemed like your ideal game that you spent cold hard cash on because you thought it would be amazing, probably was to you, and you were prepared to defend it to the ends of the earth like one of those console fanboys you see on Call of Duty videos that start an endless spray of insults simply because someone killed them in fair-game.

      In the end, you sound like this(at least in my perspective) “Your article sucks, your ideas of fun suck, and you suck. Come at me bro.”

      Your biggest form of counter-argument against this was “No one game is the same.” and it is by the third time in your passage that you state it that I become sick of hearing whatever you have to say, but keep on reading for the sakes of wanting to involve myself in petty internet arguments. I’ll be honest, my first impression of you ended up me loathing you, but for the sakes of rationality, I’ll keep you on my ropes and see if you can hang on, I will look past the uncouth.

      It was my hobby to play video games. Because I was raised in that sort of environment. Thusly, I find it almost as a duty to play any game that I can get my hands on and try to enjoy it as my made up title of “Vidya Gaeming Connoisseur” would imply. When I first heard of “The Last of Us” in a developer blog months before it came out, all I truly remember then was being excited for a supposed “An evolution to combat AI and interactions”.

      Man, I was so hyped for having enemies learn your combat movements, being able to control the battlefield by using tactics of switching up play styles to lure enemies into their untimely demise by pulling some impressive Ellie on Joel action.

      AND BOY WAS I DISAPPOINTED. I’ll go ahead and be honest enough to point out that I utterly hate, with a passion that burns through the atmosphere, games that give false, hopeful, and idealistic advertisement in a grand scale, saying that “COMBAT WILL BE REVOLUTIONIZED FOREVER!!!”.

      And as said by some anonymous person on a video of a song dedicated to the game “Monster Girl Quest” … “Came for the porn, stayed for the story.”

      Likewise, I came for the stealth action horror game play, and tried my best to stay for the story. But alas, it dwindled to nothing and it became a chore to me. When I was a kid, and even now, I play games to avoid chores, not so I can go do another chore.

      Games like the Sims series, Minecraft/Terraria, Fable TLC, Final Fantasy, Paper Mario, and many more games I could probably list, they all have combat that soon becomes like a repetitive grind-like chore to progress. But in their case, they turn that chore into progression into a fun thing to do.(and please let me say that it is by nature to them, since most that I’ve listed are rpgs, and rpgs need progression to seem viable).

      Paper Mario for the 64 for example has these sidequests to help an old koopa with arbitrary chores just to get star pieces that help badges from time an again every like 4 chores you do. And it’s annoying as hell. It requires a ton of backtracking and figuring out without a walkthrough. And he’s cheap too, every chore nets you 1 coin out of the 999 limit.

      Now, I know too damn well that they are two TOTALLY COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GAMES. But they both have a storyline. They both have in a form, some sense of progression (advancing in storyline, etc.), and they’re both supposed to be video games. The difference? It’s whether I’m having fun or not.

      Hold the phone Dark, here is where I have mention that “Different strokes for different folks” amirite?

      But, like all things, you need to take into consideration the art form in which a game is presented. I could say something like “Well, this game is in an action genre in some sense, these cutscenes take away from that.” and in all sense of the word, I would be right in terms of factual truth. But games are not governed by facts.

      Story is as much part of the game as gameplay. But as Michael said, “A game is still a game.” I want to have fun, I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something beyond strangling all these mindless dudes and having fun while I’m doing so. If cutscenes govern over gameplay, you might as well go to one of those theaters made up from the show “Futurama” where everyone votes for how they want to movie to play out. Hell, it might as well BE a movie.

      BUT. This, in my opinion, is why The Last of Us sucks. It played it safe. It tried to focus too much on the dramatic epic that revolved around a concept and threw gameplay out the window (and to digress a little, the zombie concept is an overused idea done in all forms already. It is the ultimate cliche any form of media can pull off). I’m not strictly arguing that the concept should be burned at the stake, I’m okay with zombie games. Michael worded it best though. “I like zombie games that don’t pretend that they aren’t zombie games”.

      And what seemed like a zombie survive horror with an intriguing back story and a man trying to find reprise of the horrible things he has done and finding a young girl who offers that in a sense but gets attached an the untimely sacrifice for the good of all man kind of the girl is something he can’t take so takes it into his own hands to sacrifice universal good for his own personal feelings.

      Let me tell you, it sounds wayyy too similar to I Am Legend. The difference was that the guy in I Am Legend is trying to help save the infested, while Joel is trying to fuck it up with his own personal feelings. In the end, they both play out the same, BUT WHO CARES AMIRITE BECAUSE THEY’RE TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS AND STORIES AND SHIT AND HOW DARE I RELATE THEM TOGETHER FOR THE SAKES OF RATIONAL CONCLUSIONS AND ARGUMENT.

      The Last of Us tried to infused two dramatic epics (the personal attachment of Joel and the zombie apocalypse) into one while focusing on only one and still trying to hold onto whatever value “Horror action survival stealth” gameplay it still had left. Too bad it also tried to be a puzzle game with the ladders and everything with tons of cutscenes that broke concentration and immersion by taking away control with both cutscenes and the same-y cookie-cutter safe gameplay that all 3rd person chest-high wall shooters have, except even more slow-paced due to the fact that it is a survival horror game with insta-kill zombies, and the same strangle animations for every single person, same diluted run-around and get to the next cutscene bullshit, and arbitrary and unnecessary puzzle solving and pushing of the levers and free running through windows and doors with no combat but slow-paced running and jumping over things just to get to ANOTHER FUCKING CUTSCENE about people trying to explain their emotions and feelings and little tid-bits of storyline.

      And here is where I say “I DON’T FUCKING CARE. I’M BORED. I’ll GO PLAY CoD AND MASTURBATE TO PHOTOSHOP PICTURES OF EMMA WATSON OR SOME SHIT.”

      I’ll stop here because I’ve dwindled down to cursing for comedic effect, and as I said “Different strokes for different folks”. You liked it, I didn’t. And hell, I can write you another text wall of Jericho praising the game for where credit is due, like how it has a rich narrative, beautiful graphics, and, at times, it has intense moments passing through the infested. But that’s just it. No amount of story could break the bland gameplay, and The Last of Us would have been forgettable in my memory like all the other games I have in my “Shitty category” if it wasn’t for the amount of press, fanboyism, and praise it gets.

      As a person who values storyline deeply due to my unquestionable love for rpgs and the Paper Mario series, I can say with great confidence that I know what I’ve written down is me trying to make sense of the game in a rationale, open-minded, and casual gamer sense where I belong to no faction of any (be it the fanatics or the anti-guys).

      You know what? Feel free to respond back to me by back-sassing me with pure insults about how I’m mentally impaired and I have no concept of fun and enjoyment and I have no soul because I’m a horrible person because I don’t like this particular game. Feel free to tell me everything I’ve said is irrational bullshit that I spouted out off the top of my head because I wanted to take sides in the petty arguing of a triple A game that you adore. Feel free to continue your opinions, because by no sense of the matter am I belittling them and telling you you’re wrong, because this all just one man’s opinion.

      Thank you for your time in reading this. It takes a truly open mind to get to this part without wishing for my death, if you didn’t that is. Just know that all the games I mentioned are extremely different from what The Last of Us is, and I know that very well. Know that I was using them as an metaphorical example to illustrate the tid-bits that the two games have in common, relate to, or even oppose in the respect of rational arguing. It was only to try to word it by “example” and not to “copy” two different arts. Arigatou gozaimasu.

      • DennisRodQuin July 27, 2013 at 3:48 am #

        Okay, you don’t like the game, cool, I can respect that because you provided arguments, insight, and examples as to why you feel that way. Michael didn’t.

        As I said, many things he criticized literally boiled down to “This sucks because ____ did it better” without providing any reason for feeling that way. Again, why is Ashley better than Ellie? Why are the L4D zombies better than the clickers? How would Joel have been better as a moral farmer?

        I’ll admit, I was unjustifiably mad in my original comment, I was already in a bad mood and this review didn’t help, I would have liked to come across less angry and less judgmental in retrospect, but I still don’t see the necessity of comparing LoU to games like PM or Catherine.
        I will admit, though, that the Mario analogy was stupid. To explain myself, I see constantly people bashing games like LoU and other big blockbuster games by comparing them to other games like Braid or SotC. And, even though I love both of those games, I feel the need to express the idea that just because something works for a game like Braid doesn’t mean it would work for a game like LoU or Infinite. I made the wrong decision to jump to conclusions and assume he was one of those guys.

        As I said earlier, I have no problem with people holding differing opinions than mine, as long as they have an argument and reasons to hold it. Both of which I failed to see in this article. Hopefully that clears some stuff up

        • Darkevony July 28, 2013 at 10:52 am #

          Dun get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to smite you. I was just bothered by the pessimism and hostility of your previous post and did my part to get up at arms.

          Also, for my Paper Mario analogy… “metaphorical example to illustrate the tid-bits that the two games have in common, relate to, or even OPPOSE in the respect of rational arguing.”

          They are too hugely different games with literally nothing in common but from the fact that they’re both games. The small sidequest that I referenced to was to give you an example that an arbitary thing in an rpg that offers reward through the feeling of progression (and for those plot manics, little charming dialogue with a beloved character).

          I meant in the form that… that type of game pulls off the no-plot, boring, grindy, and annoying sidequests/slow gameplay/dull tasks because it has “progression” and is an rpg and that means that in some ways it becomes a vital part of your journey.

          But for a game like the Last of Us that doesn’t have progression at all except the “Get from A to B”, the gameplay is critical vital to it because it doesn’t get to just chill on it’s storyline to be considered a good “video game”. Hell, even RPGs like Infinite Undiscovery have a really satisfying progression, gameplay combat, and storyline, plus all the charm and characters that grow on you. Even Bioshock Infinite has an interesting progression WHILE also maintaining storyline composure. Still though, I just used Paper Mario to use that opposing comparison between what their game categories mean, and what they should be able to do and do well. :1

          In the end, to truly justify my dislike for The Last of Us… is because I rather see it as a movie. Then there they could truly focus on what they want and need to be able to focus on, which is the story.

  22. hxcmike777 September 12, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    THis is simply you just being cynical because it is a formula that works for you. Do you see what I did there?

  23. TheSpellingGuy September 23, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    As soon as you gave Nathan Drake from the “Uncharted” series a nickname, you lost all credibility in my eyes. I still loved the game, and I loved the other games you mentioned that were… shall I put it as “formulated”? I’m extremely critical of games, but I still love those big three; Uncharted, Bioshock and the new arrival The Last of Us.

  24. dangthing October 17, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    I have one major, and its really super huge for me, problem with this review which leaves a sour taste in my mouth. You didn’t finish the game. If you did happen to finish it and added another review elsewhere you should add a link to that here and ignore the rest of my comment.

    My real question becomes why do you review something you didn’t deem worthy to finish? That isn’t a review for the game its a review of a few chapters of the game. Its the equivalent of me reading the first 3 chapters of say Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and then reviewing the entire book based on those chapters. When I started reading this review I could relate to some of the points (even if I disagreed with them) but them I read that you hadn’t finished it! When I go to a site which has at least a partial focus on reviews I have only one expectation and its that the reviewer is informed on the thing they are reviewing. This may sound like an attack but it isn’t, its a truthful and pointed question. What gives you the right to review this game?

    For what its worth I can see and agree with some of the points this review and its comments raise. Yet this review also exemplifies what is not only wrong with some of the gaming industry but with the review industry. I don’t have any problem with you disliking this game. I hate some of the games that are super popular. That’s also fine. If you were paid to do this review (I simply have no idea as I have only read this review on this site) then you should have dealt with not liking it and given it a real review by finishing it. If it was personal and you had no obligation to review it other than fan expectation you should have left it at I didn’t like this game and couldn’t finish it. If I reviewed this game my review would be positive and give it a good score but I would also take the time to bring up even the most minor issues I had. In reverse if I had hated it I would have gone out of my way to show off the points that were good. Here is an example of some good and bad I might show off.

    The crafting system is very simple and robust but would have been improved with more options and flexibility (insert game title) did it better and TLoU could learn from that. Hearing through walls felt extremely cheap and took away from the experience but acts as a strong and useful crutch for less adept gamers.

    My only purpose in this comment is the alert you to something about this review which takes away from its potential quality so that in the future you can be more responsible as a reviewer. Also avoid offensive titles which this article sports undeniably.

  25. SpectralThundr October 18, 2013 at 5:19 am #

    While I don’t find it proper to sling personal attacks for not sharing someone’s opinion, I too disagree with Barnes, and notice a trend that he does indeed tend to hate for the sake of hating more often than not.

    Perhaps taking a break from gaming might be in order, there really doesn’t seem to be many games you like at all lately.

  26. MatteoC August 16, 2014 at 12:41 am #

    First time on your site, but it’s nice to finally read something about The Last of Us that so well embodies my opinions of the game. I gave up on it as well, as I couldn’t bring myself to waste any more of my time getting through it. For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many games journalists are so eager to give Naughty Dog blowjobs over it.

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