Video games. It seems like we spend way more time talking about them than playing them. How did this happen? When? A large part of the whole ‘being passionate about games’ thing is the stupid product lust – the ‘hype train’. You can’t escape it. You can’t fight it. You know it makes zero sense, but you hop on board regardless. ALL ABOARD.
Next stop – mild disappointment?
Who knows, who can tell? All this week I’m going to take a quick look at the games I’m most excited about in 2013. Feel free to get talking about the hype trains you’re currently aboard!
Today we're talking about The Last of Us!
------------- Yesterday I mentioned off hand that Grand Theft Auto is one of those rare franchises that takes discussion from the forums to the water cooler. It’s a game your real life friends ask about. ‘When is the new Grand Theft Auto coming out,’ they’ll say, maybe just to make conversation with you because you’re a human being who loves video games -- but maybe because they’re genuinely interested. Possibly.
Of all the new big new IPs being released this year, I’d argue The Last of Us has the best chance of crossing over in that unique way. I still have friends asking me about Uncharted -- ‘are there any other games like Uncharted?’ That’s the question they usually ask.
‘Yes,’ I answer. ‘You should check out The Last of Us.’
Yes, Naughty Dog specialises in third person shooting by rote. Yes, it relies on cinematics and set pieces -- but for the folks that play a couple of games a year, for lapsed gamers who dip their toes in once in a while, games like Uncharted are perfect. A game like The Last of Us, you suspect, will be equally as perfect.
I have a few reasons for thinking this. First -- the aesthetic. The Last of Us seems to mimic the high production values and sharp writing of a TV series from AMC or HBO. It manages to mimic those things without seeming derivative. When you consider the dross we often have to sit through in games, that’s quite an achievement.
Second, the characterisation. Naughty Dog, more than anyone in the games industry I would argue, understands how to construct and develop characters that feel real; characters you root for and care about. Nathan Drake is the obvious example here, but look at his supporting cast: Elena, Sully. Uncharted 3 only worked because of how close gamers had grown to the brilliantly drawn character of Sully -- a human being you believed in and empathised with. If anything, Naughty Dog is going to push this aspect of its art further in The Last of Us.
Thirdly, The Last of Us will be accessible, in the best way possible I would imagine. I hope. It will most likely be well written, we’ll be able to play it without cringing when our non-gaming friends/partners/family members walk in. They might even ask, ‘oh, what’s this? The Walking Dead’? Point is, they’ll probably be intrigued. The Last of Us will feel current, it will feel cutting edge even if it isn’t. We’ll talk about it with our friends.
See you at the water cooler!