I love retro games, you all know that, but I also play modern stuff as well. I think it’s important because it allows you to spot gaming trends, lets you see who’s borrowing what ideas from who, and ensures you still get to uncover genuine classics from time to time.
One of the best games I’ve recently replayed – in fact ever played – is Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us. It was to put it as over-the-top as possible – a watershed moment for me, one that is unlikely to ever get bettered.
Journalists continue to insist that developers like David Cage and Hideo Kojima are pathing the way between movies and games, but I think they’re wrong. It’s people like Neil Bruckmann at Naughty Dog who are doing the trailblazing and they’re doing it exceptionally well.
Few games have had me in tears. Few games have made me genuinely laugh with relief at the return of a pivotal character, and few games have made me physically flinch at the carnage I’m causing onscreen. But then, there are few very games, if any like The Last Of Us. Naughty Dog’s classic manages to do all this and more.
When you play games like Metal Gear Solid, Heavy Rain and Red Dead Redemption it’s instantly apparent that their creators love cinema. When you play The Last Of Us, you realise that not only does Naughty Dog love cinema, it understands how to successfully integrate it into the polarising mechanics of a videogame.
When you hear people talking about The Last Of Us, they’re not usually discussing the game mechanics, but more the story and the characters that exist within it. Just as you’d get with any good book or movie. They talk about that look in Ellie’s eyes during the game’s uncertain finale, they talk about the gob-smacking revelation that is Winter, or the reason why lead character Joel is such a broken man at the beginning of the game. They remember the giraffes, the loss of key characters and the gutwrenching decisions continually made. In short they’re relieving a masterfully told tale, one that, while still from perfect, is leaps and bounds ahead of virtually every other game.
Sure the game’s mechanics will get discussed, but they’re not important, not in the same way that the world Naughty Dog has created is. They’ve clearly evolved as far at the third-person survival horror game can at this point in time, but it’s the way it’s all worked so seemlessly into the background that makes it hang together so perfectly.
I’ll often overhear people saying that The Last Of Us is a poor man’s The Road, or not a patch on The Searchers, but the fact they’re comparing Naughty Dog’s game to books and cinematic masterpieces simply highlights to me just how far ahead of the cinematic curve Naughty Dog actually is.
I want to return to the world of The Last Of Us, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to once again go through the gauntlet with Joel and Ellie. We went through too much together and in some ways I’m unsure if I’ll ever even return to it for a second play through, despite the obvious brilliance of it. What I do know is that in all my 30+ years of gaming no other game has affected me in the same way.
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