Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Last of Us Review

     On April 16th, 2010, Roger Ebert wrote the article in his blog called, "Video Games Can Never Be Art".  Since then, the topic has been debated back and forth for the last three years since. A few months I mentioned that "Bioshock Infinite" was the closest piece of intellectual property that comes close to proving Ebert wrong. It's storyline of bigotry in America, life choices, war, and even quantum physics brought videogames to another plain; people still are scrounging through Bioshock to find hidden object, recorders, and even playing a second or third time through so they understand it all. The fact is they know it and the fact that they can't put it into words is frustrating, and anything to help with the debates or even the telling of friends about the game to make it coherent helps.

     The best way I can describe it is that every year I watch the film "Jacobs Ladder". It's a great movie, in my opinion, but the main reason is to reassure myself that I understand it, in spite of the fact that I can't convey the whole plotline. It's the same with David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"; I get it, but talking to you about it won't do it justice.

    "The Last of Us" is not like those films, or even like 'Bioshock', but it is indeed something else.

    I realize that I am late to the game in the reviewing process for this game because I am not privy enough to get advanced copies of games, but I read a lot of reviews when the game came out; 10/10 and 5 out of 5 stars seemed prominent, but with that I don't think most reviewers got the uniqueness of the story itself and based their reviews more on atmosphere, which 'The Last of Us' has plenty of.

     At this point, any of you reading this will more than likely know the premise; Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie to a group a people called 'The Firefly's' to possibly help mankind against the infected population. There I did it just in case. Naughty Dog is not a stranger to atmosphere and great backdrops and graphics (The Uncharted series), but in this they take it a step further with character interaction, atmosphere and plot development. Every step you take, and every action you do has some sort of deeper meaning when you play the game. For example, throughout the game you are consistently picking up ladders and placing them in spots or lifting Ellie up to a ledge so she can unlock a door or move something to help the both of you reach higher places, but at one point when the triangle button appears indicating to press it so Ellie can climb...she doesn't come. Instead, she sits on a bench in a daze. The developers could have easily created a cut scene, but they didn't, they kept the story going by using an action that comes second nature to us as players.

     The storyline is not for the faint of heart as the script has no qualms in taking a character and pulling a complete one-eighty on you. People die, people are sick, people are terrible human beings as is indicated by one of the female characters...

                     "Guess what? We're shitty people, Joel!"
     The interesting thing about the game is the empathy for the people you come into contact with. Your character and the others around you are not that much better than the humans you face in the game (which are just as much, if not more than the infected). The game creates a sense that in spite of the bad things you do, there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere and in this game, the year travel across the country is a trying one to see a glimmer of that hope, but in spite of the horrors that no one, man or child should ever see, they keep going...because its worth it.

     I was told that I may be impressed with the ending, or disappointed.  I was both.

     Before I get into that, the gameplay needs to be addressed. The developers did a job well done on 'The Last of Us', which they should, since it seems to be the same as their Uncharted series with some additions. The real time crafting of tools was a fine touch as well as the weapon upgrading, but the latter is nothing new to games nor should it be, but if I wasn't as enthralled with the story, it would have been like playing Nathan Drake and Elena from Uncharted all over again.  That may come off as a bit unfair or harsh, and it's not meant to be, I love the 'Uncharted' games and that is a great engine... it just felt way to familiar.

     Stealth is key element to this game; guns an bullets are limited in this game as they should be in a post apocalyptic world. However, when shooting humans with a shotgun four times in the chest, it seems way to unrealistic.  With a game that wants to stay in some sort of realism and focus on stealth, shouldn't the regular humans die normally if you shoot them in the heart multiple time with the limited bullets your machine gun has in it?

     I would also like the applaud the cast. The voice work and motion capture was top notch, but I didn't expect anything less from the people at Naughty Dog. Troy Baker is rapidly becoming one of my favorite voice actors, hell, actor. His portrayal of Joel is the stuff that awards are made for and Ashley Johnson plays Ellie with grit laced with innocence in a world that is anything but.

     The ending.  I will not spoil the ending for you. I will just say this; as a gamer I was shocked the way it ended, but as a movie fan I was thrilled.  Gamers are spoiled, pure and simple. We get to the end of a game and we engage in an epic battle with tense music and when it's all over we look for that achievement/trophy in the corner of the screen and call it a day.  This game ends in a way that makes sense given the story line and was outside what I thought it would be because of what I am used to in games.  If you look at this as an experience and a technical or even storytelling greatness then the ending will make you put down the controller, sit back in your chair and stare at the credits while you ponder everything that occurred in the game and come to a realization that as screwed up as it may be...could you say that you would have done anything different than what the characters did?

     That is what makes great movies classics and just because a controller is involved, a game should not be thought of or treated any different, and if any game reserves that right for Ebert's respect, "The Last of Us" should be one of them.

     Experience: 10/10
     Gameplay: 8/10
     Story: 10/10
     Graphics: 10/10

     Overall: 9.5/10

     If you like this review, please let me know. I am considering doing this on a regular basis.



Monday, September 2, 2013

Equinox, the sequel to "Solstice" to be released in paperback soon!

The book should be available within the week! Thanks to those that have downloaded it and read it so far, but it is time to give it a good push. We will be touring it soon!