Review: The Last of Us (PS3)
STORY PT. 2 – SPOILERS
Joel is making his way in this world as a drug and weapons dealer in Boston, and after he loses some of his merchandise to the Fireflies, he strikes a deal to get it back. The deal involves transporting a 14 year old girl, Ellie, to a group of researchers outside the city. It soon becomes clear that Ellie is somehow immune to the effects of the Cordyceps fungus. She may hold the secrets to saving humanity from the infection. Unfortunately, the people who were supposed to meet with Joel and complete the exchange wind up dead, and thus Joel’s mission becomes to travel across the country to find his brother Tommy, who is a Firefly and likely will know where to take Ellie.
Both Ellie and Joel are very well written characters. Though Ellie comes across as a little grown up for her age, the dynamic between the two is brilliant and watching their evolving relationship is one of the best parts of the game. As is standard for Naughty Dog games, the dialogue isn’t limited to cut-scenes. Joel and Ellie converse throughout the game, often contextually, based on what is going on around them, or what you’re looking at. It makes both the game world and the characters feel more alive and believable. While most of the game is serious and rather dark, this contextual dialogue often allows for some light-hearted moments.
Ellie isn’t exactly a damsel in distress…
One could argue that the plot isn’t actually the focus of the game, but rather serves as a backdrop for us to explore humanity. We’re there to watch Joel and Ellie and see how their relationship grows in an otherwise bleak surrounding. The game talks about the human spirit and its desire to survive and find companionship in an otherwise brutal existence. Further, it questions how much one should sacrifice in order to stay alive, and what the definition of good and evil is after the world has ended. Joel admits on a few occasions for example, that he has been on both sides of a bandit ambush, and after that, it’s hard to blame those who resort to violence in order to feed or protect themselves. There are games that explore the human condition in times of conflict much better (Spec Ops: The Line being the obvious example), but for a game that plays like a blockbuster movie and not an introspective therapy session, it’s doing a good job at highlighting deeper and more profound issues that while mentioned, are usually never given prime focus in games.