Posthypocalypse: ‘The Last of Us’
How does this year’s critical darling hold up to scrutiny?on July 11, 2013 at 8:00 am
It’s no secret that “The Last of Us” will probably win just about every GotY award in 2013. It’s up against some stiff competition too, with titles like “Tomb Raider” and “Bioshock: Infinite” already out, not to mention “Grand Theft Auto V” and “Watch Dogs” coming out in a few months. But with a fervent fanbase and the ability to soften even the hardest of game critic hearts, “The Last of Us” has loads of swagger.
I was excited for this game. Coming from Naughty Dog, who gave us the brilliant “Uncharted 2”, “The Last of Us” seems like it was going to do for zombie video games what “28 Days Later” did for zombie movies.
Just in case you missed the headline: SPOILER ALERT! It doesn’t.
No, what “The Last of Us” ends up being is a beautiful game – with amazing production values, solid writing and voice acting – that ends up being one of the most boring, frustrating games I’ve played in a long time. A well-meaning but hopelessly lost pastiche of genres, TLoU is riddled with poor design decisions and sloppy mechanics.
As such, “The Last of Us” simply isn’t any fun.
Now, before you guys go and tie me to the stake – I’ve already got it set up for you, and brought the matches. Let me explain my thought process.
Video games are my hobby, my passion, and my part-time job. I love them dearly. They are capable of expressing so many ideas, forcing out powerful emotions, and engaging the player in many exciting ways. They’re a wonderful art form, but one that comes with a caveat.
They have to be fun to play.
It’s right there in the name: “Video Games”. It sums up exactly what we’re doing. We are playing. Kids don’t play with toys if they’re not having fun with them. Kids don’t play with other kids if they’re not fun to be around. Why would we, as gamers, play video games if they’re not fun?
Hey, rope tying guy, you gotta tie those knots tighter if you don’t want me falling down this stake, alright? You want me to burn from the bottom up so I feel the most pain. If I fall and burn all at once, then the show is over, okay? Shape up.
Now, you may ask, “How can you tell me what’s fun?” and then I would answer back that I can’t. I can’t tell you what’s fun, but I can tell you what poor game design is and bad game design will usually lead to fewer people having fun. However, in the case of TLoU, it’s like people are suddenly ignoring crummy mechanics in favor of an engrossing story.
Before I start rambling like a crazy person, I’m going to admit that I did not finish TLoU. I couldn’t. Every time I looked at that little disc icon on screen and thought of the tedium I was about to endure, I simply couldn’t bring myself to play any more. I don’t like torturing myself.
For me, that’s an extremely strong statement. I dislike playing the game SO MUCH, that I couldn’t stand playing more than half of it, which is roughly what my save file says I managed to do. That’s basically sacrilege for any game reviewer to do, as anyone who is in love with TLoU will be screaming at me, “You didn’t even finish the game, so how you can effectively criticize it?”
While I didn’t finish the story, I’m certainly done with the game. I’ve seen all it has to offer and it’s not an enticing package. The fact that I’m willing to tell you that I had to stop playing and then still feel that my views of the game are perfectly valid and just, should say a lot.
Now, let’s dig into this.
TLoU falls flat on it’s face because it tries to do too many things without doing any of them very well. It’s an action game, but it has poor action. It’s a stealth game, but the stealth isn’t any good. It’s a survival horror game but the survival elements are lackluster and it isn’t very scary. It’s also a extremely story driven, but the “game” ruins the pacing of the story and causes me, as the player, to simply stop caring.
If you’re not going to bother making your game fun, why should I bother caring about what happens?