Thursday, 25 July 2013

Gaming: The Last of Us™ Review

Before I begin, let me just point out that this review will come from a medical perspective. Although we all know that The Last of Us™ is a fictional game, I can't help but overlook it's potential in happening in the real world. Another thing is that not only does it show the emotional levels that might occur in an apocalypse like this one, but it also shows the issues that might arise. What we so call MORALS, will not always justify how we act in a post apocalyptic world.

Post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world. That's the kind of movies and TV Shows we keep seeing nowadays. They all pertain to similar topics, that is, "What are you willing to do to survive?" or "We found a cure, we can save humanity" or another one that is, "We need to move on, we have to find a place where there are people alive." These topics are seen in almost all of those zombie flicks and shows. Yes, we add some drama to spice it up, but it doesn't really tackle the issues we will face, such as, "What is happening to the world?" or "What should I do?" because we are not really in that position. But our dear developers from Naughty Dog had something very different up their sleeve. This time, it addresses the possible MORAL issues that will come in a post-apocalyptic world and this time, you get to play the part.

(WARNING: The following section may contain important plot points. Proceed if you must.)

The Game Play Looks Amazing...

First thing I've noticed on the start of the game play is that the graphics have certainly improved. It looked a lot more human than those previous games I've played but of course we need not to dwell on that because graphic image wise, Naughty Dog has done a very splendid job. The second one is the use of a different genre of music. It didn't use the typical suspense/horror-themed music but rather a dark, subtle acoustic background that emphasizes the emotion of the story. Kudos to Mr. Gustavo Santaolalla for the amazing music. Another thing I've noticed is they never used the term "zombies" or "living dead". They pertained to them in a very specific term called the "infected". These I understand because they wanted to go out of the ordinary. They wanted to be unique. Another thing that i have noticed is that they used a "parasitic fungal infection" instead of a "virus" that a typical zombie themed story possesses. Technically, in the medical field, this would actually be more accurate because a VIRUS needs a living host for it to survive in a body (a rabid person is still alive although imminent death is expected) and once the person dies, the virus dies with him. However, the parasite will remain alive even if the person or the host is dead (it only needs to reactivate nerve impulses for the person to go up and running looking for more to pass the parasite onto). And as you see in the game, the infected only bites the people, and not eat them, an action which transfers parasites onto the healthy host. Those are the things I certainly took note of at first.

"Naughty Dog has crafted a game that impresses in virtually every way. The Last of Us™ is a true feat."
- IGN [2013]

The Story is a Masterpiece. The Characters are Almost Human.

Then there are the characters. The story builds its characters nicely, making every twist and turn relate-able to. The first two characters you meet in the game are Joel and his daughter Sarah, and during the first fifteen minutes you play them, you know how deeply they care for each other. You begin playing as Sarah, a semi-tutorial for beginners, and in this moment you see how the world around you becomes hell on earth. And after which, you begin to control Joel, running past the monsters away from the city where it all began. The first fifteen minutes of game play introduces the story in a very different way. Naughty Dog didn't go far out as to how the infection started but they left bits and pieces of information during this fifteen minutes, and this is another style of making the people engrossed in the story, that they would want to know more. 

After the first fifteen minutes, you meet new characters and the setting sets forward to twenty years. You are also introduced to a new group called the fireflies claiming that they are the hope for the world. So to start of the story, Joel's daughter didn't make it, and now it's all about surviving . You start of with Tess, a friend of Joel's, and tries to hunt down a guy who stole some goods that they need and they soon find out that he sold them to the fireflies. Not long, you find yourself the queen firefly asking for help, to deliver Ellie, the fourteen year old girl who's immune to the infection. Queen firefly, named Marlene, makes a deal to pay Joel and Tess their goods if they are able to deliver Ellie to the fireflies' camp safely. This is where we see that Joel sees Ellie as additional baggage and wants her out of her hands as soon as possible. They make their way to the delivery site but unfortunately, Tess becomes infected. She later died while trying to protect Joel and Ellie from the government forces, one of the enemies this game has. Now, during the course of events while Joel and Ellie searches for the firefly lab, Joel seems to get attached more and more to Ellie, and Ellie has even saved his life more than once.

The game play let's you see how the two play out in the end and you will notice that you become more of Joel as the game progresses. During your travel, you encounter humanity, no longer humane and moral, and you fight to survive. Naughty Dog created a story of what happens to us in the occasion of an apocalypse.

They pointed out issues...

In a post apocalyptic world, we don't know what people might do or can do. They said that, they are survivors and they are just doing what you need to survive. Joel pointed it out clearly when arguing with Tess. But, we can see that the world they live in, the morals are gone. People kill to survive, just like the hunters. People steal, like the government holding rations. People eat people, like David's group, just so they can survive. And lastly, you don't go by the rules just as the fireflies did.

Emotions run deep..

Naughty Dog really loves toying with our emotions. But, they did it subtly and only if you recognized that the scenes bothered you specially when it is time for the ending. They made it truly difficult for the person to choose what to do. Let's start with the person trapped on the first part of the game, what would you have done? Tutorial implies that you shoot him and he also said that "don't leave me here to turn." I guess euthanasia would be the proper thing to do but you can choose to walk away. Another is when you are about to save Ellie from those doctors. What would you have done? But, of course they had it all planned out that Ellie gets saved by Joel. Some of us might hesitate when we see those doctors, but for me, all I wanted to do was to save Ellie and I didn't want to lose her. Finally, the lie (even though partly Joel didn't lie) Joel told Ellie. We see how she reacts, and this is the moment where all morals are questioned. What would you have done?


"Naughty Dog has developed the most riveting, emotionally resonant story-driven epic of this console's generation."
- Edge Magazine (2013)


The ending lives to its expectations and more...

The last moments of the game had me bothered before going to bed leaving me with the question "what would I have done?" Let's recap. Joel was trying to revive Ellie after he saved her when they got submerged. Fireflies saw them but knocked Joel unconscious before he could save Ellie. Then when he wakes up Marlene was there telling Joel that it's time for him to go and that Ellie is being prepped for surgery so that a "vaccine" could be made. Joel points out that infection will rise up to her brain. Marlene then points out that they don't have a choice, it's for the good of the many, then asks a firefly guard to escort Joel out of the Hospital. As soon as Marlene leaves, Joel retaliates, going on a killing spree to save Ellie, even killing the doctors (which is for you to decide or to hesitate upon). He even kills Marlene saying "you will just go after her." When Ellie wakes up, she has no recollection of the events that occurred and asks Joel what happened. Joel says "there are dozens of people like you and didn't do any help. they just gave up on looking for a cure." When they are about to arrive back at the power plant, Ellie asks Joel and says "Swear to me that what you said about the fireflies were true" and Joel answers "I swear" and Ellie agrees with a simple 'Okay' giving so much more to it's ending.

Personally, I loved the ending. I didn't get it at first, I guess most gamers assumed that the ending would have been a cure. I, for one, thought the same thing. It’s in the regular zombie-themed story that there would always be a cure. But, TLoU showed a different aspect of the story, that is, “what would happen to the world if this kind of shit happens.” It clearly questions your morals. When I first saw the ending, I was like "what the hell happened?" At first play through, my goal wasn't big on the story. I wanted to fast forward to the ending. But, on the second play though, I was more focused on what was happening because I wanted to know, why it ended that way. And with me focusing on the smaller details, I was able to see why the ending came up as it is. Their facial expressions were very detailed that it seemed like you know what they were thinking, from Tess’ final moment, to Ellie’s big question, and I believe Ellie knew the truth but she needed something to placate her, because in the end, they wouldn't want to lose each other.

For those still unable to grasp the concept, I have a question for you. When you are about to lose everything you ever cared about, for the second time around, will you be able to handle it? Put yourself in Joel’s shoes. Would you have let Ellie die and create a “vaccine” for the fucked up world? Think about it.

Input on the ending as a medical professional.

Technically, you wouldn't opt for surgery immediately. You will have to weigh the pros and cons, and you’ll be losing your only lab rat or source of antibodies. Surgery will be the last resort. Second, a vaccine will always only be a vaccine. It is never a cure, it’s a preventive measure, you get immune for a short period of time, then you become vulnerable again specially considering it’s a parasite in which, you can’t vaccinate a parasite. You have to destroy the parasite, same concept with the amoeba. Lastly, the vaccine wouldn't be a very good solution, because the infected will always look for a healthy host to infect, don’t you notice that they don’t eat you, they just attack, trying to infect as many as they can.

The Verdict

The Last of Us delivers the best game play and the best story of this console's generation. It gives us a point of view of what may happen during a post-apocalyptic event. It also delivers the most stunning graphics to date. Overall, The Last of Us defines a new era of game play and story together. The intensity of the game is felt from beginning to the end. It makes us want more even though it gave us a lot. 

Gamer Review:
Graphics: 10/10
Game Play: 9.8/10 (nothing a few bug fixes could handle)
Music: 10/10
Story: 10/10

Overall a Perfect 10.
If you haven't played this game yet, I suggest you do so because this game has put its mark in gaming history.

I would love to hear inputs on the ending :)
thejanraphaelbc 2013

The Last of Us - Gustavo Santaolalla